The Playlist’s 15 Most Anticipated Films Of The Cannes Film Festival

The Playlist's 15 Most Anticipated Films Of The Cannes Film Festival
The Playlist's 15 Most Anticipated Films Of The Cannes Film Festival

A week from today, the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival will be getting underway on the south coast of France, opening with Wes Anderson‘s “Moonrise Kingdom,” and as ever, it’s possibly the biggest date in the cinephile calendar, with a host of hotly anticipated films set to premiere over the ten days that follow. A jury headed up by Nanni Moretti, and also including Andrea Arnold, Ewan McGregor, Alexander Payne, Diane Kruger and Jean-Paul Gaultier will have to decide which of over twenty films to award the Palme d’Or to. But while the In Competition category will be typically fierce in competition, there’s plenty of gems to find in the Directors’ Fortnight, Un Certain Regard and Critics’ Week sidebars too.

Once again, The Playlist are packing our suntan lotion and shorts to hit the Croisette, and we’ll be bringing our extensive coverage from next week. But to get you warmed up, we’ve picked out 15 of the films that we’re most looking forward to while we’re in Cannes. Read on for more, and let us know what you’re most eager to hear about from the festival.
Cosmopolis”  – dir. David Cronenberg – France/Germany/Canada
Synopsis: Based on the novel by American author Don DeLillo, this centers on Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a young multi-billionaire making an epic, ultimately doomed limo ride across New York City.  
What You Need to Know: At the outset, “Cosmopolis” seems to fall in line with the mannered, critic-friendly films of the recent Cronenberg era. It is, after all, an adaptation of a critically revered and best-selling novel and stars hunky heartthrob-of-the-moment Robert Pattinson. But having seen those first few trailers, the movie seems more atypical and dangerous (a good thing, since “A Dangerous Method” felt far too safe for a filmmaker known for exploding heads and genital mutilation), and certainly a return to a more recognizable kind of picture for the director with a number of Cronenberg’s favorite thematic tics look to be explored, including man’s relationship with modern technology, the messiness of murder, and sexual obsession. The big question is whether “Twilight” star Pattinson can pull off that lead role. His starring efforts outside the vampire franchise, like “Water For Elephants” and “Bel Ami,” have mostly been met by shrugs, but we’re impressed with what we’ve seen of him here, and if he ever wins over his doubters, it’ll be on this one. He’s got a strong supporting cast behind him which’ll help, with Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Sarah Gadon and Mathieu Amalric along for the ride.

Killing Them Softly” – dir. Andrew Dominik – U.S.
Synopsis: Based on the 1974 George V. Higgins novel “Cogan’s Trade,” this follows Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
What You Need to Know: It’s Australian director Andrew Dominik’s first film since “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” of 2007, a picture (to our minds, one of the finest of the past decade) that was criminally ignored by audiences and awards ceremonies. It may have been Brad Pitt’s best performance to date, and clearly he wanted to repeat his collaboration with Dominik. He takes the lead once again with a cast that also includes James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins, with newcomers Bella Heathcote and Scoot McNairy on board as well. Pitt hasn’t struck out in a while, and The Weinstein Company has already bought the rights to distribute in North America, so clearly it’s got commercial potential, but whether it becomes a critical favorite remains to be seen. It’s essentially a thriller, so we’re expecting something pulpier. That being said, “Drive” was pretty pulpy, and still won Best Director at Cannes, so don’t count this out for awards attention on the Croisette entirely.

Laurence Anyways” – dir. Xavier Dolan – Canada
Synopsis: On his 30th birthday, academic Laurence tells his girlfriend Fred that he wants to become a woman. Can their relationship survive?
What You Need To Know: Precocious 23-year-old French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has grown up around film – he was a child actor, and to this day serves as the Quebecois voice of Ron Weasley, Jacob from “Twilight” and Stan from “South Park,” among others – so it’s no surprise that he’s become a director. But that he managed to make his first film, “I Killed My Mother,” when he was only 20, and have it premiere in the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, quickly put him on the map. His follow-up, “Heartbeats,” was even more successful, once again premiering at Cannes and hitting festivals worldwide. With such acclaim at such a young age, his third effort, “Laurence Anyways,” has been on radars for a while now, and the fledgling helmer’s showing signs of maturing. He’s skipped an acting role this time, with the lead role of Laurence instead falling to Melvil Poupaud (“A Christmas Tale,” “Mysteries of Lisbon“) who replaced the originally cast Louis Garrel. Indeed, he’s working with non-Canadian talent for the first time as well, with Nathalie Baye also joining favorites Monia Chokri and Suzanne Clément. Dolan’s divisive, but the subject matter here suggests this might be less navel-gazing than previous works and the gorgeous trailer suggests a bigger scope and ambition than his work so far (not only that, the film runs 2 hours and 40 minutes long). And we’d wager Poupaud’s performance could be one of the highlights of the festival when it premieres in Un Certain Regard.

