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Cannes 2018 Wish List: 37 Movies We Hope Make the Cut, From Barry Jenkins to Claire Denis

The May cinephile gathering is just around the corner, so get your auteur scorecard ready. Here are some of the most anticipated international offerings we hope will make the cut.

The Cannes Film Festival is always a major turning point for the year in cinema. While Sundance kicks off the calendar with an overview of new American movies, Cannes casts a much wider net, digging through an international set of possibilities that includes its usual stable of reliable auteurs in addition to some rising stars. Unlike most high-profile festivals, the Cannes selection is fairly small, with most attention being paid to the roughly 20 features that crack the Official Competition. Artistic director Thierry Fremaux and his mysterious programming team tend to wait until the last second before securing titles, which means it’s a bit of a crapshoot to pontificate about which movies will actually score a spot at the festival.

Until April 12, the full program is anybody’s guess, but a few possibilities can be eliminated from the outset. Richard Linklater’s Amazon-produced Cate Blanchett vehicle “Where’d You Go Bernadette” is poised for a slot on the fall circuit, which is also where Fox Searchlight plans to launch Yorgos Lanthimos’ twisted period comedy “The Favourite” with Rachel Weisz. Benh Zeitlin’s long-gestating “Beasts of the Southern Wild” followup “Wendy” won’t be ready for Cannes, nor will “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man,” which DreamWorks has been developing for some time. Of course, anything can change – if Cannes pushes hard enough, or a fall project decides to move up the calendar, the program could accommodate any of these.

However, when it comes to some of the most exciting new features set to come out in 2018, Fremaux already has plenty of options. Here are the ones we’re most excited to see, with the caveat that Cannes always reserves the right to be unpredictable.

“Ash Is Purest White”

Director: Jia Zhangke
Cast: Zhao Tao, Liao Fan
Arguably the most important working Chinese filmmaker, Jia Zhangke has been a Cannes mainstay for most of the 21st century, with his last three features (“24 City,” “A Touch of Sin,” and “Mountains May Depart”) all screening in Competition at the festival (he first arrived on the Croisette with 2002’s “Unknown Pleasures”). Set between 2001 and 2006, “Ash Is Purest White” tells the story of a young dancer named Qiao (Zhao) who’s thrown in jail after firing a gun in defense of her gangster boyfriend. Released from prison five years later, she goes looking for him in the hopes of starting anew. Zia only just finished shooting, but this is a shoo-in for the Competition if he can finish cutting it by May. —DE

“Beautiful Boy”

Director: Felix Van Groeningen
Cast: Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney
Belgian filmmaker Van Groeningen’s first English language project (his “Broken Circle Breakdown” scored a foreign language Oscar) is an adaptation of David Scheff’s memoir about witnessing his son struggle with meth addiction. The son in question is played by Chalamet, whose “Call Me By Your Name” fame means this project will instantly gain traction, and his father’s played by the ever-reliable Carell. Produced by Amazon Studios and Plan B, the movie is ostensibly being targeted for the fall, but the project seems to be far enough along that it could wind up at the festival; it’s one of only a few American titles in contention that seems worthy of that slot. —EK

“The Beach Bum”

Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher
Korine’s first feature since “Spring Breakers” is another Florida-set look at hard-partying outcasts living on the fringes of society, explored with the filmmaker’s typical absurdist poetry. This time, McConaughey portrays a nomadic poet struggling to publish his work so he can score an inheritance and continue to enjoy his hedonistic life. Korine’s vision of American extremes is sensitive and grimy at once, a balance he’s maintained for over 20 years, but “Spring Breakers” brought him a whole new level of international fame. “Beach Bum” is poised to continue that tradition, while resurrecting McConaughey’s stoner comedy persona in a whole new context. Korine last came to Cannes with his underrated “Mister Lonely” in Un Certain Regard, but has never cracked the festival’s Competition. —EK

“Birds of Passage”

Director: Ciro Guerra
With his fourth feature “Birds of Passage,” Colombian director Ciro Guerra moves beyond the black-and-white mystical elegance of Oscar-nominated “Embrace of the Serpent” and into a wide-screen color genre movie about a man who turns to marijuana farming in order to impress his would-be bride’s demanding matriarch from a northern Colombian tribe. But he runs afoul of the drug lords and violence ensues. Guerra admits to being inspired by Michael Cimino and Sam Peckinpah. It’s time for Cannes to elevate Guerra to Competition status. –AT

“Burning”

Director: Lee Chang-dong
Cast: Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun, Jeon Jong-seo

burning lee chang dong

“Burning”

Lee Chang-dong doesn’t often have new films (his last was 2010’s masterful “Poetry”), but it’s always a big deal when he does. Cannes has been more than happy to help champion Lee’s rugged and emotionally immense stories of Korean suffering and transcendence, awarding Jeon Do-yeon Best Actress at the 2007 festival for her unforgettable performance in “Secret Sunshine,” and asking Lee to serve on the Competition jury in 2009. “Burning” enters the fray with even more heat behind it than Lee’s other work, as it’s the rare film adapted from the writing of Haruki Murakami. Based on a story that first appeared in The New Yorker, the film involves a parcel man (Yoo), a rich man (Yeun), and the woman (Jeon) who binds them together. Described by the director as “a story about young people in today’s world,” “Burning” shot in the fall and is scheduled for a mid-2018 release in Korea, so it should be good to go by early May. —DE

