cannes 2021

Against All Odds, Cannes Film Festival Is Back

Here are the 12 movies we’re excited to see in France. Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Searchlight Pictures, Amazon Studios and

Against all odds and perhaps some better judgment, Cannes is back again this year, with some of last year’s pandemic-postponed movies carrying over to 2021 and some completely fresh films. The Croisette’s most mischievous provocateur Gaspar Noé is back with a sure-to-be-bleak movie about elderly people dying; Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver are breaking out into sensual song; Wes Anderson is finally letting us glimpse Timothée Chalamet’s petite mustache in The French Dispatch; Apichatpong Weerasethakul is giving us a freaky new Tilda Swinton film. Stacked lineup aside, it remains to be seen what, exactly, Cannes will look like this year — will the ongoing COVID regulations get in the way of the red-carpet glamour? Will Bill Murray be allowed to whisper in anyone’s ear? We’ll be on the ground next week, trying to make some kind of sense of it all. Below, we’ve outlined the movies we’re most excited to see.

After Yang

On Columbus, his 2017 debut, the video essayist Kogonada managed the impossible: He didn’t dance about architecture, but he did make it the foundation of a critically acclaimed Sundance drama. His follow-up is a sci-fi tale based on a short story by Alexander Weinstein, about a family (led by Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith) attempting to save their malfunctioning robot babysitter (Umbrella Academy’s Justin H. Min). Farrell has been joining up with some interesting filmmakers recently, and it’ll be fascinating to see how Kogonada’s vision scales up on a wider genre canvas.


Many of us have, at one time or another, imagined watching a movie about Celine Dion’s life that uses the music of Celine Dion but for some reason refers to her as “Aline Dieu.” Well, thanks to Cannes, our wildest dreams have finally come to pass. Aline is happening and you are not on French drugs. Director Valérie Lemercier stars as the titular character, a French Canadian woman who rises to international stardom while navigating a relationship with her much older manager (NOT Celine Dion’s husband … a different older manager who’s fake). It’s not an exaggeration to say that this might be the weirdest, most important film ever made.


The whimsical art-pop duo Sparks have spent decades trying to make it on the big screen — suddenly, this summer, it’s happening twice. Edgar Wright’s documentary The Sparks Brothers opened a few weeks ago, and its closing scenes provide an intriguing glimpse into this movie musical, a collaboration between the band and bad-boy French filmmaker Leos Carax (Holy Motors) that has the honor of being Cannes’ opening-night film. It’s the story of a marriage between a stand-up comedian (Adam Driver) and an opera singer (Marion Cotillard), and their eventual daughter, who apparently has some sort of mysterious power. The whole thing’s sung through like an opera. Oh, and the baby is a puppet. It’s weird. It’s Sparks. Same thing.


Lesbian nuns! Paul Verhoeven! Sexy stigmata! The follow-up to Elle, based on Judith Brown’s nonfiction book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, is certain to make an impression on Cannes audiences and then piss off the Catholic church for good measure. The festival’s Thierry Frémaux has described it as “an erotic and mischievous, also political, vision of the Middle Ages in a grandiose production,” and its trailer is hot churchgoing chaos, featuring Virginie Efira as a woman who can’t keep her eyes and hands off of a fellow Sister.

Bergman Island

The late Ingmar Bergman famously loved to go to the island of Fårö and make movies about people slowly going insane while driving himself and his loved ones slowly insane, and it’s high time that somebody made a movie specifically about this. Fortunately for us, that somebody is Mia Hansen-Løve, whose long-anticipated “film within a film” follows a Bergman-stan couple (Tim Roth and Phantom Thread’s Vicky Krieps) headed to the director’s beloved Fårö, where they will, naturally, lose their grip on reality while making a film. Fortunately, it also looks quite funny.


If you left First Cow wishing there had been a little less tender male friendship and more shots of the cow, you’re in luck. After a stint in prestige TV, Andrea Arnold returns to feature filmmaking with this documentary exploring the daily life of a regular-degular dairy cow. Her mission, she says, is to get audiences “to consider cows. To move us closer to them. To see both their beauty and the challenge of their lives.” We’re sure it will be quite moo-ving. An udder masterpiece.

The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s long-delayed follow-up to Isle of Dogs tells three interrelated stories centered on the French office of an American newspaper called the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Saoirse Ronan, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson are all back in Anderson drag, as are new Anderson collaborators like Timothée Chalamet and Benicio Del Toro. The film has been described as a “love letter to journalism” inspired by The New Yorker, which is the Wes Anderson of magazines.


A decade ago, Apichatpong Weerasethakul won the Palme d’Or for Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a meditation on death and the spirit world. Now the Thai filmmaker’s back on the Croisette with his English-language debut, starring Tilda Swinton as a visitor to Colombia who has a revelatory experience on an archaeological dig. Gimme some more of that sweet surrealist contemplation!

Red Rocket

With Tangerine and The Florida Project, Sean Baker established himself as the auteur’s auteur of the American indie scene, such a paragon of artistic integrity that other filmmakers can only look on with jealous awe. His latest stars Simon Rex, the one-time MTV VJ/Scary Movie star/comedy rapper, as a porn star adrift in small-town Texas. In other words, a thrilling marriage of highbrow and lowbrow, and if you’re thinking, “Hey, that sounds pretty A24,” you’re correct: The hipster distributors snatched it up a few months ago. Brace yourself for the Rex-aissance.

The Souvenir Part II

Joanna Hogg’s semi-autobiographical The Souvenir is not the kind of movie that immediately cries out for a sequel. First, because it’s an understated, oblique film, one where most of the blowups happen offscreen or in the gaps between scenes. And second, because by the end, the toxic romance between an ambitious but inarticulate film student (Honor Swinton-Byrne) and an arrogant, enigmatic older man (Tom Burke) had come to a fairly definitive conclusion. What’s going to happen in the follow-up? More intimate, tactile re-creations of 1980s Britain, certainly, and also, Hogg told Vulture when we interviewed her around part one’s release, some hints about exactly what her ex-lover was up to. But, she warned, “Don’t expect any grand conclusions.” Knowing Hogg, we wouldn’t dare.


Julia Ducournau’s debut feature, Raw, had people fainting in the aisles when it premiered at Cannes in 2016. Her second movie looks equally unhinged, if a bit more opaque; all Neon has offered thus far about the movie is the definition for the word “titane” (“A metal highly resistant to heat and corrosion, with high tensile strength alloys, often used in medical prostheses due to its pronounced biocompatibility”) and a trailer wherein a troubled young woman (Agathe Rousselle) appears to go on some kind of metal-themed crime spree (?) while also getting her freak on in various clublike settings. In other words, it looks perfect.


Gaspar Noé’s favorite thing to do is go to Cannes and disturb the fresh hell out of everyone. There was Love, starring the 3-D penis of Karl Glusman; Climax, wherein a woman locked her young child in a closet to do drugs and lost the key; Lux Æterna, which was described by Vulture as “mild torture”; and now there’s Vortex, a “documentary-style film revolving around the last days of an elderly couple.” Italian director Dario Argento — he of Suspiria fame — is part of the cast, and given this context, I can’t imagine that these last days of an elderly couple go anything but very upsettingly awry.

Against All Odds, Cannes Film Festival Is Back