It's been a year, but the Cannes Film Festival is back. After COVID canned the show last year, the 74th Festival is a welcome return of arthouse cinema back to the big screen. This time around the festival is a Spike Lee joint. The famed director has attended Cannes since 1986, for the premiere of his first film, "She's Gotta Have It." Lee is now making history as the festival's first Black jury president.
Highlights from Day 1 include the much-lauded premiere of "Annette." The new musical from Leos Carax kicked off the show, with a star-studded premiere (more on this below). Jodie Foster received an honorary Palme d'Or, in recognition of her long career. Foster accepted the award in French. The deeply personal doc "Val," also premiered to great praise. "Val" collects hours of at-home footage shot by actor Val Kilmer through his years. The doc shows a side of the screen legend few have seen. Watch the trailer here.
As the Cannes Film Festival heats up along the French Riviera, here are the 9 films you need to know about.
1 / Annette
Leos Carax's ("Holy Motors") new musical kicked off the festival, and in doing so, set the bar high. Since its premiere "Annette" has been receiving nothing short of high praise. It even earned the Cannes badge of honor -- a five-minute standing ovation. All things considered, it's probably more accurate to call "Annette" an opera. We'll even bet it's unlike anything you've ever seen before. "Annette" stars Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, and features music from the band Sparks. Take a gander at the trailer above and look for it soon in theaters on August 6 and streaming on August 20.
2 / The French Dispatch
It's crazy but it's been a full year since we first saw the trailer (above) for Wes Anderson's latest film. Certainly, a lot has changed since then. Not just with the world, mind you, but also with the profile of star Owen Wilson, who is now enjoying some superhero love in the hit Marvel show "Loki." Along with Wilson -- and of course Timothée Chalamet -- "The French Dispatch" features an ensemble cast, many of whom are frequent Anderson collaborators. This includes Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman, and Anjelica Huston. As you can tell from the trailer, "The French Dispatch" is pure Anderson to full effect. It's also Anderson's love letter to the New Yorker, one of his sources of literary inspiration. Look for "The French Dispatch" in theaters on October 22.
3 / Benedetta
Director Paul Verhoeven is known for his satire and flash. Both qualities are on full display in his most well-known movies, "Robocop," "Total Recall," and "Starship Troopers." These days Verhoeven is no longer tied to big Hollywood productions, which only further bolsters his creative output. "Benedetta" fits in line with Verhoeven's recent dramas like the highly praised "Elle," which touches on more real-world issues. The film explores the life of Benedetta Carlini (Virginie Efira), a 17th Century nun who joins a convent and falls in love with another woman. "Benedetta" was originally slated to premiere at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival and is now debuting in competition. Look for it soon in theaters.
4 / Red Rocket
Director Sean Baker has made a name for himself with his previous films. Both raw and distinctive, "Tangerine" and "The Florida Project" were festival favorites. Baker's latest is likely to be just as lauded. "Red Rocket" focuses on the grimy underbelly of the porn industry. The film stars Simon Rex, who is looking to shake the stigma of his previous low-brow parody movies. Rex is a washed-up porn star who returns to his hometown only to find no one wants him back. Baker shot "Red Rocket" in secret in Texas during the COVID lockdowns. A24, the studio behind "The Florida Project" has picked it up for U.S. distribution.
5 / Bergman Island
Director Mia Hansen-Løve goes meta in her latest drama. A filmmaking couple (Tim Roth and Vicky Krieps) is looking for inspiration. They seek refuge at the very island that inspired the great Swedish director Ingmar Bergman. As they settle in, reality and fiction start to blur, leading them down paths they never would have imagined. Hansen-Løve is no stranger to Cannes, having won the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section in 2009 for "Father of My Children." This year, Hansen-Løve is going for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or. IFC Films will release "Bergman Island" later this year. In the meantime, you can look for star Krieps in M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming thriller "Old."
6 / A Hero
"A Hero" is the latest from award-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi. The plot is a secret, but the film returns the director to his homeland and stars top Iranian talent. Farhadi is also no stranger to Cannes, as each of his previous three films premiered at the festival, 2013's "The Past," 2016's "The Salesman," and 2018's "Everybody Knows." While "Everybody Knows" was more understated, and in some ways conventional, his other two films won awards at Cannes. They also eventually led to bigger prizes and nominations, including an Oscar win for "The Salesman." Farhadi's "A Hero" will more than likely follow a similar path. This would be good news for Amazon, which had picked up the drama with a keen eye on awards.
7 / Titane
This year's Cannes Film Festival is notable for how many women-directed films are in competition. This drama/thriller from French director Julia Ducournau adds to the mix and is likely to make waves when it premieres. The synopsis to "Titane" is purposefully vague, but Ducournau's previous outing was the provocative bloody thriller "Raw," so expect some more provoking horror elements to come into play. "Titane" follows a father who reunites with his son after 10 years. As you can tell from the teaser trailer, creepy things are afoot, to say the least. Neon has picked up "Titane" for U.S. distribution.
8 / Everything Went Fine
Director François Ozon is a regular presence at the Cannes Film Festival. His most recent film, the romance drama "Summer of 85," is currently playing in select theaters. Ozon's next feature takes a different turn. "Everything Went Fine" is a more heart-wrenching story about a daughter (Sophie Marceau) who is faced with a difficult decision after her father (André Dussollier) suffers a debilitating stroke. Comparisons to last year's "The Father" can be made, but something more profound is at play.
9 / Flag Day
Sean Penn returns to the director's chair with this ensemble drama, which stars himself and his kids, Dylan, and Hopper Penn. Also in the mix are Josh Brolin, Miles Teller, and Katheryn Winnick. Based on a true story, "Flag Day" tells the story of a daughter overcoming the long shadow cast by her father and his con-man past. Elder Penn has not been behind the camera since 2016's "The Last Face," so this is certainly an anticipated return. "Flag Day" is up for the Palme d'Or and will be hitting theaters on August 20.
Matt Lissauer is a writer & data manager for Noovie. When he is not busy writing listicles, Matt is enjoying life in New Jersey with his lovely wife and three kids.