Even before it started, the 72nd Cannes Film Festival had one of the most commercial line-ups in years. High-profile international auteurs always help—gracias, Pedro Almodóvar—as do a few American brand names like Quentin Tarantino and Jim Jarmusch. Throw in a Brit pop legend like Elton John, and that’s even more money in the bank.
Their films came to Cannes with posters and trailers already online for “Pain and Glory,” “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood,” “The Dead Don’t Die,” and “Rocketman.” All of them not only had movie stars but also some juicy pitches (Pedro’s semi-autobiographical look at directing! Quentin’s take on Charles Manson! Jim’s send-up of zombies! Elton’s sex-and-drugs lifestyle!).
But what about the rest of the movies in Cannes? Quality counts, of course: Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” just nabbed the Palme d’Or, which will give it a nice boost at the box office—especially since it’s one of the most relentlessly entertaining movies to win the top prize since 1994’s “Pulp Fiction.” Then again, it’s not a slam-dunk pitch for international audiences, especially considering that the director himself released a statement this week on Twitter begging people not to reveal anything that happens after the first 20-minutes. Neon has distribution rights in the United States. It’ll be interesting to see how they position it.
That said, here are this year’s five most marketable movies:
1. “The Lighthouse”
Yes, yes, Robert Eggers’ latest is a black and white period piece shot in 1.35 Academy ratio. But with a flatulent Willem Dafoe doing his saltiest take on the Van De Kamp fisherman, plus heartthrob Robert Pattinson chewing his way through a Northeastern accent, the hammy work on display is a hoot. Add to it a supernatural take on mermaids layered with a thick shellac of dread, and you’ve got a palpably bonkers mariner’s tale ready to serve up to hungry arthouse audiences.
2. “Portrait of a Lady On Fire”
A female painter is hired to surreptitiously paint an ex-nun girding herself ahead of a forced betrothal. The two, of course, fall in love. Swooningly romantic and timely to boot, Céline Sciamma’s steamy Sapphic period piece is highbrow sexy all the way, right down to its defiantly political undercurrent critiquing societies that relentlessly repress and restrain its women. It’s sumptuously shot, beguilingly framed, achingly scored and acted with galvanizing intensity. Top-shelf stuff that sells itself.
3. “The Traitor”
A thrillingly true story about the Italian mafia: Strutting Sicilians, apoplectic court justices, peacocking convicts, and gunplay aplenty. Plus, the odd car bomb. It even has an onscreen tally of the body count. Marco Bellochio’s thuggish real-life chronicle is ripe for a robust marketing campaign. Bada-bing!
4. “The Wild Goose Lake”
Don’t ask me to explain the plot, but damn if this isn’t a slick, flashy Chinese neo-noir thriller from Diao Yinan. Somebody’s on the run from someone, plus there’s a gangster’s moll—or is she a femme fatale? Too many flashbacks and too little exposition left me thoroughly confused, but the riveting hideout brawl and motorcycle chases (garroting included) left me gobsmacked. Plus: death by umbrella! Cut a killer trailer, create some too-cool key art, and an audience is assured.
5. “Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo”
The laughingstock of Cannes, Abdellatif Kechiche’s obnoxious “do I make you horny?” pole-dancing twerkathon is a 3½ hour bore. But still: it’s a pole-dancing twerkathon. Pump up the volume, shake that ass, and keep the plot to a minimum (not that there’s a plot, anyway). Sex sells. Even bad sex.
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