Lawless” – dir. John Hillcoat – U.S.
Synopsis: The true story of the Bondurant brothers who run a bootlegging gang but find their moonshine dynasty in Franklin County, Virginia threatened by a rival ganster and the authorities looking for a cut.
What You Need To Know: It feels like we’ve been talking about this movie’s delays, production and upcoming release for years which, unfortunately, is becoming a hallmark of John Hillcoat’s work. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, and is probably just indicative of his challenging, genre-oriented fare, which is harder for studios to market and release. Based on Matt Bondurant’s novel “The Wettest County,” this looks no different. Starring the trio of Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke as the leading bootlegging brothers, the film has apparently been killing test screenings and features a stellar supporting cast including Jessica Chastain as Hardy’s love interest Maggie; Mia Wasikowska as LaBeouf’s belle; Dane DeHaan as his partner-in-crime; Guy Pearce as a violent deputy with the brothers in his sights; and Gary Oldman as a gangster who employs the boys. The script comes courtesy of Nick Cave who will also be reteaming with Warren Ellis to score the film as they did with Hillcoat’s two previous films, “The Road” and “The Proposition.” The film’s trailer, courtesy of the Weinstein Brothers, sold the action, but with Hillcoat at the helm, and a slot In Competition, we’re hopeful that it’ll be just as thoughtful and powerful as his previous efforts.

Like Someone In Love” – dir. Abbas Kiarostami – Iran/Japan/France
Synopsis: Formerly titled “The End,” this is the Japan-set tale of the relationship between a student, who works as a prostitute on the side, and her elderly professor/client.
What You Need To Know: Any nervousness as to whether Abbas Kiarostami‘s brilliance would continue when he started making films outside his native Iran was swiftly quashed when “Certified Copy” premiered at Cannes in 2010 – the film was rapturously received and became a fixture on Top 10 lists in 2011. For his follow-up, a film described as a “continuation” of “Certified Copy,” he’s keeping up the international flavor by heading to Japan, shooting in Tokyo and Yokohama late last year. How exactly it ties into its predecessor remains to be seen, but it sounds like we’re heading for another tender puzzle of a two-hander, with young TV star Rin Takanashi (“Goth“), who replaced the originally cast Aoi Miyazaki, and veteran Tadashi Okuno taking the lead roles. Not much is known beyond that — the Ella Fitzgerald-scored trailer didn’t give much away — but any Cannes with a new Kiarostami is bound to be a good one.

“Love” – dir. Michael Haneke – Austria
Synopsis: Long term love will be put to the test when the elderly Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a paralyzing stroke, which affects both her husband George (Jean-Louis Trintignant) and daughter (Isabelle Huppert).
What You Need To Know: Once known as “These Two” and originally cancelled by the director when he saw a Canadian film with a similar premise (most likely Sarah Polley‘s “Away From Her“), the Austrian great finally got underway on the retitled “Love” last February. It’s an exciting prospect for the veteran director to not only amass this kind of talent (a who’s-who of French auteur cinema), but also to tackle a new topic thoroughly different, and seemingly more humanistic, from his mainstays of violence, media, and video/film, even if we’re not exactly expecting it to be much more fun than “The White Ribbon.” The film has already been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics, which bodes well, although the 2009 win for his last picture probably means he won’t be in serious contention for the Palme d’Or this time around (acting prizes may be a better bet).

“Moonrise Kingdom” – dir. Wes Anderson – USA
Synopsis: Set during the 1960s, a young boy and girl (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) run away together and their small New England town is turned upside down looking for them.
What You Need To Know: Though “Moonrise Kingdom” is technically Wes Anderson‘s first period piece, his films have always seemed set in an indeterminate point in history. Mixing disparate influences from Martin Scorsese to Satyajit Ray has always been part of the director’s playbook, but no matter where he sets his stories — a fairytale NYC, the high seas, a train in India — they always seem to take place in diorama-like Anderson-land. His latest takes place on an island off the coast of New England during the 1960s and from the looks of what we’ve seen, will sit very close visually to his previous work, but also branch out into fresher territory with a coming-of-age story. While he’s assembled perhaps his most star-studded cast since “The Royal Tenenbaums,” including first-time Anderson colaborators Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel alongside Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, the film will likely rest on the shoulders of its two young leads, and for a director often criticized with staying within his comfort zone, this sounds like a commendably risky move to us. After a bit of a career slide that saw audiences and critics starting to turn on their formerly celebrated auteur, Anderson put himself back on top with his stop-motion fable, “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” From early buzz, it sounds like he might have reclaimed his live-action form too.

