/Cannes Film Festival Will Feature Sean Penn, Wes Anderson – The New York Times

Cannes Film Festival Will Feature Sean Penn, Wes Anderson – The New York Times


PARIS — Sean Penn is a contender for the top prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, to be held from July 6 to 17, the organizers announced Thursday. In “Flag Day,” the actor-director plays a con man.

Penn — who was last at the competition as a director in 2016 with “The Last Face” — will be up against a host of other headliners for the Palme d’Or: Wes Anderson, whose “The French Dispatch” stars Timothée Chalamet; Nanni Moretti of Italy; Paul Verhoeven of the Netherlands; Leos Carax and François Ozon of France; and Asghar Farhadi of Iran, who directed the Oscar-winning “A Separation.”

This year’s festival was delayed from its usual timing in May because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Last year’s edition was canceled. The 2021 edition will have 24 movies in contention for the Palme d’Or, more than usual, said Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s artistic director, at a news conference.

The pandemic itself is likely to be a major protagonist at the festival.

Unless fully vaccinated or presenting proof of immunity, festival attendants will have to submit to a saliva test every 48 hours at a lab near the main festival venue to make sure they have not caught the virus, organizers said.

Frémaux said that of the more than 2,000 movies submitted to the festival, some were shot in lockdown and on cellphones, and some had characters wearing masks. “In 20 years, younger generations watching these movies will think, ‘Why are they wearing masks?’” he said. “Cinema will bear the traces of this. It will remember this moment.”

Julien Gester, the co-culture editor of the French daily newspaper Libération, said the films by Penn and Anderson would bring “prestige and Hollywood glamour” to the Croisette, the seafront drag where the festival takes place.

He recalled that when Penn was in Cannes for “The Last Face” — a love story about two humanitarian workers in Africa, starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem — the movie was heckled and booed at the screening and “was completely massacred by the critics.” (In its review of “The Last Face,” The Times wrote: “As well meaning as this movie is, it is also a turgid, muddled one.”)

Gester also noted that there were seven French films in this year’s competition — nearly a third of the full lineup — of which three were directed by women.

In total, there are four films by women in the competition. The festival has come under fire in recent years for the dearth of female contestants; the only woman ever to have won the Palme d’Or is Jane Campion, for her 1993 film “The Piano.”

Outside of the competition for the Palme d’Or, the festival will also present Oliver Stone’s investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, “JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass,” and the first movie directed by the actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, about her mother, the actress and singer Jane Birkin.

As for Netflix productions, there will yet again be none in this year’s festival lineup, Frémaux said at the news conference.

Cannes demands that all competition titles be released in French movie theaters, as part of a regulatory system intended to preserve France’s film industry and keep its cinemas alive. Streaming services then have to wait up to three years before they can add movies that have had a theatrical release to their libraries.

Asked about the issue, Frémaux said there were potentially two Netflix productions that he would have liked to present at Cannes this year, outside of the official competition, but Netflix refused. “We regret this absence, this attitude,” he said.

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