If movie chatter seems quiet in the next few days, replaced only by the distant sound of frantic packing, printers being cursed at for not spewing out boarding cards, and argumentative scheduling, that’s because the world’s movie press are in large part decamping to the South of France, because we’re now only 48 hours from the start of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. The 67th edition of the world’s glitziest, most talked about and arguably most prestigious fest gets underway on Wednesday with opening night film “Grace Of Monaco,” and Playlisters Jessica Kiang and Oliver Lyttelton are about to head to the Croisette to bring you all the coverage you could ask for over the next couple of weeks.
As ever, between the Main Competition, various out-of-competition bows and the Un Certain Regard, Critics’ Week and Director’s Fortnight sidebars, there’s a huge amount to catch up on. And so to prepare you for the onslaught of reviews to come from Wednesday onwards, we’ve picked out fifteen of the films that we’re most looking forward to catching at the festival. Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg, and hopefully there’ll be more than one “Blue Is The Warmest Color“-style secret sensation to unfold, but there’s enough even at this distance that we can’t wait to get started. Take a look at our picks below, and let us know what you’re most looking forward to in the comments section.
“Clouds Of Sils Maria”
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Chloë Grace Moretz, Kristen Stewart, Johnny Flynn
Synopsis: A successful actress goes into meltdown when a young actress take on the role that made her famous.
What You Need To Know: Less than two years after his rich coming-of-age tale “Something In The Air” premiered at Venice, and four after “Carlos” screened on the Croisette (though it’s a decade since he was last in competition), Gallic helmer Olivier Assayas returns to Cannes for his starriest outing yet. “Summer Hours” star Juliette Binoche reteams with the helmer to take the lead role, in a part that’s apparently based on the legendary actress to some degree, while the more surprising picks of Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz take key supporting roles. Assayas’ films are never dull, and usually of a consistently high quality, though he’s certainly taking a gamble with his two young American stars, who’ve sometimes been criticized for their mannered performances, though both are capable of exceptional work. But Binoche looks to have a doozy of a role, even if the film’s still under wraps to the extent that it’s unclear what kind of doozy—”All About Eve” is the obvious comparison from the logline, but the reality could turn out to be very different. The last film to screen in Competition, it’s certainly one of the ones we’re most psyched to check out.
“Winter Sleep” (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Cast: Haluk Bilginer, Demet Akbag, Melisa Sozen
Synopsis: Mostly still under wraps, but it focuses on a hotel owner, a former actor, who leaves his young wife and son as winter approaches.
What You Need To Know: If there was ever any doubt that Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan was one of the most exciting filmmakers we had, he dispelled it with 2011’s “Once Upon A Time In Anatolia,” which won him the Grand Prix at Cannes for the second time (he also took Best Director for “Three Monkeys” in 2008), a truly masterful picture that stands as the finest achievement in a career that’s yet to truly disappoint. For his follow-up, Ceylan appears, from what little is known about the film, to be stepping away from the light genre elements of ‘Anatolia,’ though keeping a similar setting, and of course Ceylan’s signature austere, formalist tone. Indeed, even by his standards, this looks like a substantial piece of work: the running time clocks in at three hours and sixteen minutes, making it the longest feature in competition by some distance. The film’s seen by many as a frontrunner for the Palme d’Or, given that Ceylan’s been such a favorite at the festival without ever taking the top prize, and a jury including the likes of Jane Campion, Sofia Coppola and Jia Zhangke could certainly be responsive to something like this. But whether or not it’s a serious challenger, we just want to see the damn thing.
“Maps To The Stars” (dir. David Cronenberg)
Cast: Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Robert Pattinson
Synopsis: A twisted Hollywood family—successful self-help magnate Dr. Stafford Weiss and his wife Cristiana, who manages the careers of their burned-out child star kids Agatha and Benjie—come into the orbit of an aspiring actor and a movie star haunted by her dead mother.
What You Need To Know: Two years on from the premiere of the divisive “Cosmopolis,” David Cronenberg and star Robert Pattinson are back on the Croisette with a film that seems in many ways a sort of companion to that Don DeLillo adaptation. Penned by Bruce Wagner, it’s a long-gestating passion project for the Canadian director, which finally got before cameras last year, and the chance to see him biting the Hollywood hand that intermittently feeds him is certainly an intriguing one, particularly with a cast like this. We’re excited to see what Cronenberg newbies Wasikowska, Moore and Williams come up with, and to see Cusack get something substantial to do. The Hollywood satire genre has a dicey track record, but if anyone can make something closer to “Sunset Boulevard” than “An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn,” it’s Cronenberg, and early footage has been promising, if very much in the chilly milieu of “Cosmopolis,” right down to the limo sex.
