Sofia Coppola's 'Bling Ring' to open Un Certain Regard at Cannes, as full lineup looms

Posted by · 2:30 pm · April 17th, 2013

It’s practically Christmas Eve in the cinephile realm today, as we await tomorrow morning’s unveiling of the full Cannes Film Festival lineup — the press conference begins at 11am in Paris, or 2am PST — with varying degrees of impatience. Some are so eager they’ll go so far as forging a “leaked” lineup, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

But first, with “The Great Gatsby” and “Zulu” confirmed as the festival’s opener and closer, respectively, a third feature has been formally announced as part of the Official Selection: Sofia Coppola’s “The Bling Ring.”

That’s no surprise. Coppola has been to Cannes before, and with her fifth film set to hit screens in the summer, a Croisette premiere seemed the obvious launchpad for it. What was less certain, however, was in what section of the festival it would show up, and now we know: “The Bling Ring” will open the Un Certain Regard strand, the juried section widely (though not always fairly) seen as secondary to the Competition.

That might be seen in some quarters as a demotion for Coppola. Given that her last film to debut at Cannes, 2006’s divisive “Marie Antoinette,” was in Competition, while her most recent work, 2010’s “Somewhere,” won the top prize at Venice, she’d appear to be an automatic candidate for the Palme d’Or shortlist.

But Cannes has a habit of throwing an A-list auteur or two among the up-and-comers in the Un Certain Regard lineup, particularly in the opening slot. Two years ago, former Palme d’Or winner Gus van Sant did the honors with “Restless”; last year, three-time Competition entrant Lou Ye’s “Mystery” was picked as the curtain-raiser. Both films were widely agreed to be misfires from their directors; here’s hoping “The Bling Ring” doesn’t continue the pattern, though pundits will inevitably speculate why choosy festival director Thierry Fremaux didn’t deem it suitable for Competition.

Before you get too pessimistic, however, remember that not every director shifted from Competition to Un Certain Regard has floundered in the smaller pond. Two years ago, Andrei Zvyagintsev’s masterful “Elena” closed out UCR and was declared one of the festival’s best films by many a critic; Jean-Luc Godard’s “Film Socialisme” and Bruno Dumont’s “Beyond Satan” have also found devoted critical adherents.

With its teen-oriented subject matter and lip gloss veneer, “The Bling Ring” never looked a likely Palme d’Or contender anyway. It could be that its frisky youthfulness will fare better without the pressure of a Competition premiere, and with the added exposure and prestige of an opening-film slot.

In other Un Certain Regard news, Danish director Thomas Vinterberg has been named the section’s jury president, following in the recent footsteps of Tim Roth, Claire Denis and Emir Kusturica. Vinterberg, a Jury Prize winner in 1998 for “The Celebration,” was in Competition last year with the widely admired moral drama “The Hunt,” which won Best Actor for Mads Mikkelsen. (The film opens in the US this summer, and is a strong contender to be named Denmark’s official Oscar submission later this year.)

What, meanwhile, can we expect from tomorrow’s announcement? A few weeks ago, I listed the 10 films I most hoped would show up at the festival — though we now know that one or two of them, including Steve McQueen’s “Twelve Years a Slave,” won’t be seen until later in the year. Still, the current Competition speculation includes any number of heavyweight names, from the Coen Brothers to Claire Denis to Jim Jarmusch to Alexander Payne.

Earlier today, Indiewire reported that they’d received an anonymous email purporting to contain the leaked Competition lineup, though I’m pretty confident it’s a hoax. The giveaway, to me, is that it features no fewer than eight French films: from Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Francois Ozon, Sylvain Chomet, Guillaume Canet, Catherine Breillat and Luc Besson, plus Asghar Farhadi’s “The Past.” Fremaux has previously spoken of a three-film French quota in Competition; he broke that quota in 2011 with the late addition of “The Artist,” but it’s hard to imagine him stretching it quite that far. 

Still, that’s not to say the “leaked” list is wholly inaccurate. It does indeed feature many of the titles that most Cannes experts are expecting to hear tomorrow. Farhadi’s film is generally seen as a shoo-in, and it’d be a major surprise if James Gray, a great favorite among the French, doesn’t make the lineup for his Marion Cotillard-starring period piece “Lowlife.” Still, I’m loath to call anything safe: Claire Denis’s “The Bastards” seems an ideal Competition candidate on paper, but she’s only been there once before, and for her 1988 debut at that.

Of course, Fremaux will face hefty criticism if this year’s Competition lineup doesn’t feature at least one female director, after last year’s controversially all-male slate. That gives credence to the Denis and Breillat talk, though that in turn takes up two of the hotly contested French slots. Such are the knots you end up tying yourself in if you try to predict these things, and that’s before we get to the burning question of which critical hit from earlier in the year will land the annual if unofficial “Sundance slot” in Un Certain Regard. (“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints?” “Fruitvale?” It can’t be “Upstream Color.”)

And speaking of Sundance, can David Gordon Green’s Nicolas Cage-starring “Joe” really be ready for a Competition slot less than four months after “Prince Avalanche” premiered in Park City? Indiewire’s source says yes. All will be revealed tomorrow morning.

What are you hoping or expecting to see in the Cannes lineup tomorrow? And has its Un Certain Regard placing given you any pause about “The Bling Ring?” Tell us in the comments.

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