Synopsis: An unlikely friendship is formed between a fugitive and a 14-year-old boy who helps him escape off an island in Mississippi, evade the law and bounty hunters, and reunite him with his sweetheart, Juniper.
What You Need To Know: “Mud” will see a director and a star each meeting at a high in both of their careers. Director Jeff Nichols is coming off a great year thanks to the excellent “Take Shelter,” and combined with the continuing word-of-mouth praise for his debut feature “Shotgun Stories” (a must-see), he is one of the most exciting new voices currently working. As for Matthew McConaughey, he’s been revitalized of late taking a diverse array of roles in films like “Bernie,” “Magic Mike,” and “Killer Joe” (he’s gonna have a helluva 2012), and this, which marks one of two films in competition at Cannes this year, is another leftfield choice from an actor suddenly challenging himself. Wrap that all up in a film described as a “fairytale about love” with supporting turns from Reese Witherspoon, “The Tree of Life” star Tye Sheridan and Nichols’ regular collaborator Michael Shannon, and it’s a recipe for something potentially delicious.

“No” – dir. Pablo Larrain – Chile
Synopsis: A black comedy centering on an ad executive’s campaign to oust Augusto Pinochet in Chile.
What You Need To Know: For some reason the distribution deities haven’t been kind to Pablo Larrain. Both “Tony Manero” and “Post-Mortem” were stark, harrowing and darkly funny movies cut from the same cloth of our favorite 1970s renegade new wavers, yet the former barely blipped in theaters and the latter only just made it into the U.S. last month. But with Gael García Bernal in tow and a picture described by producer Juan de Dios Larrain as “an epic David and Goliath story (and) a black comedy with attitude,” this closing film in the director’s Pinochet trilogy, which focuses on the 1988 referendum that finally got rid of the dictator, should be a rousing one, unlikely to be given the same short shrift as the others. It’ll be interesting to see how much of Larrain’s aesthetic survives with such an optimistic-sounding crowd pleaser, but we’re excited at the prospect of him reaching a wider audience when he returns to the Directors’ Fortnight, where “Tony Manero” premiered back in 2008.

On the Road” – dir. Walter Salles – U.S/France/Brazil
Synopsis: Long-time-coming adaptation of Jack Kerouac‘s famous Beat Generation novel. Drifter poets Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty travel across the country in search of themselves, colliding with a rigid and impermeable society along the way.
What You Need To Know: Over thirty years in the making, director Francis Ford Coppola has been trying to get this picture made since the mid 1970s. Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles signed on to make the picture in 2005, with Coppola exec producing, but none of it became a reality until early 2010 when casting and financing finally coalesced. Starring Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley as the two leads and Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard and more in support, it’s certainly got a mean cast (even if the two leads are relatively unproven quantities), and Salles, as the man behind “The Motorcycle Diaries,” seems to be as strong a fit for the material as you could hope for. But will one of the great unfilmable novels give in to the attempt, or will it serve as nothing more than a good stab at a tricky piece? Fingers crossed, it’ll be the former.

The Paperboy” – dir. Lee Daniels – USA
Synopsis: A journalist and his college drop-out brother dig into the possible wrongful conviction of a death-row inmate who was found guilty of killing a sheriff.  
What You Need To Know: It’s been three years since Lee Daniels took Sundance, Cannes and the Academy by storm with “Precious,” and returning to the Croisette with a film in competition isn’t a bad way to come back to the limelight. Based on the novel by Pete Dexter, this looks like a bit of a potboiler on the surface, with a cast including Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and John Cusack, none of whom have exactly been the mark of quality in recent years. But then, all seem to be making conscious efforts to work with better material and filmmakers, and this was, after all, at one point set to be Pedro Almodóvars English-language debut, so we’re hopeful it’ll be a gripping, twisty piece of American gothic. We’ve not been massively enamored of Daniels’ directing skills to date, but the Cannes selection committee must see something in this other than star names on the red carpet, right?

Post Tenebras Lux” – dir. Carlos Reygadas – Mexico
Synopsis: Juan and his young urban family live in the countryside of Mexico. There, they enjoy and suffer a world that understands life in a different way. Juan wonders if those worlds are complementary or if they fight unconsciously to eliminate one another.
What You Need To Know: If there’s any director who should be set free of structural shackles, it has to be Carlos Reygadas. His signature loose narratives have always allowed him to really explore the small and the weird, and coming from what seems to be a deep personal well, his latest film, “Post Tenebras Lux,” should prove to be a true work of art. Described as an “expressionist painting,” this is apparently a semi-autobiographical tale about the director’s feelings, memories, dreams, hopes and fears. Coming off the incredible Cannes Jury prize winner and Martin Scorsese favorite, “Silent Light,” there are plenty of reasons to be excited for his one, not least the glorious-looking images that have appeared in the build-up to Cannes.