“Two Days, One Night” (dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardennes)
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Olivier Gourmet, Fabrizio Rongione, Catherine Salee
Synopsis: A woman who has only one weekend to convince her colleagues they must give up their bonuses in order for her to keep her job.
What You Need To Know: Associated with the festival more than most filmmakers, the Dardennes are regular fixtures in Competition, and are one of the few filmmakers with two Palme d’Ors to their name, for 1999’s “Rosetta” and 2005’s “The Child.” Their low-key social realism has won them critical plaudits consistently, but their latest should mark an interesting dichotomy, with glamorous, Oscar-winning international megastar Marion Cotillard taking the lead role. Not that they’re suddenly going glitzy. This looks to be another tale of life on society’s fringes, and seemingly a more obvious response to the economic crisis than their last film, 2011’s “The Kid With A Bike.” Despite the star quotient (and we’re dying to see what Cotillard turns out for the Belgian helmers), this looks very much of a piece with the rest of the Dardennes’ output, but it’s all to easy to take their consistency for granted, and you could argue that they’ve never made a bad film, and are unlikely to start here. Expect something bruising and uncompromising, even if the red carpet will be getting more attention this time around.
“Mommy” (dir. Xavier Dolan)
Cast: Antoine-Oliver Pilon, Anne Dorval, Suzanne Clement, Patrick Huard
Synopsis: A widowed mother struggles with controlling her violent son, but receives a lifeline when an enigmatic neighbor inserts herself into the household.
What You Need To Know: 58 years younger than the oldest helmer in competition (83-year-old Jean-Luc Godard), Xavier Dolan finally makes his Competition debut with his fifth film, and it’s a testament to the wunderkind’s prodigious rise that many believe that the Québécois helmer should have made it in much sooner. A mere nine months after his excellent thriller “Tom At The Farm” premiered at Venice, Cannes selectors must have felt threatened, because Dolan’s in the hunt for the Palme this time. The film seems like it might hang on to some of the genre elements of “Tom At The Farm,” but without being such a bold departure, with a number of Dolan’s previous collaborators like Dorval and Clement returning to work on this one. There are other holdovers from ‘Tom,’ though, with DP Andre Turpin returning, which is very welcome news indeed. Will this be, as some have suggested, the culmination of Dolan’s career to date? Or a return to the somewhat indulgent work of his last Cannes premiere, “Laurence Anyways“? We’re looking forward to finding out either way.
“The Homesman” (dir. Tommy Lee Jones)
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner
Synopsis: A principled pioneer woman and a shifty miner team up to escort three clinically insane woman from Nebraska to Iowa.
What You Need To Know: Tommy Lee Jones‘ directorial debut “The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada” was a big hit when it premiered on the Croisette—winning Best Actor and Best Screenplay—but never quite found the right audience back home in the U.S., though its critical standing has grown a little over time. Could his belated theatrical follow-up (after HBO movie “The Sunset Limited” in between) have an easier ride, so to speak? Based on the acclaimed novel by “The Shootist” author Glendon Swarthout (once mooted as a vehicle for Paul Newman), it’s a more classical take on the Western than the present-day-set ‘Three Burials,’ but its feminist bent and mental illness plot make it seem more interesting than most attempts at the genre. And Jones has assembled quite the cast and crew: Luc Besson produces, the great Rodrigo Prieto shoots, and alongside Jones and Hilary Swank, top-notch character actors like Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Grace Gummer and Miranda Otto all pop up. As big supporters of his first feature, we can’t wait to see how Jones’ sophomore effort turns out, especially as early trailers look so promising.
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn
Synopsis: A single mother gets drawn into a macabre, fantastical underworld when her son discovers a secret road that leads to an underwater town.
