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After the 2020 Cannes Film Festival was canceled by the pandemic and the 2021 edition was scaled back — even kisses were forbade on the red carpet — the lavish French Riviera cinema soiree is set to return with a festival that promises to be something like normal.

Or at least Cannes’ very particular brand of normal, where for 12 days formal wear and film mingle in sun-dappled splendor, stopwatch-timed standing ovations stretch for minutes on end and director names like “Kore-eda” and “Denis” are spoken with hushed reverence.

What passes for the usual at Cannes has never been especially ordinary, but it has proven remarkably resilient to the fluctuations of time. Since its first festival, in 1946 on the heels of World War II, Cannes has endured as a maximalist spectacle that puts world cinema and Cote d’Azur glamour in the spotlight. This year marks Cannes’ 75 anniversary.

A young boy looks at a pictures of late French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, in Cannes, France, Friday, May 13, 2022. The 75th Cannes Film Festival will take place from May 17-28. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris)

“Hopefully it will back to a normal Cannes now,” says Ruben Östlund, who returns this year with the social satire “Triangle of Sadness,” a follow-up to his Palme d’Or-winning 2017 film “The Square.”

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  • “It’s a fantastic place if you’re a filmmaker. You feel like you have the attention of the cinema world,” adds Östlund. “To hear the buzz that’s going on, people talking about the different films. Hopefully, they’re talking about your film.”

    This year’s Cannes, which opens Tuesday with the premiere of Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie movie “Z,” will unfold against not just the late ebbs of the pandemic and the rising tide of streaming but the largest war Europe has seen since WWII, in Ukraine. Begun as a product of war — the festival was initially launched as a French rival to the Venice Film Festival, which Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler had begun interfering with — this year’s Cannes will again resound with the echoes of a not-so-far-away conflict.

    Cannes organizers have barred Russians with ties to the government from the festival. Set to screen are several films from prominent Ukrainian filmmakers, including Sergei Loznitsa’s documentary “The Natural History of Destruction.” Footage shot by Lithuanian filmmaker Mantas Kvedaravičius before he was killed in Mariupol in April will also be shown by his fiancée, Hanna Bilobrova.

    Film Review - Top Gun: Maverick

    This image released by Paramount Pictures shows Tom Cruise as Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in “Top Gun: Maverick.” (Paramount Pictures via AP)

    At the same time, Cannes will host more Hollywood star wattage than it has for three years. Joseph Kosinski’s pandemic-delayed “Top Gun: Maverick” will be screened shortly before it opens in theaters. Tom Cruise will walk the carpet and sit for a rare, career-spanning interview.

    “Every director’s dream is to be able to go to Cannes someday,” says Kosinski. “To go there with this film and with Tom, to screen it there and be a part of the retrospective they’re going to do for him, it’s going to be a once in a lifetime experience.”

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    Warner Bros. will premiere Baz Luhrmann’s splashy “Elvis,” starring Austin Butler and Tom Hanks. George Miller, last in Cannes with “Mad Max: Fury Road,” will debut his fantasy epic “Thee Thousand Years of Longing,” with Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton. Ethan Coen will premiere his first film without his brother Joel, “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind,” a documentary about the rock ‘n’ roll legend made with archival footage. Also debuting: James Gray’s “Armageddon Time,” a New York-set semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale with Anthony Hopkins, Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong.

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    This image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Austin Butler in a scene from “Elvis.” (Warner Bros. Pictures via AP)

    Far from all of Hollywood will be present. Cannes’ regulations regarding theatrical release have essentially ruled out streaming services from the competition lineup from which the Palme d’Or winner is chosen. This year’s jury is headed by French actor Vincent Lindon.

    Last year’s Palme winner, Julia Ducournau’s explosive “Titane,” which starred Lindon, was only the second time Cannes’ top honor went to a female filmmaker. This year, there are five movies directed by women in competition for the Palme, a record for Cannes but a low percentage compared to other international festivals.

    This year’s lineup, too, is full of festival veterans and former Palme winners, including Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Broker”), Christian Mungiu’s (“RMN”) and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes (“Tori and Lokita”). Iconoclast filmmakers like Claire Denis (“Stars at Noon”), David Cronenberg (“Crimes of the Future”) and Park Chan-wook (“Decision to Leave”) are also up for the Palme, as is Kelly Reichardt, who reteams with Michelle Williams in “Showing Up.”

