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The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival

The 20 Most Anticipated Films Of The 2015 Cannes Film Festival

It hardly seems like a year since we were arguing over the merits of eventual Palme winner “Winter Sleep” and goggling as all previous records for the upper limit one could be charged for a sandwich were shattered, but in just a week’s time, the 2015 Cannes Film Festival kicks off. This year it will be Ingrid Bergman staring down at us from every flagpole and billboard, and the Coen brothers presiding over an illustrious competition jury. But most importantly, there will be an arguably more-stacked-than-ever catalogue of mouthwatering films for us to work our way through.

There were a few disappointments, such as the no-shows of Ben Wheatley‘s “High Rise” and Cary Fukunaga‘s “Beasts of No Nation,” but we guess they have to leave something for other high-profile festivals of the year. With a Cannes lineup this broad and deep, it would be churlish to complain too much. Here in alphabetical order are the 20 films we’re most excited to see.

“Amy”

Director: Asif Kapadia (“Senna”)

Synopsis: A warts-and-all documentary looking at the life and career of the late Amy Winehouse, who became an international soul star before sinking into addiction and passing away tragically early at the age of 27.

What You Need To Know: Every generation has their own rock-star tragedy, and this one had Amy Winehouse, the astonishingly talented London chanteuse who released two classic albums, the latter winning five Grammys, before passing away of alcohol poisoning in 2011. It’s easy for someone a such to pass into legend, but this new documentary promises to look at the person behind the stardom, with a huge collection of archive footage and interviews. Asif Kapadia, who helmed the hugely successful, BAFTA-winning “Senna,” is the man in charge, and ahead of its Cannes midnight screening, the film’s already proved controversial, with Winehouse’s family condemning it as “misleading.” Does that mean it contains a healthy objectivity or that a narrative’s been shoehorned in?


Arabian Nights

Director: Miguel Gomes (“Tabu”)

Cast: Crista Alfaiate, Dinarte Branco, Carloto Cotta, Rogério Samora, Diogo Dória

Synopsis: A dozen stories of Portugese contemporary life inspired by the classic Arabic tale “1001 Nights.”

What You Need To Know: After building his reputation over the last decade or so, Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes came to worldwide recognition at the Berlin Film Festival in 2012 with his glorious black-and-white post-colonial tale “Tabu,” which became a major arthouse favorite (Sight & Sound named it as the second best film of the year, behind only “The Master,” and it landed at number seventeen on our list of the best films of the decade so far). His follow-up, which examines the disastrous economic crisis in Portugal (arguably the worst in Europe) through a structure inspired by Arabic folklore, was hotly touted for competition this year, but reportedly the epic runtime (it weighs in over six hours and is being screened in three parts) has seen it end up in Directors Fortnight instead. Drawing on real events but told in a heightened style (“the idea is not to give back this kind of reality that we are living in my country, but to recreate it as fiction,” Gomes told the New York Times recently), it looks to build on the success of “Tabu” in a major, major way.


“The Assassin”

Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien (“The Puppetmaster,” “Millennium Mambo,” “Flight Of The Red Balloon”)

Cast: Shu Qi, Chang Chen, Satoshi Tsumabuki, Ethan Juan

Synopsis: During the Tang Dynasty, a female assassin falls in love with her target.

What You Need To Know: A film that’s taken on near-mythical properties —it’s been in production on and off since 2010, and has been planned for over 25 years— “The Assassin” finally arrives on the Croisette this year, which should be something to be truly excited about. Partly because it marks the return of the great Taiwanese helmer Hou Hsiao-Hsien for the first time in seven years, and partly because it sees him working on a bigger scope and scale than ever before: the film’s a big-budget (relatively speaking) wuxia picture. Will this be a full-on Zhang Yimou-style ass-kicking epic? Something closer to the low-key arthouse nature of Hou’s earlier movies? Or something in between, like Wong Kar-Wai’s “The Grandmaster“? Either way, unless Hou really disappoints, this could be a serious Palme D’Or contender.


Carol

Director: Todd Haynes (“Velvet Goldmine,” “Far From Heaven”)

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Sarah Paulson

Synopsis: In 1950s New York, a department-store clerk begins a relationship with an older, married woman.

What You Need To Know: After picking up a heap of Emmys for miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” the great Todd Haynes returns to the big-screen for the first time in nearly eight years with material that seems pretty much perfect for him. An adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price Of Salt,” we’re in Sirkian melodrama territory here, though likely without the same kind of stylistic aping as the great “Far From Heaven,” and as usual, Haynes has rustled up a killer cast: after their last collaboration on “I’m Not There” won her an Oscar nomination, Cate Blanchett returns to work with the director, while Rooney Mara looks to have her best material since “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” (also in the support cast: “Portlandia” and Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein, awesomely). We’ll line up every time that Haynes makes a movie, but could this turn out to be his masterpiece? That it’s his first film at Cannes since “Velvet Goldmine” bodes well.