What You Need To Know: While we’d grown kind of attached to the working title of Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut “How to Catch a Monster” and are less enamored of its more generic replacement, early pictures from the film and a stellar cast sees it riding high on our radar, whatever it’s called. It’s perhaps a mark of Gosling’s cachet on the Croisette that as an untested writer/director he’s slotted immediately into the Un Certain Regard sidebar, but then again, Warners stumped up $3m for the domestic rights even before that announcement was made, so perhaps it’s just a mark of Gosling’s cachet, period. Or perhaps, leaving cynicism aside for a moment, it’s a mark of the quality of the film, and certainly the actor is to be admired for the scope and unusual tone of his debut. Not many first-timers go for this kind of ambitious dark fantasy and Gosling certainly has chosen some promising collaborators, with the likes of “Drive” soundtrack star Johnny Jewel and “Spring Breakers” DP Benoit Debie on board. In fact, Jewel describes the film as “ ‘The Goonies’ meets ‘Twin Peaks’ ” which, hello, awesome if true, and if the aesthetic of the film looks a tad derivative of some of the directors Gosling’s most associated with, if you’re going to look like anyone, you could do worse than looking like Derek Cianfrance by way of Nicolas Winding Refn.
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Synopsis: In a dystopian near future in the Australian outback, a man hunts down the gang of criminals who stole his car, forcing a wounded and abandoned member of the gang to help track them.
What You Need To Know: For a long time “Foxcatcher” was our automatic response to the inevitable “which Cannes movie are you most looking forward to?” question, but in recent days Bennett Miller’s drama may have been overtaken in those stakes by the second film from “Animal Kingdom” director David Michôd, which sees him share writing duties with ‘Kingdom’ star Joel Edgerton. The reasons probably do credit to the blanket marketing tactics that have seen myriad pictures and clips roll out in the last week or so, but the fact is the pictures look that good, and the performances, from Pattinson and from our perennial favorite Guy Pearce look pretty special too, from this distance. In any case, seeing Michôd return to his “Animal Kingdom” themes of brotherhood, masculinity and criminality, but spread against a broader canvas of societal breakdown would be enough to get us in line alone. And whatever the haters have to say about Pattinson, we’re rooting for him and hoping that the less-travelled career path he’s chosen post-stardom pays off in no uncertain terms soon. With this and “Maps to the Stars” both playing, maybe Cannes 2014 is the place that will happen for him.
“The Search” (dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
Cast: Berenice Bejo, Annette Bening
Synopsis: In war-torn Chechnya, a French NGO employee finds a boy who’s been separated from his family and sets out to reunite him with his lost mother.
What You Need To Know: Three years ago, “The Artist” was a little French comedy from the director of the broad parody series “OSS-17,” anticipated only by those canny enough to notice that it had been upgraded from an out-of-competition slot to the main show. Now, of course, we all know that the black-and-white silent film love letter was the popular hit of the 2011 festival, eventually going on to be a global hit and picking up a number of Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. As such, helmer Michel Hazanavicius doesn’t have surprise on his side for his follow-up, which reteams him with “The Artist” co-star and wife, Bérénice Bejo. Or does he? “The Search,” a remake of Fred Zinnemann‘s 1940s post-war melodrama, promises to be something of a departure, with a much more serious and timely subject matter, and likely little of the comedy that made the French director’s name. But hot off her Best Actress win at the festival last year for “The Past,” all eyes will be on Bejo (who gets some A-list Hollywood support from Bening). You can probably expect the critical brickbats to be out for this one, given the post-Oscar backlash towards “The Artist,” but it could still be an audience favorite, and if Hazanavicius can bring new blood to Zinnemann’s film with the same love and care that he paid homage to Chaplin and Keaton and co, we’ll welcome it warmly.
“The Blue Room” (dir. Mathieu Amalric)
Cast: Lea Drucker, Mathieu Amalric
Synopsis: Julien, a self-absorbed womaniser, and Delphine, his manipulative lover, meet regularly for unabandoned sex in the titular blue room of a certain hotel on eight occasions over eleven months. But during their last encounter a misunderstanding arises between them leading to murderous results.
What You Need To Know: This film will mark Mathieu Amalric‘s return to the Croisette as a director—his last film “Tournee” debuted In Competition in 2010 and earned him a Best Director award and the FIPRESCI prize. This time he’s been shunted sideways into the Un Certain Regard sidebar, but that shouldn’t necessarily be taken as a reflection on the film’s quality, since this time out he seems to be playing a much more genre game than with his previous offbeat dramedy, adapting a novel from famous French detective novelist Georges Simenon. And if we can look beyond the horribly ’90s phrase “erotic thriller” to describe the plot, the picture looks like a handsomely shot, atmospheric dark-edged drama, featuring what looks to be another fine showcase for Amalric’s peculiar talent to make often unprepossessingly self-centered characters engaging.