    France Cannes 2022 Preparations

    Festival workers pull the official poster into place at the Grand Theatre Lumiere during preparations for the 75th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Sunday, May 15, 2022. The Cannes film festival runs from May 17th until May 28th 2022. (AP Photo/Dejan Jankovic)

    Even with a robust slate full of Cannes all-stars, how much can the festival really revert back to old times? Last year’s light-on-crowds edition included masking inside theaters and regular COVID-19 testing for attendees. It still produced some of the year’s most acclaimed films, including the best picture-nominated “Drive My Car,” “The Worst Person in the World” and “A Hero.” Cannes remains an unparalleled platform for the best in cinema, while still susceptible to criticisms of representation.

    What’s not likely to return anytime soon is the same amount of partying that characterized the years where Harvey Weinstein was a ubiquitous figure at the festival. COVID-19 concerns aren’t gone. Attendees won’t be tested and are strongly encouraged to mask. Few non-streaming companies have the budgets for lavish parties. Crowds will be back at Cannes but to what extent?

    “It’s going to be different than it’s ever been before,” says Tom Bernard, co-president of Sony Pictures Classic and a longtime Cannes regular. “Are they going to have parties? Are they going to have COVID concerns? Or is everyone going to go there and just try to ignore stuff?”


    FILE – The Promenade de la Croisette appears prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, in southern France, on July 5, 2021. This year marks Cannes’ 75 anniversary. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP, File)

    Bernard has noticed some practices in the Cannes market, where distribution rights for films are bought and sold, remain virtual. Initial meet-and-greets with sellers, in which executives and producers typically hop between hotels along the Croisette, have taken place largely on Zoom before the festival, he says. Deal-making has gotten more focused. Cannes, known for being both high-minded and frivolous, has perhaps grown slightly more sober.

    “It’s a reshuffle of an event that’s always been sort of the same, in every way,” says Bernard. “The routine, I think, will change.”

    One thing that can relied on with ironclad certainty at Cannes is frequent and ardent overtures to the primacy of the big screen, despite ongoing sea changes in the film industry. Some films, like Östlund’s, which co-stars Woody Harrelson, will hope to straddle the disparate movie worlds that collide in Cannes.

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    “The goal we set out for ourselves,” says Östlund, “was to combine the best parts of the American cinema with the European cinema, to try to do something that’s really entertaining and at the same time thought-provoking.”

    Cannes in B&W: A look back at the festival’s glory years

    1955: Elizabeth Taylor and Mike Todd

    In this May 2, 1955 file photo film star Elizabeth Taylor and her husband, producer Mike Todd are surrounded by photographers at the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes. It is one of the indelible moments the Cannes Film Festival has created throughout its history, and more were likely to be made when it opened on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. This year’s festival has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Babout, File)

    1955: Eddie Constantine and Helene Mussel

    In this April 28, 1955 file photo actor and singer Eddie Constantine kisses his new wife Helene Mussel for the photographers surrounding during the International Film festival in Cannes, France. It is one of the indelible moments the Cannes Film Festival has created throughout its history, and more were likely to be made when it opened on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. This year’s festival has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Babout, File)

    1956: Kim Novak

    In this April 25, 1956 file photo actress Kim Novak is hustled through the crowd of media to attend an evening performance, during the Cannes Film Festival. It is one of the indelible moments the Cannes Film Festival has created throughout its history, and more were likely to be made when it opened on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. This year’s festival has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.(AP Photo, File)

    1961: Sidney Poitier

    In this May 13, 1961 file photo Sidney Poitier, centre, appears at the Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France, for the showing of his film “A Raisin in the Sun,”. At right is actress Jean Seberg. (AP Photo, File)

    1962: Natalie Wood

    In this May 11, 1962 file photo actress Natalie Wood poses for an unidentified U.S. sailor on La Croisette, Cannes, upon her arrival at the Cannes Film Festival in France. Natalie appears in West Side Story. (AP Photo/Bob Dear, File)

    1965: Andre Maurois, Olivia de Havilland and Rex Harrison

    In this May 13, 1965 file photo film festival jury members Andre Maurois, Olivia de Havilland and Rex Harrison pose on the roof of the festival hall at Cannes, France. (AP Photo/Jean-Jacques Levy, File)

    1965: Ursula Andress

    In this May 21, 1965 file photo press photographers surround Swiss-born actress Ursula Andress on the Croisette seafront, Cannes, after her arrival to attend the International Film Festival. (AP Photo/Levy, File)

