Friday, April 20, 2012

Cannes Festival Lineup

The Cannes Film Festival is still the most important film festival in the world. Often times, high minded critics end up judging the whole movie year by the 20 films selected for the official competition. While there are often a number of flops in the lineup, rarely a year goes by when a least a few of the films in competition are great – last year’s lineup included my own top two films of the year – The Tree of Life (which won the Palme D’Or) and Drive (which won the best director prize), as well as another of my top 10 films of the year in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Some leftovers from that lineup, that didn’t get released over in North America until 2012 may well end up on my list this year (most notably, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia). So I always take interest in the lineup when its announced. This year may well be a good one. Here are the 20 films in competition.

1.       Rust and Bone – Dir. Jacques Audiard – Audiard’s last film was the masterful prison/gangster/political film A Prophet. I don’t know what this one is about, but it stars the wonderful Marion Cottilard, so needless to say I am interested.

2.       Holy Motors – Dir. Leos Carax – Director Leos Carax has at least assembled an interesting cast – Eva Mendes, pop star Kylie Minogue and legendary actor Michael Piccolli. I am not as familiar with his work as perhaps I should be, but this could be interesting.

3.       Cosmopolis – Dir. David Cronenberg – I am no fan of Robert Pattinson, who has the lead role, but Dom Delillo’s novel was brilliant, and its directed by one of my all time favorite directors in David Cronenberg. Without a doubt, the film in the lineup I am most interested in.

4.       The Paperboy – Dir. Lee Daniels – Daniels follows up the Oscar winning film Precious with this film starring, of all people, Zac Efron. It does have an interesting supporting cast – John Cusack, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaghey and Scott Glenn and is about a reporter investigating the case of a death row inmate. Who knows, perhaps it will be good.

5.       Killing Them Softly – Dir. Andrew Dominik – Five years after his masterful The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Dominik finally makes his follow-up – a genre flick about an enforcer and a heist at a mob poker game. It stars Brad Pitt, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Garret Dillahunt. Given Dominik’s first two films, I expect this to be a little different than it sounds.

6.       Reality – Dir. Matteo Garrone – The director of the great  Italian gangster flick Gommorah, which was about the overall corruption of Naples and the violence that plagues it, returns with a comedy? Apparently so. Should be interesting.

7.       Love (Amour) – Dir. Michael Haneke – Germany’s premiere filmmaker (and provacteur) Haneke reunites with Isabelle Huppert with this film about a retired couple dealing with the aftereffects of the wife having a stroke. Something tells me its not going to be that simple. Along with Cosmopolis, my most anticipated film.

8.       Lawless – Dir. John Hillcoat – Hillcoat made the great The Proposition, and did a fine job with The Road, so he’s certainly, this one stars Tom Hardy, Shia Labeouf, Gary Oldman, Guy Perace, Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska. Sounds like another genre film, but could turn out to be much more.

9.       In Another Country – Dir. Hong Sang-soo – Korean filmmaker Hong Sang-soo has garnered a lot of critical support, mainly in festivals, over the past few years but still has never really broken through in North America. With this one, starring Isabelle Huppert, do that for him?

10.   Taste of Money – Dir. Im Sang-soo – Another Korean filmmaker who has garnered more critical than commercial success in North America. His last one was The Housemaid that got mixed reviews, so we’ll see what happens here.

11.   Like Someone In Love – Dir. Abbas Kiarostami – Iran’s premium filmmaker follows up Certified Copy with another film set outside his native country – this time in Japan. Will he find the same sort of success? Is this going to be one of his experiments, or something more conventional?

12.   The Angels’ Share – Dir. Ken Loach – Not surprisingly, English political filmmaker Ken Loach reunites with writer Paul Laverty once again to make a film about the downtrodden in England. After finding success with The Wind That Shakes the Barley, his last two – Looking for Eric and Route Irish – have essentially been ignored. But he keeps chugging along.

13.   Beyond the Hills – Dir. Cristian Mungiu – Five years after winning the Palme for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Mengiu makes his first solo directing effort since – again about two female friends, but this time somewhat different than the agonizing abortion film that made his reputation – or at least it seems that way.

14.   After the Battle (Baad el Mawkeaa) – Dir. Yousry Nasrallah – This Egyptian filmmaker is the one in the competition that I have to admit I have never heard of – and this film doesn’t even have a IMDB page so I have no idea what to expect.

15.   Mud – Dir. Jeff Nichols – Very quickly following up last year’s great Take Shelter, Nichols returns with this story of an escaped convict and two teenagers who vow to help him. Interesting cast includes McConaghey again, Resse Witherspoon, Sarah Paulson, Sam Shephard, and not surprisingly Michael Shannon.

16.   You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet – Dir. Alain Resnais – Resnais may be 90, but he’s been making movies since 1955, and he’s not going to stop now. He has done some interesting work in recent years – including his last film Wild Grass from 2009, so I suspect he’s made another interesting one.

17.   Post Tenebras Lux – Dir. Carlos Reygadas – Mexican filmmaker known for his controversial, introspective films Japon, Battle in Heaven and Silent Light. He’s a critical favorite, who has not really broken through with audiences yet, so we’ll see. No idea what it is about.

18.   On the Road – Dir. Walter Salles – Walter Salles, best known for Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaires finally releases the long gestating adaptation of Jack Keroac’s road novel – with Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortenson, Sam Riley, Garret Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi and more. Expect to hear a lot about this one.

19.   Paradise: Love – Dir. Ulrich Seidl – Austrian filmmaker best known for Import Export and Dog Days returns with this film I know nothing about. Could be interesting.

20.   The Hunt (Jagten) – Dir. Thomas Vinterberg – Danish filmmaker, and Lars von Trier acolyte, returns with this film, starring Mads Mikkelson. None of his films have been as good as his brilliant breakthrough The Celebration (1998), but he is still an interesting filmmaker, so perhaps this is a return to form.

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