“Foxcatcher” (dir. Bennett Miller)
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave
Synopsis: The true story of schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont, who backed the U.S. Olympic wrestling team and whose friendship with gold-medal-winning brothers Dave and Mark Schultz ended in tragedy.
What You Need To Know: It’s not a huge year for purebred Hollywood studio movies at the festival, but the leading light is undoubtedly “Foxcatcher,” which comes from Sony Pictures Classics and cinephile darling Megan Ellison (returning to the festival after backing 2012’s “Lawless“). Delayed from a potential Oscar-season berth last year when the film wasn’t done in time, it’s the third feature film from “Capote” and “Moneyball” helmer Bennett Miller, and we’re very eager to see if he can go three-for-three, not least as this has been something of a passion project for the director (who passed up the chance to direct “Catching Fire” in order to get this made). The true story it tells is somewhat remarkable, Miller’s assembled a killer cast (including an almost unrecognizable, heavily-against-type Steve Carell as du Pont), and the leaked teaser trailer looked positively chilling. Between the track records of Miller and Ellison, this was one of our most anticipated films of the year in general, so damn right we’ll be queueing from the wee hours for its Cannes premiere.
“Leviathan” (dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Cast: Aleksei Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Synopsis: A modern-day reworking of the Book of Job, set on a peninsula of the Barants Sea, about an ordinary man who comes into conflict with his town’s corrupt mayor.
What You Need To Know: Russia’s been dominating headlines this year, but all of that makes us all the more keen to see “Leviathan“—it’s the latest from Andrey Zvyagintsev, who for the last decade has been establishing himself as perhaps the country’s most exciting filmmakers, and one of its fiercest critics. 2003’s “The Return,” his debut film, won the Golden Lion in Venice, and follow-ups “The Banishment” and “Elena” both won awards in Cannes. His latest sounds like his most ambitious to date, promising to unwind “to a mythological scale concerning the human condition on earth entirely,” with an expansive cast and running time, we’re sure he won’t be abandoning his ground-level, intimate drama. And if he can combine that with the broader canvas he seems to be working on, this could be one of the most serious threats for the Palme d’Or, especially given its topicality. If not, we’re just pumped to see something new from the director, whose last film, “Elena,” was something of a favorite round these parts.
“Amour Fou” (dir. Jessica Hausner)
Cast: Christina Freidel, Birte Schoink, Stephan Grossman, Peter Jordan, Sebastian Hulk
Synopsis: The story of the romance between famed German writer Heinrich von Kleist and his great love, Henriette Vogel, which ended in a murder-suicide pact in Berlin in the early 19th century.
What You Need To Know: She’s been a hugely promising director for quite a while, but Austrian filmmaker Jessica Hausner really cemented her place on cinephile’s watchlists with 2009’s “Lourdes,” a compassionate and inquisitive film about a religious pilgrimage. It’s taken a while for her to follow it up, but she’s in Cannes for the first time since “Hotel” in 2004, premiering her latest, “Amour Fou,” in the Un Certain Regard section (surprising many who thought she was sure to get a main competition slot this time around). Going back in time, it’s a period drama about a famously tragic German literary romance, and early footage suggests something a little akin to “Bright Star,” though shot in the bright, digital manner of Catherine Breillat‘s recent fairy tale pictures. Hausner’s not to everyone’s tastes, but she’s very much to ours, and the material seems like it’s full to the brim with potential. All being well, this should be one of the hot tickets in Un Certain Regard.
“The Salvation” (dir. Kristian Levring)
Cast: Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eric Cantona, Douglas Henshall
Synopsis: A peaceful Danish settler in America guns down the men who killed his family, only to be betrayed by the local townspeople when the murderer’s brother comes looking for his own vengeance.