    1966: Macha Meril and Orson Welles

    In this May 8, 1966 file photo actress Macha Meril peers into the lens of the camera as she is filmed by Orson Welles during the garden party of the Cannes Film Festival at the Mandelieu Golf Club. (AP Photo/Jean Jacques Levy, File)

    1966: Michael Caine

    In this May 9, 1966 file photo actor Michael Caine poses with a group of girls after his press conference on the roof of the Film Festival Palace during the Cannes Film Festival in France. He is promoting his movie Alfie which went on the win the Special Jury Prize. (AP Photo/Jean Jacques Levy, File)

    1969: Jane Birkin and Michael Dunn

    In this May 19, 1969 file photo actress and singer Jane Birkin, seated, and American actor Michael Dunn, pose on the beach at Cannes, France, where they are attending the Cannes Film Festival. The two actors play the leading roles in Bob Zaguri’s French entry, “Trop Petit, Mon Ami.” (AP Photo/Raoul Fornezza, File)

    1971: John Lennon and Yoko Ono

    In this May 5, 1971 file photo musician John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono walk on the Croisette in Cannes. They are presenting their films “Apothesis” and ” The Fly” at the 25th Cannes International Film Festival. (AP Photo/Michel Lipchitz, File)

    1972: Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack

    In this May 7, 1972 file photo actor Robert Redford and director Sydney Pollack on the Croisette Boulevard in Cannes, before they presented their film ‘Jeremiah Johnson’ at the International Film Festival in Cannes, France. (AP Photo/Levy, File)

    1972: Alfred Hitchcock

    In this May 15, 1972 file photo Master of suspense film director Alfred Hitchcock pedals his bicycle to the Cannes international film festival in Cannes, France. (AP Photo, File)

    1974: Jack Nicholson and Gerald Ayres

    In this May 15, 1974 file photo actor Jack Nicholson and producer Gerald Ayres pose together during the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera, where they present the American entry “The Last Detail.” (AP Photo, File)

    1976: Dennis Hopper

    In this May 17, 1976 file photo director and actor Dennis Hopper arrives at the Festival Palace to present “Tracks” at Cannes International Film Festival in Cannes, France. (AP Photo/Neal Ulevich, File)

    1976: Jodie Foster and Robert De Niro

    In this May 25, 1976 file photo actors Jodie Foster and Robert De Niro pose together before the presentation of their motion picture “Taxi Driver,” at the Cannes Film Festival in France. (AP Photo, File)

    1976: Charlotte Rampling and Tennessee Williams

    In this May 13, 1976 file photo actress Charlotte Rampling and American playwright Tennessee Williams share a joke in Cannes, where they are both members of the Jury of the Cannes International Film Festival. (AP Photo/Jean Jacques Levy, File)

    1977: Arnold Schwarzenegger

    In this May 20, 1977 file photo Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose documentary film “Pumping Iron” is to be presented at the Cannes Film Festival, is showing off his body for an appreciative beach audience in Cannes, France. (AP Photo, File)

    1977: Roger Moore and Barbara Bach

    In this May 20, 1977 file photo, Roger Moore, alias British secret agent James Bond, is accompanied by co-star Barbara Bach as they arrive for the screening of “The Spy Who Loved Me” at the Cannes Film Festival on the French Riviera. (AP Photo, File)

    1978: Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson

    In this May 29, 1978 file photo director Martin Scorsese, left, and producer Robbie Robertson are shown in the French Riviera in Cannes, France, where they will present “Last Waltz” at the 31st Cannes International Film Festival. (AP Photo, File)

    1979: Richard Gere

    In this May 19, 1979 file photo actor Richard Gere arrives to promote Terrence Malick’s “Day of Heaven” at the Cannes International Film Festival. (AP Photo/Levy, File)

    1979: Joan Collins

    In this May 13, 1979 file photo actress Joan Collins in Cannes to present The Bitch a Brent Walker film for the 32nd International Film Festival in Cannes. (AP Photo/ Jean Jacques Levy, File)

    1982: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale and Werner Herzog

    In this May 21,1982 file photo actors Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale and German director Werner Herzog pose at the Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France, for the presentation of the German entry of “Fitzcarraldo,”. (AP Photo, File)

    1983: Jerry Lewis and Pierre Richard

    In this May 7, 1983 file photo actor Jerry Lewis, right, with French actor Pierre Richard. (AP Photo/J Langevin, File)

    1986: Grace Jones

    In this May 13, 1986 file photo singer Grace Jones makes a popular appearance with Press photographers in Cannes, during the 39th film festival . (AP Photo, File)

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