As the 59th Cannes Film Festival kicks off tomorrow, I'm bracing myself for seven days of movie madness. Since I'm only going to be there for a week, I really have to pack it in and target films like a guided missile. Will my picks be winners or losers? Will something new and unforeseen completely startle me with its awesome artistic power? God, I hope so. Looking over my schedule, I must say there is very few solid bets, but here's hoping some of these nine films will turn out as good as they sound on paper:
Taxidermia (Un Certain Regard) - Hukkle, Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi's wordless, wondrous nature-film mystery, was one of the most auspicious debuts of the last few years. Already heralded at film fest showings in Hungary for its unique and gory sensibility.
Fast Food Nation (Competition) - After seeing A Scanner Darkly, I worry that Linklater has lost his touch. That movie flat-lined for me, but I'm still harboring high hopes for this adaptation of the Eric Schlosser anti-McDonalds tome.
Volver (Competition) - Almodovar. Penelope Cruz. Together again.
Red Road (Competition) - Another kooky idea hatched by Lars von Trier and Co., Red Road is part of a trilogy of films all featuring the same characters, but within different stories. But director Andrea Arnold (Wasp) and actress Nathalie Press (My Summer of Love) are just as big of a draw.
Climates (Competiion) - Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant was one of my favorite films from a couple years ago, a sparse, funny, beautiful and profoundly sorrowful look at loneliness. Let's hope this follow-up digs just as deep.
Flanders (Competition) - Admittedly, I don't think Bruno Dumont (Humanite) can do no wrong. But his remains one of the most unique, unrelenting and haunting visions in contemporary cinema. With this examination of the brutality of war, he may find the perfect marriage of form and content.
Babel (Competition) - I'll believe it when I see it, but this latest film from the duo who brought Amores Perros to Cannes six years ago should intrigue. Three stories, four countries, one tragedy -- sounds like a mix between 21 Grams and Perros. If they can keep it fresh, it could be a festival standout and a successful symbol of globalized cinema.
Bug (Directors Fortnight) - Could this be William Friedkin's comeback film? The director of The French Connection helms this drug-addled chamber piece adapted from the play by Tracy Letts. I was a fan of the play, but I'm not sure about cast members Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. For those looking for trends, Bug and A Scanner Darkly should make a good paranoid double-feature.
Short Film Program (Out of Competition) - Check out this lineup of shorts from world-class auteurs: Jane Campion's "The Water Diary," Eugene Green's "Les signes," Monte Hellman's "Stanley's Girlfriend," Gaspar Note's "Sida," and Francois Ozon's "Un Lever de Rideau" ("A Curtain Raiser"),which stars Mathieu Amalric, Louis Garrel and Vahina Giocante. If the program is anything like Destricted, the hardcore compilation which is screening at Directors Fortnight, it will disappoint. But I have a hunch these works will be more mature, memorable, and who knows, 18 minutes of new Campion could be the highlight of the fest.