“Cemetery Of Splendour”

Director: Apitchatpong Weerasethakul (“Uncle Boonmee Remembers His Past Lives”)

Cast: Jenjira Pongpas Widner, Banlop Lomnoi, Jarinpattra Ruengram

Synopsis: In Khon Kaen, a lonesome middle-aged housewife tends a soldier with sleeping sickness and falls into a hallucination that triggers strange dreams, phantoms and romance.

What You Need To Know: Normally having one Palme d’Or in the bag guarantees that your next movie will be in competition at the festival if you want it to be, so it’s intriguing that the brilliant Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weersethakul’s “Cemetery Of Splendour,” his follow-up to ‘Uncle Boonmee,’ which won the top prize back in 2010, has been ‘relegated’ to Un Certain Regard. Is it a lesser film? An attempt to let the Competition show more emerging talents? Or a sign that it’s pushing even further into experimental territory? With the helmer describing it as a love letter to his hometown Khon Kaen and “a rumination on Thailand, a feverish nation,” the latter might be more the case, but if anything, that has us only more excited to see it, especially in an Un Certain Regard selection dominated (in a good way) by more unknown quantities.


“The Cowboys”

Director: Thomas Bidegain

Cast: Finnegan Oldfield, Francois Damiens, John C. Reilly, Antonia Campbell-Hughes

Synopsis: A father teams with his son to find his daughter, who’s disappeared after dating a Muslim fundamentalist, and enlists the help of an American headhunter.

What You Need To Know: Every festival has its mascot —an actor who mostly coincidentally ends up cropping up in multiple films premiering at the fest. It’s usually James Franco, but this year at Cannes, it’s John C. Reilly, who has three films at various places at the festival, including this, one of the more high-profile Directors’ Fortnight entries. The film marks the directorial debut of “A Prophet” and “Rust & Bone” co-writer Thomas Bidegain (who worked again with Jacques Audiard on Competition entry “Dheepan” —see below), with Reilly the biggest name of an international cast. The subject matter seems potentially controversial but timely, and Bidegain’s a real talent, so we’ve definitely got our fingers crossed that he can shine on his own as well as with his best-known collaborator. Intriguingly, he didn’t actually write this one: instead, it’s penned by “Dheepan” co-writer Noé Debré.


“Dheepan”

Director: Jacques Audiard (“The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “A Prophet,” “Rust & Bone”)

Cast: Antonythasan Jesuthasan, Kalieaswari Srinivasan, Claudine Vinasithamby, Vincent Rottiers, Marc Zinga

Synopsis: A Tamil fighter flees Sri Lanka and seeks asylum with his family, but finds more violence awaiting him in Paris.

What You Need To Know: Between “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” “A Prophet” (which we called the 9th best film of the decade so far) and “Rust & Bone,” Jacques Audiard has spent the last decade establishing himself as one of the most exciting and popular names in world cinema. Eschewing the A-list names from last time, he’s back with this under-the-radar project which looks to take the same kind of muscular crime drama that he made his name with, and gives it a multi-cultural spin by focusing on an immigrant from Sri Lanka, a veteran of the Tamil battle for independence. Little is known about the film beyond that at this point (even the name is a working one), but with Audiard at the helm, we’ll be there with bells on.


“Green Room”

Director: Jeremy Saulnier (“Blue Ruin”)

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, Patrick Stewart, Mark Webber, Alia Shawkat

Synopsis: A young punk rock band find themselves trapped in a secluded venue after stumbling upon a horrific act of violence, fighting for their lives against a gang of white power skinheads intent on eliminating all witnesses.

What You Need To Know: Seemingly coming from nowhere to land in the Cannes sidebars a couple of years ago, “Blue Ruin” was an admirably grimy, unexpectedly funny little picture that did the seemingly impossible and found a new spin on  the revenge movie. After the film’s huge success, writer-director Jeremy Saulnier is back, and “Green Room” looks to be in a similar metier. The cast names might be bigger, with hot young talent facing off against a cast-against-type Patrick Stewart as a neo-Nazi, but this looks to play with the thriller in a similar way, mixing the punk-rock milieu with the siege movie. Saulnier wouldn’t be the first indie genre helmer to come unstuck after his breakout, but “Blue Ruin” was so well-executed and smartly written that we’re confident that this could be a real tonic at the festival. This year’s “It Follows“?


