‘Top Gun’ to star at Cannes film fest under Ukraine shadow

PARIS – With tensions around the war in Ukraine as a backdrop, the Cannes Film Festival plans a special honor for Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun” comeback and to host some 35,000 people as the movie industry looks to reclaim its pre-pandemic allure.

On Thursday, organizers of this year’s festival unveiled the 18 films that will compete for the coveted Palme d’Or prize at the May 17-28 event. They include “The Natural History of Destruction” by Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa, “All that Breathes” by Indian director Shaunak Sen, and Ethan Cohen’s “Jerry Lee Lewis: Trouble in Mind.”

Organizers will announce the jury at a later date.

After a pandemic-related production delay, “Top Gun: Maverick,” in which Cruise reprises his 1986 role as a U.S. Navy pilot, will be showcased at Cannes but outside the official competition, along with Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley drama “Elvis.”

The 75th anniversary of the French Riviera film extravaganza “is happening in special circumstances: the pandemic, the war in Ukraine, a world that has changed and will keep changing,” festival director Thierry Fremaux said.

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As usual, most of the directors in the competition are men. Last year, when the festival resumed for the first time after a virus-driven shutdown, Julia Ducournau became only the second woman in Cannes history to win the top prize, for her film “Titane” — a wild body-horror thriller featuring sex with a car and a surprisingly tender heart.

Cannes’ international village of flag-waving pavilions annually hosts more than 80 countries from around the world. But organizers said no Russian delegations would be welcome at the most global of film festivals this year because of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

Cannes is showing a film about composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky by Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who recently fled Russia for Berlin, Fremaux said.

The Russian government accused Serebrennikov, one of Russia’s most prominent directors, of embezzlement in a case that was protested by the Russian artistic community and in Europe.

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