The Cannes Film Festival gets underway today from Southern France. Here are some of the movies we're looking forward to the most...
Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami was last on the Croisette in 2010 with Certified Copy, a brain-bending heartbreaker that romantically riffed on the director’s pet themes of identity, value, and meta narratives to deliver the most satisfying film experience of this young decade. Like Someone in Love finds Kiarostami relocating to Tokyo for the next phase of his suddenly borderless career, ostensibly telling the story of a student prostitute (to clarify: she’s a student who is also a prostitute, not a trainee prostitute) and her relationship with an elderly client, who is also an academic. Originally titled The End, let’s hope that Like Someone in Love is just another new beginning.
It’s easy to forget that Wes Anderson is still making new movies. His stuff is so canonical and perfectly loved that the idea of there being more of it seems a bit surreal, particularly when he hasn’t made a live-action film since 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited. Moonrise Kingdom finds everyone’s favorite Futura-obsessed filmmaker back to his familiar ways, with a droll bit of whimsy about two young kids who steal away together from their Rhode Island town, inciting a massive search as a storm rolls in (echoes of The Life Aquatic). Early word is strong, and Fantastic Mr. Fox proved that Anderson is still deepening his voice.
David Cronenberg never really went away or lost a form to which he must return, he just got a bit polite. His Viggo Mortensen trilogy was great fun and managed to turn Aragorn’s junk into the Alfred Hitchcock of modern cameos, but it’s high time for Cronenberg to return his roots and make something real slimy, again. Enter Cosmopolis. Adapted from a twisted Don DeLillo novel of the same name, the film stars Robert Pattinson as a young billionaire whose limo ride through Manhattan en route to a haircut gets sidetracked by sex, madness, and Paul Giamatti. It looks like a Gaspar Nöe adaptation of Ulysses (translation: I can’t wait).
Michael Haneke making a film called “Love” is like Brett Ratner making a film called “Good.” The austere Austrian with the beard of broken dreams isn’t exactly known for making the cuddliest of movies, but this story of an elderly woman and the fallout of her paralyzing stroke on her husband and daughter (Isabelle Huppert) certainly sounds a touch warmer than The White Ribbon or anything in The Glaciation Trilogy, although anyone thinking that Haneke has suddenly gone soft is probably in for a rude awakening. Sony Pictures Classics has already picked this one up, so expect to see it stateside around the holidays.
The full impact of Cristian Mungiu’s last feature, 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, has still yet to be felt. The bold abortion drama is already a fixture at film schools, having gone from Cannes contender to all-time classic in just five years. His follow-up, Beyond the Hills, has been kept under wraps, and all we really know at this point is that the story involves two young nuns at an Orthodox convent, and that at 155 minutes it’s the longest movie in this year’s competition. If it’s even half as galvanizing as his last effort, expect to hear about this one for a long time to come.
Well, the man behind last year’s audacious, divisive, and deeply unsettling Kill List isn’t resting on his laurels. Ben Wheatley’s first two features have made it clear that the guy has the chops to be a great filmmaker, with chops that far outsize the niche appeal of the horror genre, and Sightseers premiering (out of competition) at Cannes seems like proof that the establishment is taking him seriously. A man takes a sheltered woman (his new wife?) on a tour of the British Isles, but various forces conspire to rankle him along the way. Chaos reigns, and with Edgar Wright on board as a producer you can expect some morbid chuckles good measure. Here’s hoping it’s a trip worth taking.
Jeff Nichols knows how to strike while the iron is hot. The distressingly young Arkansan made some modest magic with Shotgun Stories and then took the world by storm with last year’s Take Shelter, and now he’s already back with his third feature, and it stars... Matthew McConaughey? Well that’s not a name I’d ordinarily associate with Cannes or things that are good, but my gut tells me he’s perfect for the part of a fugitive who enlists a 14 year-old boy to help him escape a Mississippi prison, dodge the fuzz, and reunite with his true love. Mud is a pivotal film for Nichols, and one of the fest’s most intriguing stories.
People sure seem to have a lot of faith in Walter Salles, but even the Brazilian director’s best films (The Motorcycle Diaries, Central Station) struggle to rise above an ecstatic competence. Salles has kinda fallen off the radar, but now he’s trying to get back on track by returning to road movies, perhaps the road movie. On the Road, his long-awaited adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s monolithic Trans-American odyssey, is finally set to premiere at Cannes, with a cast headlined by Kristen Stewart and Kirsten Dunst. The whole thing seems like a terrible idea, but what great movie didn’t?
Dominik’s last film, The Assassination of Jesse James, was a hauntingly gorgeous epic that quickly earned its director the sort of reverence that most auteurs fail to achieve over the course of their entire careers. Brad Pitt (who’s not really in the business of making bad movies, anymore), must have seen things the same way, because he’s re-teamed with Dominik for Killing Them Softly (originally titled Cogan’s Trade), a nervy and comparatively succinct film about the aftermath of a mob poker game gone bad (or worse). Expect long shots, short breaths, and an uncompromising little thriller with pathos to spare.
