Culture

Ooh La Lit: The 2016 Cannes Film Festival by the Books

Emma Suárez in Julieta/Photo © Sony Pictures Publicity

The sixty-ninth Festival de Cannes kicks off Wednesday, May 11, and runs through May 22, drawing tens of thousands of filmmakers, stars, buyers, sellers, reporters, publicists, cinephiles, and fans to the South of France for an annual pilgrimage defined by an unabashed love of movies. While it remains one of the world’s most glamorous showcases for international cinema, premiering scores of new works made by auteurs from all over the world, Cannes inevitably makes plenty of room for book-based movies and films inspired by real events. The festival opens with Woody Allen’s latest, “Café Society,” which tracks the adventures of an aspiring writer in 1930s Hollywood, and features an out-of-competition screening of the Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Beyond those, we’ve pulled eight lit-inspired notables from the program — seven competing for the esteemed Palme d’Or and one midnight thriller with an intriguing creative team. If you can’t make it to the French Riviera this spring, you can console yourself by at least knowing which films to look for once American distributors snatch them up for Stateside release.

ca-runaway“Julieta”
Festival favorite Pedro Almodóvar (“All About My Mother,” “Volver”) returns to the competition for the fifth time, with a drama inspired by three Alice Munro short stories from her 2004 collection Runaway: “Chance,” “Soon,” and “Silence.” The film looks back over several decades in the life of a wife and mother, from a chance meeting during a youthful train ride through a great personal loss she suffers many years later and a mystery she still hopes to resolve. Munro’s unparalleled short fiction (she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013) has been adapted before — notably, for the 2013 drama “Hateship Loveship” and for Sarah Polley’s Oscar-nominated 2006 drama “Away From Her” — but Almodóvar brings his own unique spin to the material, which he relocated from Vancouver to Madrid.

“It’s Only the End of the World”
Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, and Vincent Cassel star in the latest drama from writer-director Xavier Dolan (“Laurence Anyways”), whose previous film, “Mommy,” competed at the festival in 2014. Based on a 1990 play by Frenchman Jean-Luc Lagarce (Music-hall), the film follows a writer who returns home after a dozen years away with the intention of informing his family that he is terminally ill. The narrative held special personal resonance for Lagarce, who died of AIDS in 1995 at the young age of thirty-eight and whose popularity has increased in recent years.

“From the Land of the Moon”
This Sardinia-set drama follows a young woman about to get married who begins to piece together the life her passionate grandmother lived in the decades following World War II. French actress-turned-filmmaker Nicole Garcia, who has shown in competition twice before (“The Adversary,” “Charlie Says”), co-wrote and directed the adaptation of the 2006 international bestseller by Italian writer Milena Agus (The House in Via Manno).

“Loving”
Nancy Buirski’s 2011 HBO documentary “The Loving Story” laid the groundwork for this fictionalized version of the real-life story of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose 1958 marriage led to their arrest in rural Virginia because it contravened a 1924 anti-miscegenation law. While exiled from the state for nearly a decade, they took their case all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately voted in their favor. “Take Shelter” and “Midnight Special” filmmaker Jeff Nichols, whose 2012 drama “Mud” competed at the festival, wrote and directed the film, which stars Joel Edgerton (“The Great Gatsby”) and Ruth Negga (“Jimi: All Is By My Side”).

ca-fingersmith“The Handmaiden”
South Korean writer-director Chan-wook Park showed in competition with “Oldboy” (2003) and “Thirst” (2009) — he won jury prizes for both — and here returns with a period romantic drama based on the 2002 novel Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters (Tipping the Velvet). In the story, an orphan girl who grows up in a house in a London slum with a bunch of thieves becomes part of a scheme to bilk another young woman of her inheritance, with unexpected results.

“Elle”
French-Armenian author Philippe Djian, whose novels have been adapted for the films “Unforgivable,” “Betty Blue,” and “Love Is the Perfect Crime,” provides the source material for this psychological thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven (“Black Book”) and adapted by David Birke (“13 Sins”) from Djian’s 2012 novel Oh… Isabelle Huppert, who was jury president in 2009 and has twice won best actress at the festival (for “Violette” and “The Piano Teacher”), stars as a successful businesswoman who relentlessly pursues the stranger who attacked her in her home.

“The Salesman”
This new film from Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi, whose 2011 drama, “A Separation,” won the best foreign-language film Oscar, centers on a couple forced to leave their familiar apartment for a flat in the middle of Tehran, an involuntary move that leads to violence. Similar to the use of a theatrical adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” in 2014’s “Birdman,” Farhadi’s drama revolves around a performance of Arthur Miller’s classic play Death of a Salesman. Farhadi competed at Cannes in 2013 with his previous film, “The Past.”

ca-blood-father“Blood Father”
This Cannes Midnight Screening stars Mel Gibson as an ex-con Hell’s Angel forced to come to the rescue of his reckless, estranged teenaged daughter, who’s being hunted by thugs after she witnesses a murder. The crime thriller, directed by award-winning French filmmaker Jean-François Richet (“Mesrine”), is based on the 2005 novel by author-screenwriter Peter Craig (“The Town”), who adapted his own book with the help of Oscar-nominated “Straight Outta Compton” co-writer Andrea Berloff.