Inside Out

Director: Pete Docter (“Up”), Ronnie del Carmen

Cast: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Diane Lane

Synopsis: The emotions (Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness) that guide young Riley are thrown into turmoil when her family moves to San Francisco: Joy and Sadness get lost inside her mind and must find their way home.

What You Need To Know: After a few rough years for Pixar, we’re rooting hard for a comeback for the animation giants, who seemed untouchable in the late-00s but have mostly been focused on sequels (some of which were pretty poor) for the last half-decade. What better way to signify the start of a comeback than by premiering a movie at Cannes, especially given that the last time they were at the festival was with “Up,” one of their very finest efforts. “Inside Out” comes from Pete Docter, the helmer of that film, and looks from footage so far to be vintage Pixar fare, matching bright, inventive visuals, jokes and a real emotional punch, plus a great voice cast led by Amy Poehler. Bring. It. On.


“Irrational Man”

Director: Woody Allen (“Annie Hall,” “Midnight In Paris”)

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Parker Posey, Jamie Blackley, Ben Rosenfield

Synopsis: In a small college town, a philosophy professor enters a relationship with one of his students.

What You Need To Know: Though the occasional misfire has hit in recent years, Woody Allen’s been on a pretty good run of late, with “Midnight In Paris” his most successful film ever, and “Blue Jasmine” winning tremendous reviews and an Oscar for Cate Blanchett. It’s too early to say where “Irrational Man” will fall (though on the odd/even rule, we’re due a good one after last year’s lousy “Magic In The Moonlight”), but that he’s getting to work with the very best in Phoenix, as well as reuniting with Stone, suggests good things. We wouldn’t say we’re in love with the recent trailer, but we’d be foolish to wholly judge a Woody Allen movie, especially one hitting at Cannes, from two minutes of footage.


The Lobster

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (“Dogtooth,” “Alps”)

Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly

Synopsis: A blackly funny love story set in a near future where finding love is a matter of life or death.

What You Need To Know: The leading light of the Greek New Wave, Yorgos Lanthimos has proven with breakthrough “Dogtooth” (our second favorite film of the decade so far) and “Alps” to be a true original, a filmmaker whose work is always unexpected and fascinating, and he looks to be continuing that with his Cannes competition debut and first English-language film. Uniting a diverse and thrilling cast (which also includes British National Treasure Olivia Colman, Ben Wheatley favorite Michael Smiley, and Lanthimos regulars Ariane Labed and Angeliki Papoulia) with a truly intriguing premise, this isn’t just one of our most anticipated films at the festival, it’s one of our most anticipated of the year. With a number of foreign-language filmmakers working in English this year, it’s inevitable one will come unstuck, but we’d be very surprised if it was Lanthimos.


Louder Than Bombs

Director: Joachim Trier (“Reprise,” “Oslo August 31st”)

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, David Strathairn, Amy Ryan

Synopsis: An upcoming exhibition celebrating photographer Isabelle Reed three years after her untimely death brings her eldest son Jonah back to the family house, which forces him to spend more time with his father Gene and withdrawn younger brother Conrad than he has in years. Each struggles to reconcile their feelings about the woman they remember so differently.

What You Need To Know: He’s not yet earned the international reputation of some of the other directors making their English-language debuts yet, but those in the know are aware that Norwegian helmer Joachim Trier is one of the most exciting filmmakers working today. With writer Eskil Vogt (who himself made the terrific “Blind” last year), his rich, novelistic films to date have been thrilling and beautifully made, so fingers crossed that crossing the Atlantic for his latest, a New York-set drama, keeps up the momentum. The cast is excellent, we’ve heard some very strong buzz, and so hopes are very high that this could be Trier’s most mature and best film to date.


“Love”

Director: Gaspar Noé (“Irreversible,” “Enter The Void”)

Cast: Karl Glusman

Synopsis: A young married man reminisces about a greater love affair with Electra, a woman who’s now missing.

What You Need To Know: Yes, the film with THAT poster. Plenty of filmmakers, from Vincent Gallo to Michael Winterbottom, have been experimenting in recent years with the idea of unsimulated sex on screen: telling serious dramatic stories without the L-shaped sheets and train-tunnel cutaways that signify traditional cinematic fucking. It’s not been terribly successful so far, but the latest to attempt it is Argentinean enfant terrible Gaspar Noé, and the film promises to be the talk of Cannes. The filmmaker calls it “a very, very naturalistic love story, even if the style is not going to be naturalistic,” and we’re promised graphic, unsimulated 3D boning in a film that “explores the many facets of love beyond good and evil: genetic needs, surpassing oneself, altered states of consciousness, hard drugs, mental illness, power games, blinding lights, releases of sperm, fluids and tears.” Will it be empty semi-porn, or something truly transcendent? With Noé in charge, we’re betting the latter.


