After previous announcements that Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom will open and the departed Claude Miller’s Thérèse Desqueyroux will close this year’s Cannes Film Festival, artistic director Thierry Frémaux this morning announced the formal line-up for the 2012 edition, which will run in the glitzy French seaside resort town from May 16 to 27. Cannes has a reputation for maintaining its intellectual rigor while still pulling in the big names, and this year will be no different. Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Zac Efron, and Kirsten Dunst are among the heavies with films in competition, and in maybe the biggest news to emerge this morning, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson are expected to accompany each other to the premières of their films On the Road and Cosmopolis. There will be screams.
On top of pulling from Hollywood for its star wattage, Cannes seems to be continuing its recent love affair with all things American, a somewhat surprising turn for a festival that, yes, has anointed Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, and Michael Moore winners, but is better known for its promotion of difficult films in foreign tongues. Even last year, the first time an American won the Palme d’Or since 2004, the award went not to Woody Allen for his populist opener Midnight in Paris, but to Terrence Malick for his difficult Tree of Life. And of course the big news was Lars von Trier’s fatuous coming-out as a Nazi. Besides Anderson, who is making a belated Cannes début this year, Americans Lee Daniels (Precious) and Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter) will also be shepherding their new films down the Croisette. Throw in Walter Salles’ heavily-promoted adaptation of the Great American Novel On the Road, and you have an affair that feels very Made in the USA.
But that is not to say that Cannes is turning into an accented version of the heavily commercial Tribeca Film Festival, which opened last night with the Judd Apatow production The Five-Year Engagement. Cannes veterans (and noted foreigners) Alain Resnais, Ken Loach, Abbas Kiarostami, Michael Haneke, Carlos Reygadas, and Cristian Mungiu all return with promising features, and the overall tone is predictably dark. And despite the surprising decision to open with an American ensemble comedy for the second year in a row, don’t expect Moonrise Kingdom to win the big one—you can count on one hand the number of funny films that have taken home the Palme d’Or. Otherwise, at this point the race is wide open. Gentlemen, place your bets.