"Only God Forgives"
Like "Drive," "Only God Forgives," Nicolas Winding Refn's second go-round with Ryan Gosling looks like an impeccably crafted and eye-popping affair, boasting its fair share of extreme violence and neon lighting.The plot: Kirstin Scott Thomas, as the menacing matriarch of a drug empire, orders her son (Gosling), a manager of an illegal Thai boxing ring, to hunt down his brother (and her son's) killer (played by Vithaya Pansringarm). Cue the bloody mayhem. Gosling seems to be in "Drive" mode: quiet, menacing and tantalizingly mysterious. But from the looks of the trailer, "Only God Forgives" seems be Thomas' show. After making a name for herself in France by appearing in a slew of acclaimed French films over the past several years, Thomas clearly had a blast tackling her highest profile English-language role in over a decade. Could she be the actress to beat in the acting race? Signs point to "oui." [Nigel M. Smith]
"Only Lovers Left Alive"
A last minute edition to the festival's competition, Jim Jarmusch's latest re-teams him with Tilda Swinton (for the third consecutive time) in a "crypto-vampire love story" (as described by Jarmusch) that also features Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt and Anton Yelchin. It stars Hiddelston as Adam, a vampiric musician who reunites with his mysterious lover of several centuries Eve (Swinton). Enter Eve's wild and uncontrollable younger sister, Ava (Wasikowska), who messes up their reunion. It's a director, cast and premise that's difficult to at the very least be curious by, if not extremely excited. [Peter Knegt]
Four years have passed since "White Material," Claire Denis' provocative thriller starring Isabelle Huppert. She's finally back with "Les Salauds" (translates to "The Bastards") starring Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastrioani in the leads. Mastrioani stars as Sandra, a widowed mother to a troubled daughter, whose family's business is going under. To exact revenge on the businessman she deems responsible for her family's troubles, she enlists the help of her brother. Cineastes the world over called foul when Denis' latest didn't make the competition cut, instead selected for the Un Certain Regard sidebar. Still, considering that section's strong lineup (Sofia Coppola and Ari Folman's new projects are in there), she's in very good company. [Nigel M. Smith]
"Sarah Prefers to Run"
One of the very few first time filmmakers lucky enough to make their feature debut at Cannes, 25 year-old French Canadian filmmaker Chloé Robichaud is no stranger to the festival -- she's already had three short films screen there as well. But with "Sarah Prefers to Run," Robichaud is finding herself screening alongside Claire Denis and Sofia Coppola in the festival's Un Certain Regard section (which was much kinder to female filmmakers this year than it's troubling main slate, which featured only one female helmed film). "Sarah" follows the titular young woman, who wants to become a competitive runner but ends up not having enough money to go to the ideal athletic school. So she decides on a marriage of convenience after learning with marriage comes much easier access to grants and bursaries. It's a promising premise from a promising filmmaker who could end up adding another name to the expanding canon of exciting young Quebecois filmmakers. [Peter Knegt]
"Seduced and Abandoned"
At last year's Cannes Film Festival, attendees were occasionally treated to the curious pairing of filmmaker James Toback and actor Alec Baldwin working the party circuit together with cameras in tow. The results of that experiment have landed an out-of-competition slot at the festival, with Toback's latest non-fiction work screening this year. "Seduced and Abandoned" aims to capture the sweep of the festival in all its chaotic glory, using the French Riviera event to look at the global movie industry itself -- at one point including a bit in which Baldwin raises money from investors for a movie that doesn't exist: an Iraq-based love story co-starring Neve Campbell. Toback's documentary chops were most recently proven with "Tyson," a fairly static portrait; this somewhat more ambitious work should please Cannes audiences who recognize versions of the world around them in Toback's depiction. [Eric Kohn]