Macbeth

Director: Justin Kurzel (“The Snowtown Murders”)

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Sean Harris, Paddy Considine, Jack Reynor

Synopsis: After three witches tell him he will become King, a Scottish lord turns on his ruler. 

What You Need To Know: It’s close to twenty years since a big-screen Shakespeare adaptation truly kicked our asses, namerly Baz Luhrmann’s take on “Romeo + Juliet” —could another Australian be the man to revitalize the Bard adaptation sub-genre? Justin Kurzel, who was behind the beautifully bleak serial killer tale “The Snowtown Murders,” is at the helm for this period-appropriate, blood-soaked take on one of Shakespeare’s best-known tragedies, one that has been filmed multiple times, notably by Polanski and Welles to varying effect. Kurzel has got the killer pairing of Marion Cotillard and Michael Fassbender in the lead roles, as well as a host of British character actors in support. A Cannes slot bodes well, as does the odd additional fact that everyone’s picked up on: Fassbender, Cotillard and Kurzel will soon reteam on video game-adapted blockbuster “Assassin’s Creed.


Mad Max: Fury Road

Director: George Miller (“Mad Max,” “The Road Warrior”)

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoe Kravitz, Rosie Huntington-Whitley

Synopsis: In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, drifter Max teams with Furiosa to keep five women away from the evil Immortan Joe.

What You Need To Know: “What a beautiful day!” is likely to be the rendition on the Croisette next Thursday —not because of the weather, but because fiercely anticipated, long-in-the-works blockbuster “Mad Max: Fury Road” will be bowing out of competition. You probably know the trailer by heart at this point, but just in case, this is the fourth movie in the Down Under-set post-apocalyptic franchise, with Tom Hardy stepping in for Mel Gibson and Charlize Theron beside him. George Miller is making his first live-action movie in seventeen years, and his first action movie since “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” thirty years ago, which would make this noteworthy even if it wasn’t for the astounding footage and breathless buzz. Don’t feel too jealous of Cannes-goers, though: the movie goes on general release the day after.


The Sea Of Trees

Director: Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting,” “Milk”)

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, Naomi Watts, Katie Aselton

Synopsis: A suicidal American travels to the famous “suicide forest” at the base of Mount Fuji, where he meets a similarly depressed Japanese man.

What You Need To Know: After conquering the big screen with an Oscar for “Dallas Buyers Club, the blockbuster success of “Interstellar” and commandeering the small screen with the acclaimed “True Detective,” is Matthew McConaughey going to take the Croisette next? He’s teamed with Cannes favorite Gus Van Sant for this powerful-sounding Japan-set tale of depression and redemption penned by “Buried” writer Chris Sparling. The actor’s on a hell of a roll recently, and pairing him with the great Ken Watanabe is an exciting prospect, but Van Sant can be inconsistent. Thierry Fremaux has suggested that this is a more commercial offering than Palme d’Or winner “Elephant,” and the last time the director was at the festival was with the dreadful “Restless” —hopefully this finds a happy medium. Or is at least alright alright alright.


Sicario

Director: Denis Villeneuve (“Incendies,” “Prisoners,” “Enemy”)

Cast: Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Josh Brolin, Daniel Kaluuya, Jon Bernthal

Synopsis: A young female FBI agent teams with the CIA to take down a Mexican cartel boss.

What You Need To Know: With the double-header of “Prisoners” and “Enemy” behind him and “Blade Runner 2” ahead,  Denis Villeneuve is one of the most interesting helmers around, so that he calls “Sicario” his “best film yet… the most ambitious in terms of scope [and] also my most accessible film” is something to pay attention to. We haven’t had a satisfying fictional look at the world of Mexican cartels since “Traffic,” but Villeneuve’s assembled a killer cast, including a much-deserved leading role for the great Emily Blunt, and if this “dark poem” lives up to the director’s promises, this could be one of the most talked-about films at the festival. A September U.S. release from Lionsgate bodes less well, and there’s normally at least one duff star-laden North American film in the line-up (see Atom Egoyan’s “Captives” last year), but our gut tells us it won’t be this one.


“A Tale Of Love And Darkness “

Director: Natalie Portman

Cast: Portman, Makram Khoury, Shira Haas, Neta Riskin, Gilad Kahana

Synopsis: Based on Amos Oz‘s international best-seller, the film tells the story of Oz’s youth at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel. The film details young Amos’ relationship with his mother and his birth as a writer, looking at what happens when the stories we tell become the stories we live.

