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Cannes 2017: A Kidman extravaganza and other performances to watch

Latest update : 15/05/2017

© Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival | A still from Sofia Coppola's "The Beguiled", one of four works Nicole Kidman is taking to the Croisette this year.

Article text by Benjamin DODMAN

Nicole Kidman will be a Cannes fixture on and off the screen this year, but the festival’s 70th anniversary edition showcases plenty of lesser known quantities too. Here’s a look at some eagerly anticipated performances.

Kidman’s recent trips to the French Riviera haven’t all gone according to plan. Her last competition entry, Lee Daniels’s “The Paperboy” (2012), was unfairly maligned, while her opener two years later, Olivier Dahan’s “Grace of Monaco”, was quite rightly panned. This year she is back with a whopping four films, two of them in competition for the Palme d’Or.

The Australian actress features in Yorgos Lanthimos’s psychological thriller “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, alongside Colin Farrell, whose quaint, pot-bellied turn in the Greek director’s previous Cannes entry “The Lobster” was a treat to watch. The two actors meet again in Sofia Coppola’s southern gothic “The Beguiled”, also starring Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst.

Out of competition, Kidman will be representing the second season of her friend Jane Campion’s acclaimed mini-series “Top of the Lake”, screened as a special event mid-festival, as well as John Cameron Mitchell’s London-set sci-fi comedy “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”, which also features Fanning.

Her other duties include chairing the annual AmFAR charity gala, Cannes’s glitziest event, alongside veteran actor Dustin Hoffman, who makes his Cannes return in Noah Baumbach’s competition entry “The Meyerowitz Stories” – another star-studded production featuring Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Elizabeth Marvel, Emma Thompson and Adam Driver, to name but a few.

As always, there will be no shortage of stardust sprinkled on the red carpet. But fame won’t necessarily translate into prizes – as many red-faced critics were reminded last year when scrambling to write about Filipino actress Jaclyn Jose, whose award-winning part in Brillante Mendoza's “Ma Rosa” had gone largely unnoticed.

Among this year’s possible revelations is first-timer Vasilina Makovtseva, the protagonist of Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa’s Dostoyevsky-inspired “A Gentle Creature”. First images suggest she will have plenty to chew on in her role as a woman battling the Russian penal institution that has taken away her husband.

Going for a second award at Cannes after 2014’s “Maps to the Stars”, Julianne Moore reunites with veteran helmer Todd Haynes in “Wonderstruck”, also starring Michelle Williams, while a platinum-blond, cyborg-like Tilda Swinton will be “synthesising nature and science” in South Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja”, about a young girl’s attempts to protect a mysterious and friendly creature from greedy corporate hands. The other Korean helmer in the race, Hong Sang-soo (“The Day After”), is back with his muse Kim Min-hee, who wowed Cannes audiences last year with her part in erotic psychodrama “The Handmaiden”.

Bong Joon-ho's "Okja" is one of two competition entries produced by digital upstart Netflix. Copyright: Netflix, Kimberly French

A fixture at Cannes ever since she won the Chopard Trophy for Female Revelation in 2003, Diane Kruger stars in German-Turkish helmer Fatih Akin's revenge thriller “Aus dem Nichts” (In the Fade), set in Hamburg’s Turkish community. The German actress has appeared in numerous French and English-language productions, but never before in her native tongue.

Another former model, Marine Vacth is back on the Croisette with French director François Ozon, four years after the divisive “Young and Beautiful”. Their new collaboration, about a young lady who falls in love with her psychoanalyst, serves up plenty more carnal adventure in what festival organisers have described as a “Hitchcockian” thriller. Also starring Belgium’s Jérémie Renier, “L’Amant double” has produced the festival’s most intriguing still so far.

Jérémie Renier and Marine Vacth during one of their "therapy" sessions. Copyright: Mars Films

While the 69th Cannes Festival was dominated by sumptuous female performances – think Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”), Sandra Hüller (“Toni Erdmann”) or Sonia Braga (“Aquarius”) – this year’s line-up promises a number of intriguing male acts.

Robert Pattinson has spoken excitedly about his part as a “psychopath bank robber” in Josh and Ben Safdie’s indie crime caper “Good Time”, while Hungarian newcomer Jéger Zsombor will also be dodging bullets – and actually levitating – in “Jupiter’s Moon” by Kornel Mundruczo, who famously unleashed 274 growling and barking dogs on Budapest in his 2014 offering “White Dog”.

Another competition first-timer is France’s Robin Campillo, who scripted Laurent Cantet’s “The Class” to Palme d’Or glory in 2008. His “120 Beats per Second”, which follows the establishment of advocacy group Act Up at the heart of the AIDS crisis, could be an international breakthrough for Argentinian actor Nahuel Perez Biscayart.

In other entries, Joaquin Phoenix embarks on a risky attempt to rescue a woman from sex trafficking in Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really Here”, while Vincent Lindon will be sporting a thick beard as he brings Auguste Rodin to the big screen – marking the centenary of the great sculptor’s death. The biopic, by Jacques Doillon, looks set to be a classy period drama, though perhaps a little conventional for a jury led by Pedro Almodovar.

That’s a job Cannes organisers have been trying for years to lure film legend Jean-Luc Godard into accepting – in vain. Which is good news for Michel Hazanavicius, whose biopic of the French New Wave’s enfant terrible would surely have been massacred by the subject himself. Set in the turbulent months around May 1968, “Le Redoutable” stars a balding and suitably scornful-looking Louis Garrel in what promises to be one of the hottest tickets in town.

Louis Garrel plays Jean-Luc Godard in "Le Redoutable", which the subject has dismissed as a "stupid idea". Copyright: StudioCanal

And then, of course, there’s the inevitable frontrunner: Michael Haneke’s “Happy End”, with its formidable duo of lead actors Isabelle Huppert and Jean-Louis Trintignant. One of several refugee-themed propositions at this year’s festival, “Happy End” would be a record breaker if it helped the Austrian director to a third Palme d’Or. It could also see Huppert make history as the first three-time winner of the Best Actress honour.

Cannes' 70th edition will open with an out-of-competition screening on Wednesday of Arnaud Desplechin's "Ismael's Ghosts", starring Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg and the inevitable Mathieu Amalric. The festival runs through May 28.

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