The Surprises & Notable Absences Of The 2013 Cannes Line-Up

So the 2013 Cannes lineup has finally been unveiled and as usual, there were a fair few surprise inclusions, a fair few snubby exclusions/category decisions, and some mildly oh!-inducing title changes. The majority of our firm predictions made it in (the Coens, Soderbergh, Farhadi, Sorrentino, Gray, Refn, Denis, Coppola among others) but sometimes into surprising sections, while a couple of films we had down as possibilities or longer shots paid off. So now that we know the lineup from G ('Gatsby' -- opening film) to Z ("Zulu" -- closing film) -- and it's a fairly U.S.-friendly list for Jury President Steven Spielberg to preside over -- lets dive right in and talk about the more eyebrow-raising moments from this morning's announcement.

Surprise inclusions -- Competition
The Official Selection lineup boasted a few films that were not on our radar (or flying a bit below it), including "Un Chateau in Italie" by Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, "La Vie D'Adele" (formerly known as “Blue Is The Warmest Color”) by Abdellatif Kechiche, "Tain Zhu Ding" by Jia Zhangke, "Grisgris" by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun and "Heli" by Amat Escalante. And so it should be -- Cannes should be a place of discovery. But some others we were aware of were also included, like:

Nebraska Bruce Dern Will Forte Alexander Payne

Alexander Payne's film is not a huge surprise, as we had heard earlier in the month that Artistic Director Thierry Fremaux was "courting" Payne, but we're delighted to have it confirmed, as chatter around the film's inclusion increased in the past few weeks. It will be Payne’s second time walking the red carpet in the south of France, and will be a nice launch pad for the black-and-white road trip tale, led by the unlikely duo of Will Forte and Bruce Dern. (Guys, MacGruber is at Cannes).

"Venus in Fur"
We had Roman Polanski's "Venus in Fur" down as a long shot, but there it is in the Official Selection, meaning it was turned around remarkably quickly after wrapping earlier this year. It will be Polanski's third time in Cannes Competition, after "The Tenant" and "The Pianist," for the latter of which, of course, he won. 'Venus' details an actress (Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski's wife) trying to convince a director (the let's-face-it-quite-Polanski-esque Mathieu Amalric) that she's perfect for a particular role. So no real-life parallels there then. And speaking of real life and Polanski, his previously unreleased documentary "Weekend of a Champion," which is about racing legend Jackie Stewart and has the unlikely figure of Brett Ratner to thank for it seeing the light of day, will also be getting a special screening. So, basically, Polanski's much more involved in this Cannes than we had thought likely.

Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir
And also...
"Soshite Chichi Ni Naru" by Kore-eda Hirokazu is a Competition inclusion we should have been more alert to, especially since we appreciated the hell out of Kore-eda's last film, "I Wish." "Wara No Tate" we didn't call either, perhaps on the foot of "Lesson of the Evil" which we hated, but you can never count Takashi Miike out. Then we were happy to see "Michael Kolhaas" make the cut, as it stars two of our favorite actors in Bruno Ganz and Mads Mikkelsen, and we hadn't heard too much about it since reporting on that casting a couple of years ago.

Surprises in other categories

"As I Lay Dying" - Un Certain Regard
James Franco's next directorial outing, in which he also stars, gets an Un Certain Regard showing, which we didn't see coming, possibly because we're suffering a bit from Franco festival blindness, having had him wallpapered all over our Berlin, Sundance and Rome experiences. And perhaps that's unfair, as this film certainly sounds miles away from the art-project/self-examination/experimental vibe of some his other recent efforts in being an adaptation of the William Faulkner novel of the same name, loaded with a strong and surprising cast in Franco, Danny McBride, Logan Marshall-Green, Richard Jenkins and Tim Blake Nelson.

Muhammad Ali

"Muhammed Ali's Greatest Fight" - Special Screening
This TV movie, directed by Stephen Frears, is getting a special screening, and we have to say it's kind of come out of nowhere, for us at least. (Obviously, we reported on it, but we never thought it would show up here). And yet it boasts a terrific cast in Christopher Plummer, Ed Begley Jr., Frank Langella, Danny Glover, Bob Balaban and Benjamin Walker, and utterly riveting subject matter -- it's about the high-level fallout visited on Ali after his refusal to fight in the Vietnam war. So, yes, it's one we're now suddenly looking forward to, thank you, Cannes Selection Committee!

"Max Rose" - Special Screening
This is another special screening that we hadn't heard too much about, however, it's showing as a tribute to its star, Jerry Lewis. Which, well, the French do love their Jerry Lewis, right? But Daniel Noah's film boasts an interesting premise, about a man who discovers that his 65-year-long marriage may have been based on a lie, and a solid cast (Lewis, Kerry Bishe, Dean Stockwell, Fred Willard, Ileana Douglas, Claire Bloom, Kevin Pollack) so we're at the very least intrigued.

Phoenix, Cotillard, Low Life, The Immigrant,

Category Decisions, Title Changes & More
Of course we, like everyone else, had Claire Denis's "The Bastards" down as a lock, but it is a surprise that it went into the Un Certain Regard section rather than the main competition. In fact, it's kind of a snub, so more on this below. And while we'd have bet the farm that Soderbergh's "Behind the Candelabra" was going to feature somewhere, a competition slot is a slight, but pleasant, surprise as Out of Competition would have seemed in advance maybe more likely.

As for titles, "Fruitvale" changed its name to "Fruitvale Station" earlier in the week, but nevertheless its Un Certain Regard inclusion was a boon to U.S. representation, especially for a first-time feature director. And Playlist fave James Gray's "Lowlife," which got its predicted, expected and anticipated in competition slot, is now called "The Immigrant," in what we're guessing is now the final name. (It was briefly titled "Nightingale" last year).