In and of themselves, the first 5 minutes of Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light were among the best films of 2008, and they weren’t even the best part of the movie. The Mexican director -- a part-time provocateur with a taste for the transcendent -- has become a pivotal voice in the world of arthouse cinema, and his latest work Post Tenenbras Lux (“Light after darkness”), could be his best yet. Or not, as information is scarce, and all we know right now is that involves a Mexican urbanite named Juan who struggles with his family’s life in the countryside (or something). Expect greatness.
Marion Cotillard and that Belgian wall of muscle from Bullhead star in the new film by emerging giant, Jacques Audiard, whose recent work (The Beat That My Heart Skipped and A Prophet) counts among the finest French cinema of the last whatever number of years. Profound, restless, and electric, Audiard’s films are modern essentials, so if he wants to make a romantic thriller about a homeless man’s relationship with an aquarium worker, I’m game (that is not a hypothetical, that is actually the premise of Rust & Bone). A recently released clip featured lots of men punching each other senseless, so that’s a good sign.
Hong Sang-soo has made a lot of great films, almost all of them about youngish, loutish Korean filmmakers who get drunk and make fools of themselves in front of the women they’ve spurned. His latest stars Isabelle Huppert, who is kind of young, not much of a lout, and almost surely not Korean. Hong has shot beyond the borders of his homeland before, but In Another Country -- a triptych in which Huppert plays three different women named Anne -- promises to be something entirely new for the prolific auteur. Well, maybe not entirely new.
What good is a film festival without a little morbid curiosity? To put it graciously, Lee Daniels’ first two films -- Shadowboxer and Precious -- rank among the worst things to ever happen in a movie theater. His new film, which insiders report is not an adaptation of the classic videogame, tells the story of a journalist investigating the potentially wrongful conviction of a death-row convict, and its in-competition Cannes premiere suggests that it might not be quite as agonizing as Daniels’ previous efforts. Matthew McConaughey, enjoying something of a career renaissance, anchors a cast that also includes Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman.
Alain Resnais is an 89 year-old legend, so it’s with a bit of a wink that his latest (and last?) film, which provides a post-modern spin on the postmortem tale of Orpheus and Eurydice, is titled You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet (reminiscent of Akira Kurosawa calling his swan song Madadayo, or “Not Yet!”). The title also works as a sly evocation of the great beyond, as the film concerns a group of actors who have gathered to attend the reading of a great playwright’s will. Sure to be twisty, sardonic, and wistfully reflexive in all the usual ways, here’s hoping that Resnais has saved one of his best for (maybe) last.
Originally titled The Wettest Country and then changed to Lawless by the Weinstein Brothers in a crazy scheme to actually make people want to see the film, John Hillcoat’s follow-up to The Road might be the most crowd-pleasing movie in competition, this year (which is strange given that his last movie was THE ROAD). Set in Depression-era Virginia, Lawless follows a wild gang of bootleggers as someone tries to cut into their business. With a loaded cast (Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Shia LaBeouf), a rollicking trailer that oozes style, and strong buzz from test screenings, Lawless could be the break-out hit of Cannes.
Bernardo Bertolucci is a cinematic titan whose work will always be welcome on the Croisette, especially now that he’s confined to a wheelchair, his career likely slowed as a result. His new film Me and You (originally intended to be in 3D before the director decided that the format was a useless nightmare) tells the age-old tale of a young boy trying to help his half-sister survive a heroin addiction in their basement (or at least a basement). Cannes audiences will surely be rooting for Bertolucci to enjoy another coup in the twilight of his career.
Xavier Dolan is only 23 years-old, and Laurence Anyways will be his third feature to play Cannes. That’s just nuts. The craziest part is that both of his previous films have actually been good, the festival using the Quebecois wunderkind to show that it’s still interested in unearthing valuable fresh talent. The plot is simple: On his 30th birthday, the eponymous Laurence tells his girlfriend that he’d like to be a woman. This is the film with which Dolan seems intent on elevating his status to the next level, its sweeping visuals and epic length (reportedly 161 minutes) suggesting that Laurence Anyways is swinging for the fences.
Eccentric / crazed auteur Leos Carax hasn’t made a feature since 1999’s Pola X (he contributed a totally whacked segment to the omnibus film Tokyo!), but it hasn’t been for lack of trying. The guy behind such quasi-classics as The Lovers on the Bridge has found it difficult to secure funding, but casting Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue sure might have helped. Carax regular Denis Lavant will anchor the film, which follows 24 hours in the life of a man who hops between parallel dimension, in each of them taking the form of a different person. Should be delirious fun, likely stretched to the point of madness.