“Rust & Bone” – dir. Jacques Audiard – France
Synopsis: An adaptation of Canadian writer Craig Davidson‘s 2005 short story about the relationship between a homeless man and a marine park worker.
What You Need To Know: While French filmmaker Jacques Audiard illustrated he was one to watch with internationally accepted fare like “Read My Lips” and “The Beat That My Heart Skipped,” it perhaps wasn’t until 2010’s striking and near-perfect “A Prophet,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes, that he was recognized as one of the most exciting foreign film talents working today. Described as a mix of a suspense story and a love story, it looks as though he’s weaving a couple of stories from Davidson’s collection into one, with “The Dark Knight Rises” star Marion Cotillard as a woman who loses her legs in an accident, and the relationship she forges with the homeless Matthias Schoenaerts of “Bullhead” fame. The central conceit is a curious one, but the film debuted a very strong trailer recently, and Audiard is one of the most exciting filmmakers in the world right now, so we’ll have a little faith in him. Indeed, this might be our single most anticipated film of the festival.

Sightseers” – dir. Ben Wheatley – U.K.
Synopsis: A sheltered couple (Steve Oram and Alice Lowe) attempt to relax on a holiday in the countryside, only to find themselves pushed over the edge by irritants and inconvenience.
What You Need to Know: Ben Wheatley certainly made an impression with his darkly funny family crime dramedy “Down Terrace” in 2010, and he followed that up with the bold, unnerving hitman thriller “Kill List,” which has become a cult hit since premiering at SXSW last year. So it’s little stretch to realize that Wheatley’s attempt at something lighter than either of those nonetheless turned out to be a serial-killers-in-love lark heavily improvised by stars Oram and Lowe (a.k.a. Liz on “Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace”). The director has already proven himself terrifically adept at wringing suspense out of his concepts, and the fact that this is reported to have more of a darkly comedic tone makes it that much more alluring; he’s promised a lighter tone than his last film, but that wouldn’t exactly be hard… Oh, and did we mention that Edgar Wright is serving as executive producer on the project as he did with the great “Attack the Block”? (Lowe starred in his “Hot Fuzz,” but let’s face it: all hilarious Brits know one another anyway.) The film’s still fairly heavily under wraps, but a slot in the Director’s Fortnight is a big vindication of Wheatley’s talents, and we should know much more soon enough.

“The We & The I” – dir. Michel Gondry – France/U.S.
Synopsis: A drama/fantasy following students on a Bronx high-school bus on the last day of the school year.
What You Need To Know: It has been over a year since Michel Gondry‘s ill-fated Hollywood experiment “The Green Hornet” landed, but the filmmaker didn’t spend too long licking his wounds. Instead the French helmer got underway on production of “The We & The I,” a smaller-scale film born out of meetings with the publishers of his “Be Kind Rewind“-tied book about community filmmaking. Starring a group of non-professional Brooklyn school kids, and with the same focus on community that much of the director’s best recent work has had, this seemingly won’t just be some kitchen-sink flick, with the film reportedly containing sci-fi elements as well. It opens the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, which marks the filmmakers’ first appearance at the festival, and we’ve got our fingers crossed hard for a return to form.

Honorable Mentions:  We could have gone on all day, but we wanted to keep this list digestible, so we’ve kept it only to fifteen must-sees, but there’s plenty of others that we’ve got our eye, first and foremost among them “Holy Motors,” the long-awaited return of Leos Carax, an out-there, time-hopping film that could either be this year’s “Southland Tales” or the glorious retun of a much-missed auteur. Also in competition and anticipated: “Beyond The Hills” from Cristian Mungiu, “The Hunt” from Thomas Vinterberg,In Another Country” from Hong Sang-Soo, the long-in-the-offing “Paradies; Liebe” from Ulrich Seidl, Alain Resnais‘ “Vous N’Avez Encore Rien Vu,” and “Reality” from Matteo Garrone.

Elsewhere, there’s Bernardo Bertolucci‘s “Io E Te,” HBO drama “Hemingway & Gellhorn” directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, and omnibus picture “7 Days In Havana.” Genre fans will have their itch scratched by “Antiviral,” the debut of Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, POV-horror remake “Maniac” with Elijah Wood, and Dario Argento‘s 3D “Dracula,” along with Chris O’Dowd-starring Australian comedy “The Sapphires.” And finally, we’re intrigued both by Rufus Norris‘ “Broken” in Critic’s Week, with Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth, and “Elefante Blanco” from Pablo Trapero (“Carancho“), while rock star Pete Doherty stars with Charlotte Gainsbourg in “Confessions Of A Child Of The Century,” and there are short documentaries from Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Fatih Akin out of competition too.

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