What You Need To Know: The spaghetti Western is now a familiar sub-genre, but “The Salvation” might be the first… let’s call it Frikadeller Western, giving a Danish spin on the most American of genres. Helmed by former Dogme signatory Kristian Levring (“The King Is Alive“), and co-written by Susanne Bier collaborator Anders Thomas Jensen, it’s takes a seemingly familiar tale of bloody pioneer revenge and gives it a European spin. And key to the film’s appeal is Cannes darling Mads Mikkelsen, who takes the lead role at something of a peak of his career: he won Best Actor at the festival two years ago thanks to “The Hunt” (on which Levring was a producer), and continues to do some of the best work of his career on excellent U.S. TV show “Hannibal.” The casting beyond him is somewhat eclectic—Eva Green! Jonathan Pryce! Uh, Eric Cantona!—but there’s enough here to make this sound like a potentially fun antidote to heavier affairs (assuming that this is more of a pure genre proposition, as its midnight slot, and trailer, seems to suggest).
“Breathe” (dir. Mélanie Laurent)
Cast: Lou De Laage, Josephine Japy, Isabelle Carre, Claire Keim
Synopsis: The abusive friendship between two teenagers turns deadly.
What You Need To Know: Speaking of international French stars stepping behind the camera, Mélanie Laurent seems to be determined to prove that she can do everything. After shining in “Inglourious Basterds” and “Beginners,” launching a musical career and even being the only good thing in “Now You See Me,” the actress is back in Cannes with her second directorial feature, “Breathe.” Based on the novel by Anne-Sophie Brasme, it seems to have some echoes of a more genre-y take on last year’s Cannes sensation “Blue Is The Warmest Color,” with a cast of bright young Gallic things starring. Laurent’s first film “The Adopted” was a pretty impressive debut, given that the actress is only 31 now, and this looks to be a personal endeavor for her (one, presumably, funded by her Hollywood paychecks). The film is playing Critics’ Week, not the most high-profile selection, which might not bode well, but if we’re lucky, and if Laurent continues to direct as well as she acts, it could yet turn out to be one of the festival’s hidden gems.
Other Anticipated Titles
But you know, this is Cannes, and it’s the Big Show, so there are plenty of other titles across all the various sections that we’re definitely going to be keeping an eye on. Ned Benson’s Un Certain Regard entry “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy is one such film because though we’ve already reviewed (and raved about) the ‘Him’ and ‘Her’ versions that screened at TIFF, this one is a wholly new cut which incorporates both perspectives into one two-hour film, so we’re curious to see if it lives up the standard of its precursors. Of the red carpet-friendly gala premieres we confess that we’re more looking forward to “How to Train Your Dragon 2” than the glitzy opener “Grace of Monaco,” though of course we’ll be covering the Nicole Kidman/Grace Kelly biopic too. Back In Competition, Mike Leigh’s “Mr Turner” is one we’ve been pretty high on since it was announced—we’re fans of the director’s previous period biopic “Topsy Turvy” and hope for something similarly engaging here. And to bracket together the two Brits in competition who are endlessly bracketed together anyway, Ken Loach’s “Jimmy’s Hall” looks to be a trademark intelligently political story from the Cannes-friendly director, though it doesn’t really look to be treading any particularly new ground. Naomi Kawase’s “Still the Water” her self-confessed “masterpiece” also plays In Competition, and while we’ve found some of her previous work to be ambiguous to the point of opacity, we know we’re in store at least for something scenic.
Over in the Critics Week, our pick of the lot is probably David Robert Mitchell’s horror “It Follows” as we liked his underrated feature debut “The Myth of The American Sleepover.” Korean action thriller “The Target” will hopefully scratch a genre itch while on the Croisette, if not then fellow Korean “A Hard Day” might, or editor-turned-director Andrew Hulme’s debut “Snow in Paradise” from the Un Certain Regard section. The Director’s Fortnight will close with “Pride,” featuring a starry Brit ensemble cast headed by Bill Nighy and Paddy Considine, while “Jauja” from Lisandro Alonso has us interested because of the Argentine director’s previous work and also because of star Viggo Mortensen. Veteran John Boorman’s first film in eight years, “Queen and Country,” will play in the Directors’ Fortnight as well, as will Frederick Wiseman’s “National Gallery,” and perhaps most enticingly from that sidebar, the new animation from Studio Ghibli, “The Tale of Princess Kaguya.” Look out for our coverage of all of these and more over the next couple of weeks—we’re off to stock up on Visine and caffeine pills. — Oliver Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang