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May 8, 2024

WRITTEN BY: QUENTIN

The lead-up to attending a major film festival can be a little stressful as you wait for the organizers to release the full film slate, daily showtimes, and movie synopses. Oftentimes, this information is released mere days before the festival starts, which can make it tough to plan an approach when you are trying to see as many things as possible. So, in the early stages, you’re left doing a bit of triage by narrowing down the “must see'' movies based on the limited information available.


The problem is, as I write this, all I really have to go on is the movie title, director’s name, some cast information, and whatever I can manage to find online about the plot. Most movies still don’t have posters or trailers, and Cannes has yet to provide press with official movie details. As you can imagine, it makes it tough to decide what the “must see” movies are, especially when it comes to foreign films, which, obviously, are a big part of international film festivals in Europe. That said, this isn’t my first rodeo. I managed to make it work for Toronto International Film Festival in 2022 (where I saw 40 movies in 11 days), Berlinale in 2023 (where I saw seven movies in 72 hours), and Venice Film Festival in 2023 (where I saw 27 movies in 10 days). I think I can do it again.


Next up, the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, where I will spend 11 days watching movies in the south of France, probably (definitely?) drinking wine, and hobnobbing with people who are way fancier than your resident Hobo Dandy. Based on the information I have right now, the movies below are the ones I am most excited for. Admittedly, a lot of this early list is driven by recognizable actors and actresses, as well as the fact that they are in English, because I know, at the very least, they will be accessible for this American. That said, once more information becomes available, I’m sure more foreign films will enter my final viewing schedule. However, for now, this is what I got.


I can’t wait!


Also, remember to follow Bitesize Breakdown on X (formerly known as Twitter - HERE) for daily festival updates, early reactions, festival photos, and more.

ANORA


Synopsis: A comedy about a sex worker filmed in New York and Las Vegas.


Anora is a perfect example of Cannes not giving me much to work with yet. That synopsis? As bare bones as it gets. That said, a comedy about a sex worker could deliver sexy hilarity. However, the biggest draw is writer-director Sean Baker, the filmmaker behind Starlet, Tangerine, The Florida Project, and Red Rocket, all of which I have some level of respect for. Several online sources are billing Anora as an “exhilarating, adventure rom-com.” Amongst all the seriousness I’m sure to experience on screen at Cannes, this could provide a welcome respite.


THE APPRENTICE


Synopsis: Set during the early years of Donald Trump's business career, the film is reported to mainly focus on the relationship of Trump and Roy Cohn, a New York City prosecutor notable for working with Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Second Red Scare.


Except for one movie a little further down the list, The Apprentice is probably the most American movie screening at Cannes this year. The chameleonic Sebastian Stan, who has already proven a knack for portraying real people in Pam & Tommy and I, Tonya, tries his hand at 80s-era Donald Trump in a story said to document the start of an American dynasty while tackling themes of power, corruption, and deception. Sounds a lot like Succession: The True Story, doesn’t it? Oh, and would you look at that…it also stars Jeremy Strong. Maria Bakalova as Ivana, too? Yes, that’ll do.

THE BALCONETTES


Synopsis: During a heat wave in Marseille, three roommates are cooped up in their apartment. From the balcony, they look out at their mysterious neighbor, about whom they indulge in all sorts of fantasies. However, late into the night, an ordinary conflict turns into a bloodbath.


The first foreign movie on the list features a cast and director that I know pretty much nothing about, so I’m going purely on the synopsis and the fact that it’s a French horror movie. Believe or not, France does some great things with the genre. Titane, Revenge, High Tension, and Brotherhood of the Wolf (yeah, it’s not straight horror, but still…) represent just a few French offerings I’ve quite enjoyed. There are some indications that this will be “comedy-horror,” which I’m totally cool with, especially it lives up to the other description being bandied about: “bloody, punk, and exhilarating.”



DEAD TALENTS SOCIETY

Synopsis: Set in a fictional underworld, the film revolves around ghosts who aspire to become the most successful and renowned stars with the scare tactics they use on the living.


The next foreign film, this time from Taiwan, is another comedy-horror featuring a cast I am completely unfamiliar with. As for the director, John Hsu, this is only his second movie, but his feature debut, Detention (which I haven’t seen), was nominated for 12 Golden Horse Awards (The Chinese Oscars), ultimately winning five, including Best New Director. That’s not nothing. Most importantly, though, this movie actually has a trailer, which makes Dead Talents Society look like a possibly brilliant satire on influencer culture that may provide over-the-top scares in a tone not dissimilar from What We Do in the Shadows.


EMILIA PEREZ

Synopsis: A musical crime movie about a woman tasked with assisting an escaped Mexican cartel leader with undergoing gender reassignment surgery to both evade the authorities and affirm her gender.


If you know me, you know that movie musicals aren’t really my thing. That said, I was in for Emilia Perez based on the synopsis and cast (Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña, and Édgar Ramírez) before learning that it is a musical, so I’m just rolling with it. Truthfully, I have no idea what to expect because none of the things I know about this movie mesh in my brain. A musical (which are usually meant to be fun toe-tappers) about a Mexican drug cartel (which are usually violent and gritty characters) and a person who is trans finally becoming her true self (which is usually hopeful) while on the run from the cops (which is usually exciting and tense)? It’s like Chicago meets Narcos meets Transparent. Just a wild mix of ideas, and I’m curious to see how it all ties together.


FURIOSA: A MAD MAX SAGA

Synopsis: Set before the events of Mad Max: Fury Road, young Furiosa is snatched from the Green Place of Many Mothers and into the hands of a Biker Horde led by the Warlord Dementus. While two tyrants fight for dominance over the Citadel, Furiosa survives many trials as she plots a way back home through the Wasteland.


Of all the movies listed here, this one probably requires the least explanation as to why I’m excited for it, so I’ll keep it brief. Mad Max: Fury Road is one of the best movies of the 21st century, and despite having “Mad Max” in the title, the fascinating Furiosa is the most compelling character in the movie. So…director George Miller is returning to tell me more about her past, with a cast featuring the always terrific Anya Taylor-Joy and an unrecognizable Chris Hemsworth? Plus, the trailer looks fucking sick? What else needs to be said?


HORIZON: AN AMERICAN SAGA — CHAPTER ONE

Synopsis: Set during the American Civil War, it depicts the expansion of the American west.


If it isn’t obvious, although I don’t know how that could be, this is the other American movie I referenced above, and it has a lot going for it. First, it’s a western, and it’s been a while since we’ve had a good western epic. Secondly, you’ve got Kevin Costner in front of and behind the camera, sitting in the director’s chair for the first time in nearly 20 years. Lastly, you’ve got a stacked cast of talented role players: Sienna Miller, Sam Worthington, Giovanni Ribisi, Jena Malone, Michael Rooker, Danny Huston, Luke Wilson, Jeff Fahey, Will Patton, Thomas Haden Church, and many more. I admit there is some trepidation since this is planned as a four-movie saga, meaning this one may feel incomplete, but the pros outweigh that lone con. Plus, I want to see why this drove Costner to quit Yellowstone.


KINDS OF KINDNESS


Synopsis: A triptych fable with segments following a man without choice trying to take control of his life; a policeman who is alarmed that his missing wife has returned and seems to be a different person; and a woman who is determined to find a specific someone destined to become a prodigious spiritual leader.


Despite there being a teaser trailer, most people probably don’t know anything about this movie, but as soon as I start name-dropping, you’ll easily understand why it’s among the buzziest movies at Cannes. Director? Yorgos Lanthimos, who was nominated for Best Director for Poor Things just last year. The cast? Two-time Best Actress winner and Bitesize Best Actress of the 21st Century (read HERE) Emma Stone, four-time Oscar nominee Willem Dafoe, Oscar-nominated and perpetually underappreciated Jesse Plemons and Hong Chau, and rising stars Margaret Qualley and Hunter Schafer. Honestly, the synopsis, which is intriguing in its own right, is irrelevant. Kinds of Kindness is exciting on pedigree alone.

MEGALOPOLIS

Synopsis: After an accident destroys a New York City-like metropolis already in decay, an idealist aims to rebuild the city as a sustainable utopia while the venal mayor has other plans.


Regardless of what you may think of his other works, Francis Ford Coppola directed The Godfather trilogy, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Apocalypse Now, and The Outsiders. Those are all-time favorites, if not full-on classics. So, when he decides to take on a project, especially for the first time since 2011, it deserves my attention. It’s also no small thing that this is a passion project he made with his own money ($120 million) either, which suggests that, at 85 years old, he isn’t going back to work just to do it. This means something to him. And just look at that cast: Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito, Nathalie Emmanuel, Jon Voight, Laurence Fishburne, Aubrey Plaza, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, among others. I’m all in for what has been described as “Julius Caesar meets Blade Runner.” 


RUMOURS

Synopsis: World leaders meet at the G7 Forum but get lost in the woods whilst trying to compose a joint statement.


I’m always a sucker for dark comedies and political satire, and the synopsis for Rumours would indicate an abundance of both. I also have a gut feeling that this could run along the same lines as Triangle of Sadness, which won Cannes’ Palme d'Or in 2022 on its way to a Best Picture nomination. I admit that aspect is pure speculation, though, but no matter; when you’ve got Cate Blanchett, Alicia Vikander, Charles Dance, and Triangle of Sadness scene-stealer Zlatko Burić involved, I’m showing up regardless.


THE SUBSTANCE

Synopsis: Not available


Of everything listed here, The Substance probably is the biggest dart throw because I have literally zero synopsis. All I know is that it’s a “body horror” film. I do have some cast information, but while Margaret Qualley elicits excitement, I can’t say the same for Demi Moore and Dennis Quaid, neither of whom have done anything noteworthy in at least a decade. On the other hand, director Coralie Fargeat also directed French horror film Revenge, so that’s definitely a plus. So, The Substance could be anything from direct-to-streaming dreck to the start of a comeback for veteran actors. That said, it’s in Official Competition, so I’m hoping for the latter.


THE SURFER

Synopsis: When a man returns to his beach side hometown in Australia, he is humiliated in front of his teenage son by a local group of surfers who claim ownership over the secluded beach of his childhood.


Look, I’ll be honest — the synopsis for this psychological thriller sounds very 80s and extremely low budget. A dad presumably getting revenge on bad-boy surfers for embarrassing him? It’s not super enticing. However, The Surfer stars Nicolas Cage, so of course it makes the list. I will not elaborate further. 


Honorable Mentions: Bird, Julie Keeps Quiet, Misericordia, Oh Canada, Parthenope, The Shrouds, Twilight of the Warriors: Walled In 

Photo Credits: The Cannes Film Festival

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