“That’s Love”

Director: Claire Burger
Cast: Boulí Lanners, Justine Lacroix, Sarah Henochsberg
Burger’s 2014 directorial debut “Party Girl” opened the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes and won the Camera d’Or for best first feature. Now, she’s back with the story of a single man raising his two combustible daughters after his wife leaves him, the sort of actor-driven premise mixed with youth angst and romantic yearning that one might expect from this rising auteur. Cannes loves elevating its French directors, and Burger’s on that path. —EK

“Cold War”

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Cast: Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot, Agata Kulesza
Polish filmmaker Pawel Pawlikowski would be a Cannes first-timer, but the Oscar-winning “Ida” director is poised to step up to cinema’s highest stage after his previous feature became something of an international sensation. With a title like “Cold War,” it certainly sounds like Pawlikowski is swinging for the fences. A massive period romance set across the entire European continent in the 1950s, the movie — likely as haunted and bittersweet as the rest of Pawlikowski’s work — follows two star-crossed lovers across a period of impossible conflict. “Cold War” has been in the can for a while (Pawlikowski has already finished work on his next screenplay), and distributor Amazon Studios is sure to give it as big a push as it can. Considering that Cannes missed the boat on “Ida,” if “Cold War” comes out strong enough, expect that it’ll wind up at Cannes. —DE

“The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”

Director: Xavier Dolan
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jacob Tremblay, Bella Thorne, Kit Harington, Susan Sarandon

Susan Sarandon in "Life-and Death of John F. Donovan"

Susan Sarandon “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan”

Shayne Laverdière

Xavier Dolan’s English-language debut is a star-studded affair, which makes it more or less it impossible to ignore for Cannes, which has been big on Dolan’s work for years. The director is only 28 years old but is a Cannes powerhouse, having premiered nearly all of his features at the festival and winning eight accolades so far, including the Jury Prize for “Mommy” (which he shared with Jean-Luc Godard) and the Grand Prix for “It’s Only the End of the World.” “Donovan” centers around the tragic relationship between a famous TV star and an 11-year-old boy. Some rumors suggest the movie is in contention for an opening night slot, and it certainly would seem to fit in there, although it would also come as no surprise if it’s the sole Canadian feature in Competition. —ZS

“Domino”

Director” Brian De Palma
Cast: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Christina Hendricks
The crime king returns with a contemporary cop thriller headlined by two of the hottest stars to come out the television boom, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”) and Carice van Houten (also known for her work on “GOT,” and here replacing the initially-attached Christina Hendricks). The dream duo star as police officers gone rogue amidst a terrorist threat in Copenhagen, who unknowingly pick up the trail of a CIA operative hunting down the ISIS cell behind the attacks. The “Scarface” director previously premiered “Mission to Mars” and “Femme Fatale” at Cannes, but he hasn’t directed a feature since 2012’s lesbian noir “Passion,” so he’s long overdue to return to the festival’s auteur club. —JD

“Everybody Knows”

Director: Asghar Farhadi
Cast: Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz
Cannes favorite Asghar Farhadi returns after winning the Foreign Language Oscar for “The Salesman” with “Everybody Knows,” a Spanish-language psychological thriller starring married couple Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. “The Salesman” got its start at Cannes in 2016, and the combination of Farhadi, Bardem, and Cruz is simply too starry for Cannes to ignore in 2018. Cruz plays a woman who moves her family back to her hometown outside Madrid, but the trip is plagued by unexpected events that threaten to tear the loved ones apart. No one depicts marital strife on the big screen quite like Farhadi, and “Everybody Knows” sounds like it’s in his wheelhouse. —ZS

“Fahrenheit 451”

Director: Ramin Bahrani
Cast: Michael B. Jordan, Michael Shannon, Sofia Boutella, Martin Donovan
Cannes experimented with working auteur-driven television into its Official Selection (though not competition) in 2017, premiering episodes of “Twin Peaks” and the full season of “Top of the Lake: China Girl.” It worked out well for both, and as more major filmmakers turn toward the medium it should come as no surprise that the festival continues to consider ways of working television into its program. Bahrani last gained traction at Cannes with his neorealist drama “Chop Shop” in 2007 and hasn’t been back since, but over the years he has expanded his scope to bigger, star-driven projects (“At Any Price,” “99 Homes”) that tackle heavy, topical subjects. That description certainly fits Ray Bradbury’s seminal dystopian novel, and this flashy HBO miniseries adaptation starring Michael B. Jordan could certainly hit the zeitgeist during these troubled times when fear of Orwellian governmental control runs high. —EK

“The Fever”

Director: Maya Da-Rin
Brazilian director Da-Rin has been quietly gathering momentum on the festival circuit, starting with her acclaimed documentary “Lands,” and her narrative debut seems poised to continue that momentum. Set in the industry city of Manaus (the setting of the opera house in Werner Herzog’s “Fitzcarraldo”), which is surrounded by the Amazon rainforest, the movie revolves around the experiences of a middle-aged security guard contemplating the imminent loneliness he’ll experience once his daughter leaves for medical school. His nightmares about a monstrous creature roaming the forest become part of the real world when the media reports sightings on the outskirts of town, leading him deeper into a fantastical story with emotional underpinnings sure to get people talking — about the richness of its themes, the contrast between nature and urban life, and the vision of a true filmmaking talent. —EK

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