Although the modest Austin director Jeff Nichols would probably downplay such talk, it’s rather apparent that the taste-makers of European cinema consider him the new American auteur. His latest movie, “Loving,” was formally selected for the official competition for the Palme d’Or on Thursday at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which begins the second week of May.
Nichols’ “Midnight Special” was part of the official competition at this year’s Berlin Film Festival in February, and his 2012 movie, “Mud,” was selected for the Cannes official competition. What’s more, his 2011 movie, “Take Shelter,” won the top prize in the Cannes sidebar, Critics Week.
His latest, which focuses on the landmark civil rights case over an interracial marriage in Virginia in 1967, stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as the couple, with a supporting role for longtime Nichols collaborator Michael Shannon. In 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving were sentenced to prison for getting married, and the movie follows their case through the courts.
Nichols will be joined at the festival by many other high-profile English-language productions – a relative rarity for Cannes.
The biggest of those, by far, will be Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG,” which will screen outside of competition. It’s scheduled for wide release in the States in July, and the early screening in Cannes will surely launch a marketing campaign to make it one of this summer’s biggest box-office hits. Adapted from the Roald Dahl story about a Big Friendly Giant, It stars Rebecca Hall, Mark Rylance and Bill Hader.
Woody Allen’s “Café Society,” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart, will open the festival outside of competition.
U.S. director Jim Jarmusch will have two movies at the festival: the competition film “Paterson,” about a blue-collar bus driver, played by Adam Driver, and a special midnight screening of his new Iggy Pop documentary, “Gimme Danger.”
Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn will bring another Los Angeles-filmed tale, “The Neon Demon,” to the competition. It stars Elle Fanning in a horror tale about a young model who is preyed upon by jealous rivals.
Sean Penn will also be screening his latest, “The Last Face,” in competition. It stars Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem as aid workers who fall in love while working in Liberia.
British director Andrea Arnold will also have a competition film, and it’s the first time she has filmed I n the United States. It’s called “American Honey,” and stars Shia Labeouf, Sasha Lane and Riley Keough in a tale about people who are traveling salesmen for magazines.
Jodie Foster, meanwhile, will screen her latest, “Money Monster,” outside of competition. It stars George Clooney as a TV financial adviser who’s taken hostage by an angry viewer who lost money in the market (Jack O’Connell). Julia Roberts plays a TV producer involved in the situation.
Austin Film Festival regular Shane Black will be screening “Nice Guys” out of competition, as well. It stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling in a buddy/crime comedy.
Other notable screenings include “Elle,” from Paul Verhoeven (“Basic Instinct”), starring Isabelle Hupert in a home invasion thriller; “I, Daniel Blake,” from British director Ken Loach, dealing with a carpenter and single mother who are on welfare; “It’s Only the End of the World,” from Canadian director Xavier Dolan, about a writer who goes home and announces he’s dying, starring Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel; “The Handmaiden,” from South Korea’s Park Chan-wook; “Julieta,” from Spain’s Pedro Almodovar; “Personal Shopper,” from Olivier Assayas and starring Kristen Stewart; and “The Unknown Girl,” from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
In Un Certain Regard, U.S. director Matt Ross will screen “Captain Fantastic,” starring Viggo Mortensen as a father in the forests of the Pacific Northwest who has to move back to the city.