What You Need To Know: As Thierry Fremaux acknowledged when announcing this film’s out-of-competition slot, the directorial debut of a major star comes with certain expectations and sharpened knives attached, as Ryan Gosling discovered with “Lost River” last year. But we’re genuinely hopeful that Portman’s first outing as a filmmaker will be a much more satisfying experience than that. Based on Oz’s best-selling memoir, this promises to be an epic yet intimate tale of the birth of Israel from a child’s eye view (Portman also stars as Oz’s mother), a subject dear to Portman’s heart. She’s very very smart and has worked with great filmmakers from Michael Mann and Mike Nichols to Darren Aronofsky and Terrence Malick, and while it sounds potentially stodgy and worthy, we’re hopeful that she’ll prove more Warren Beatty than Gosling when settling into the director’s chair for the first time.


The Tale of Tales

Director: Matteo Garrone (“Reality,” “Gomorrah”)

Cast: John C.Reilly, Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, Shirley Henderson, Stacy Martin

Synopsis: Based on the collection of fairytales of the same name compiled by 17th Century poet Giambattista Basile, several richly allegorical stories unfold and connect.

What You Need To Know: Between this title and Gomes’ “Arabian Nights,” it appears folklore and fairytales, along with John C Reilly, are having a bit of a moment this year in Cannes. But Disney needn’t worry Garrone is encroaching on its territory; judging by the first looks, there’ll be a lot more nudity and raw heart-eating here than in “Cinderella.” Aside from the glimpses in that visually luscious trailer, little specific is known, except that again this looks like a major stylistic change up from “Gomorrah,” Garrone’s breakthrough title, and also from his Grand Prix-winning “Reality.” We were big fans of the knotty crime-and-politics vibe of the former, and even if the latter missed the mark with our Cannes reviewer, Garrone’s name, his eclectic cast and the extraordinary preview images have us primed for something very special with his English-language debut here.


“Youth”

Director: Paolo Sorrentino (“This Must Be The Place,” “The Great Beauty”)

Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano

Synopsis: Two friends —one a film director preparing his last film, the other a retired conductor/composer— vacation together in a plush Alpine hotel and observe the antics and entanglements of their children and younger colleagues from the vantage point of old age.

What You Need To Know: Sorrentino returns to Cannes after his last title played here and went on to pick up the Foreign Language Oscar, and here he looks to be mining a concept closely related to ‘Beauty’ with a meditation on ‘Youth.’ The trailer looks gorgeously sad and regretful as we might expect, with perhaps a darker tinge than the melancholic, indulgent sprawl of ‘The Great Beauty”‘s investigation of/obsession with decadence and excess. And it could well provide a late-career highlight for the great Michael Caine, who certainly looks the part, and is surrounded by the kind of hand-picked ensemble in Keitel, Weisz and Dano that suggests, in fact kind of screams, quality. We greatly enjoyed “The Great Beauty” but have high hopes for something of even greater reach and depth here.

As we mentioned, even this expanded list can’t quite convey the measure of our full anticipation for this year’s lineup, and we’ve erred on the side of the higher-profile titles above. But from all sections of the program, we’re definitely also looking forward to the likes of Jia Zhang-ke’s “Mountains May Depart,” Brillante Mendoza’s “Trap,” Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Our Little Sister,” Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Years” and Corneliu Poromboiu’s “The Treasure.” Alice Winocour’s “Maryland,” with 2015’s omnipresent Mathias Schoenarts and Diane Kruger sounds intriguing, as does Mark Osborne‘s take on “The Little Prince,” Kiyoshi Kurosawa’sJourney to the Shore,” Maïwenns “Mon Roi” and debut filmmaker Laszlo Nemes‘ “Son of Saul.” And we’ll also be keeping an eye out for Nanni Moretti‘s “Mia Madre,” the in-our-wheelhouse doc from Kent JonesHitchcock/Truffaut” (along with docs on Steve McQueen and Sidney Lumet) and opening film “Standing Tall” from Emmanuelle Bercot. And being as it’s a while since we’ve seen an action-fantasy-yakuza-vampire movie, we’ll be dipping into the Director’s Fortnight selection to take in Takashi Miike‘s “Yakuza Apocalypse” too.

We hope this has got you even half as excited for this year’s Cannes as we are. Let us know the title you’re most jealous we’ll be getting to see early, or any you think we’ve cruelly overlooked in this selection, in the comments below.

–Oli Lyttelton, Jessica Kiang

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