In a month or so the official selection for the 2014 Cannes Film Festival will be announced. Which means we’ve got about thirty days left of rampant speculation, debating and hypothesizing about which titles are going to make it into the Big Show this year. To get us all started, we’ve compiled a list of the titles we think are the strongest contenders to put in an appearance on the Croisette, whether In Competition (to be judged by a Jury presided over this year by Palme d'Or winner Jane Campion) or in one of the headache-inducing number of sidebars, after the glitzy gala premiere of “Grace of Monaco” kicks off proceedings in earnest on May 14th.
As ever, compiling this list has whetted our appetite for this year’s festival with a large number of films that cropped up on our Most Anticipated Films of the Year list looking like promising candidates. But as much as we’re thinking about the fiesta of filmmaking that will be on offer, we’re also wondering what this year’s controversies will be: Cannes can always be relied upon to yield something chatter-worthy in its lineup, whether it’s the near-absence, like female directors last year, or a perceived lack of balance as regards titles from certain regions or countries. So let’s dive right in and take a look at what very well may be unspooling for, shall we?
“Clouds of Sils Maria” (dir. Olivier Assayas)
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Chloe Moretz, Kristen Stewart, Bruno Ganz, Daniel Bruhl, Brady Corbet and Johnny Flynn
As sure a bet as any on this list, Assayas has been In Competition in Cannes on three previous occasions, more recently screened “Carlos” and “Boarding Gate” there too, and served on the Jury in 2011. And with this starry international cast, headed by French acting royalty in the person of Binoche, who also initiated the project, along with an arch sounding, inside baseball premise (an aging grande dame actress is usurped by a younger model), the feted French director’s English-language debut seems a shoo-in not just for a slot, but for being one of the most anticipated films of the festival.
“Birdman” (dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu)
Cast: Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Zach Galafianakis
Given that three of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s four features to date premiered at Cannes (“21 Grams” was at Venice, while “Amores Perros” won the top prize at Critics’ Week sidebar on the Croisette, “Babel” got Best Director, and “Biutiful” took Best Actor), it would appear to be a no-brainer that his latest, a change-of-pace comedy about a superhero movie actor (Keaton) trying to reinvent his career on Broadway, would be headed to the South of France. The movie shot from March to June last year, so it should be perfectly timed to be completed in time for the festival, too. Will a shift into lighter territory finally bring Inarritu the top prize, or will the film turn out to be his “This Must Be The Place"? Update 4.14.14: Fox Searchlight has revealed that "Birdman" will not be coming to Cannes.
“Maps to the Stars” (dir. David Cronenberg)
Cast: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams and Carrie Fisher (as 'Herself’)
At this stage David Cronenberg is close to Cannes royalty, having been in Competition four times, winning the Jury Prize in 1995 for “Crash,” and picking up a Lifetime Achievement award in 2006. Indeed his last film, “Cosmopolis” (his first team-up with star Robert Pattinson who returns here in a pretty amazing ensemble) made it onto the Croisette in 2012 and this one has an even more appealing premise: it’s a twisted Hollywood story following two former child stars and their run-ins with drugs, pyromania and a movie star haunted by her dead mother. We’d say a competition slot is very likely (and now slotted with a May 21 release date in France, this is a certainty)
“Leviafan” (dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Cast: Alexey Serebryakov, Elena Lyadova, Vladimir Vdovichenkov
Having won the Golden Lion at Venice with his 2003 debut “The Return,” and winning Best Actor at Cannes with follow-up “The Banishment,” it was a little puzzling that the director’s third film, the excellent “Elena,” was relegated to Un Certain Regard in 2011. But given that it won the Special Jury Prize, and that most onlookers called it a better film than many in Competition, expect the Russian helmer to be back in the main lineup this time around. The film, a retelling of the story of Job centered around the conflict between a mechanic and the corrupt local mayor, is apparently more ambitious than its predecessor, and producers confirmed last month that they’re targeting a Cannes premiere, so this looks like a good bet.
“The Homesman” (dir. Tommy Lee Jones)
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Grace Gummer, Miranda Otto, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner, James Spader, Tim Blake Nelson, John Lithgow and David Dencik
Remarkably, Cannes is one of the few places that didn’t undervalue Tommy Lee Jones’ terrific directorial debut “Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” giving it a Competition berth and awarding Jones himself with the Best Actor award. This time out, this story of a claim jumper teaming up with a pioneer woman to transport three mentally unstable women from Nebraska to Iowa has such an insanely heavyweight cast that, assuming it’s ready (and it shot all the way back in May of 2013) we can safely assume it’s heading for the Croisette, and it seems likely to offer the kind of attention-grabbing roles to its principals that may well make it part of the awards conversation beyond Cannes too.
“A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Its Existence” (dir. Roy Andersson)
Cast: Holger Andersson, Nisse Vestblom
For a certain crowd, there’s no Cannes potential more exciting than the return of unique Swedish master Roy Andersson: since his debut in 1970, the helmer’s only made four movies, and it’s seven years since his last, 2007’s “Yours, The Living.” Completing the trilogy that includes that film and 2000’s wonderful “Songs From The Second Floor,” his latest, described by the director as “enormous, deep and fantastic, humorous and tragic and philosophical,” has been in the works for a while now, but looks to be heading for the light of day, and Andersson’s website says it’s targeting a spring 2014 premiere. And given that his last two films were there, that would definitely seem to point to Cannes.