"At Any Price" (dir. Ramin Bahrani)
Cast: Zac Efron, Dennis Quaid, Heather Graham, Clancy Brown, Kim Dickens
Iranian/American Ramin Bahrani is a true darling of Venice: his debut "Man Push Cart" premiered in the Venice Days sidebar in 2005, while "Goodbye Solo" was in the official selection in 2008, and short "Plastic Bag" opened the Corto Cortissimo the following year. Given that only one of his films, "Chop Shop," premiered anywhere else (the Director's Fortnight at Cannes), we think his latest, which sees him working with a big name cast for the first time -- in a drama about a race car driver (Efron) under pressure to come back to the family farm -- is a near-certainty. The only question is how much of his presence in previous years came to down to a relationship with former artistic director Marco Mueller -- Bahrani may be lured to Rome by Mueller instead of returning to the Lido.
"Dans La Maison" (dir. Francois Ozon)
Cast: Kristin Scott-Thomas, Emannuelle Seigner, Denis Menochet, Fabrice Luchini
Another surprising absence from the Cannes line-up, given that Francois Ozon is another stalwart there, the director's black comedy, about the relationship between a student and a professor, did shoot quite late last year, with the director then heading for service on the jury in Berlin, which is why we suspected it wasn't ready for the French festival in May. But given that his last picture, 2010's "Potiche," premiered at Venice, we think a return outing is a very good bet, likely followed by a trip to Toronto.
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Yayaying
With "Drive" lighting up theaters around the world last year, Nicolas Winding Refn has undoubtedly become one of the more sought-after auteurs on the circuit. And while his new film, a Thai-set actioner that, if the script is anything to go by, will be even more violent than his last film, was filming until relatively recently, the director tweeted a few months back that it was aiming to be done by the end of August, which suggested it was on the way to one of the big fall festivals. Given that he broke his Venice cherry with "Bleeder" in 1999, he might well make a return trip, although the film doesn't necessarily fit with the "more sober" aesthetic of the new festival, so Toronto might be just as likely.
"Gebo Et L'Ombre" (dir. Manoel De Oliveira)
Cast: Claudia Cardinale, Jeanne Moreau, Michael Lonsdale
103-years-old and still making films with the energy of a 21-year-old, Portugese helmer Manoel De Oliveira is back with his 59th film across an 80 year career, and he's perhaps the lock for Venice this year. He's a long-time favorite of the festival -- winning the jury prize in 1991, and honored for his career in 2004 -- and the Italian press have already reported that he'll be among the line-up this year with his latest, a 19th century drama about a patriarch who sacrifices himself for his son. Festival organizers wouldn't comment on the rumors, but we'd be stunned if this didn't figure in the line up.