By Eric Kohn | Indiewire May 15, 2012 at 12:07PM
To be clear: These movies aren't destined to disappoint. Rather, while some Cannes entries fail to live up to the hype, others arrive with a cloud of mystery that calls for healthy skepticism.
A wacky sci-fi thriller about the harvesting of celebrity viruses for obsessed fans -- directed by Brandon Cronenberg, the son of David Cronenberg, the man who practically invented modern body horror. Is that reason enough to expect much beyond a grotesque premise? Nope, unless dad ghost-directed. It remains to be seen whether Brandon can follow in his father's visceral footsteps.
David Cronenberg, meanwhile, has his own reasons to feel nervous. As much as I'd like to get pumped about this zany-looking adaptation of Don DeLillo's Kafkaesque odyssey about a young billionaire playboy (Robert Pattinson) making his way across Manhattan over the course of a single, chaotic day looks a little too ambitious for its own good. Then again, Cronenberg did film the unfilmable with "Naked Lunch," but he's testing his luck this time out.
"Ernest & Celestine"
The Belgian animation team responsible for the surreal cartoon antics of "A Town Called Panic," which premiered in Cannes' midnight section a few years back, returns to the festival in Directors' Fortnight with this adaptation of Gabrielle Vincent's popular children's book. Leaving behind the stop-motion realm of their previous venture in favor of a scrappy 2-D feel, the filmmakers follow the strange adventures of a bear and mouse who become friends against all odds. It looks adorable, of course, but it's too early to tell if it will reach the inspired lunacy of "Panic."
"La noche de enfrente"
Legendary Chilean director Raul Ruiz died earlier this year, but the incredibly prolific filmmaker had already completed this final work in time for it to play Cannes. A characteristic combination of stories involving different time periods and places, all based on the work of acclaimed Chilean author Hernan del Solar, "La noche de enfrente" is likely to attract a lot of attention for its historic value coming at the end Ruiz's career. But Ruiz has made so many movies over the years that it's hard to say if this one will match up to his most acclaimed works.
"On the Road"
Walter Salles' adaptation of the classic Jack Kerouac novel, which co-stars Viggo Mortensen and Kristen Stewart, has been in production for years. Could it possibly render a novel so firmly ingrained in American consciousness without simplifying the distinctive voice of the text? It sounds even harder than adapting "Naked Lunch."
Lee Daniels' adaptation of a Peter Dexter novel about the relationship between a reporter and a death-row inmate (John Cusack) is the filmmaker's first movie since "Precious," which danced a dangerous line between absurdity and dramatic intensity. The new movie's premise just sounds shrill and melodramatic, but then again so did "Precious."
At 72, Dario Argento has made a 3-D "Dracula" movie with Rutger Hauer playing Abraham Van Helsing. One can imagine the ample gore spewing forth in multiple dimensions, but other than that? Don't expect this vampire drama to sink in.
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul returns to Cannes after winning the Palme d'Or for "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" with an hourlong piece about the titular locale situated alongside the Mekong River. Descriptions imply a quiet, pensive experimental work -- most likely inoffensive but also less eventful than the director's feature-length efforts.
"The We and the I"
Michel Gondry's latest, opening Directors' Fortnight, centers on a bunch of teens riding a bus around the Bronx and stars nonprofessional actors. It sounds like an interesting experiment from a filmmaker who has always made intriguing off-kilter choices that yield interesting results even when they don't entirely hold together. But it's hard to say (mainly because so few people have seen it) whether this small-scale effort will lead to satisfactory results. Also: The aforementioned premise doesn't give us the Gondry element -- that is, the magical realism that percolates through all his work and undoubtedly finds its way in here.
Rising star Xavier Dolan made a startling transition from acting to directing with his debut feature "I Killed My Mother" in 2009, made when he was 20 years old, and followed it up with the stylish romance "Heartbeats." His third credit revolves around a love story made complicated by a sex-change operation. That's a terrific hook that should lend an air of distinction to the proceedings; whether the onscreen chemistry works is another story, especially over the course of the nearly three-hour running time.
"You and Me"
Bernardo Bertolucci was already given an honorary Palme d'Or by Cannes last year, a validation of his continuing relevance that may have helped give him the confidence to complete his first feature since 2003's "The Dreamers." This adaptation of Niccolo Ammaniti's coming-of-age novel about a reclusive teenager forced to deal with his drug-addled older sister has the sort of low-key ingredients that could yield a strong, contained drama, but it's been nearly a decade since Bertolucci last directed anything.
"You Haven't Seen Anything Yet"
At 90, French New Wave icon Alain Resnais shows no sign of slowing down, as implied by his latest effort's title. Another adaptation from a director known for his eloquent adaptations, the new movie takes its inspiration from a play about actors (including Mathieu Almaric and Michel Piccoli) reading the will of a late playwright. Resnais' last two efforts, "Wild Grass" and "Private Fears in Public Places," proved he still has the chops to inject visual poetry and emotion into his elegiac narratives, but when an artist has been going strong for so long, each new outing invites a little more anticipation.