It's prestigious for Gus Van Sant's Restless, starring Mia Wasikowska, to land the opening night slot of Un Certain Regard (May 12) at Cannes, but it isn't as lofty as a competition spot. That selection is reserved for the real "art films," the auteur slots vying for the coveted Palme d'or.
Now Van Sant is an old Cannes pro: he won the Palme d’or in 2003 for Elephant and the 60th anniversary award for Paranoid Park (2007), and showed his first competition entry To Die For in 1995. So why go into the Un Certain Regard competition? While it's still a coup to be part of the "Official Selection," their twenty or so films each year tend to be a little more rigorous, less accessible, more up-and-coming, less likely to play well in the Grand Lumiere with big stars climbing the red steps. For example, Jean-Luc Godard's films lately alternate between the Competition and Un Certain Regard. Also, you skip the often risky process of being super-scrutinized by the mammoth global press corps. Un Certain Regard carries less baggage and expectation than the competition films. Jury president Emir Kusturica will present the Prize Un Certain Regard on May 21.
"When you look at how Un Certain Regard served recent movies like Blue Valentine and Precious, it is a natural place for Restless and it was the place all of us felt was best for the movie," says Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker. "We are very pleased and excited Restless was selected for this Opening slot in Cannes."
As for the rather surprising choice of Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as a Cannes debut, all you have to know is that Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz are prize stars to feed to the crowds on the Croisette, the TV interviewers and media hordes, who will start crying, "where are the stars, is Cannes still relevant?" if Thierry Fremaux doesn't supply some wattage for the red steps of the Palais. It's tough to get enough stars in May, when most of the high-profile quality films don't open until September. Fremaux is likely quite disappointed that Alexander Payne's The Descendents wasn't ready, for example, with George Clooney attached. Big loss.
Produced by Columbia Pictures, Imagine Entertainment and 360 Pictures, Restless examines the relationship of two teenagers, played by Wasikowska and Henry Hooper. The official selection will be announced on Thursday, April 14.