"The Homesman" (dir. Tommy Lee Jones)
Cast: Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner
Synopsis: A principled pioneer woman and a shifty miner team up to escort three clinically insane woman from Nebraska to Iowa.
What You Need To Know: Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut "The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada" was a big hit when it premiered on the Croisette—winning Best Actor and Best Screenplay—but never quite found the right audience back home in the U.S., though its critical standing has grown a little over time. Could his belated theatrical follow-up (after HBO movie "The Sunset Limited" in between) have an easier ride, so to speak? Based on the acclaimed novel by "The Shootist" author Glendon Swarthout (once mooted as a vehicle for Paul Newman), it's a more classical take on the Western than the present-day-set 'Three Burials,' but its feminist bent and mental illness plot make it seem more interesting than most attempts at the genre. And Jones has assembled quite the cast and crew: Luc Besson produces, the great Rodrigo Prieto shoots, and alongside Jones and Hilary Swank, top-notch character actors like Meryl Streep, Hailee Steinfeld, William Fichtner, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, James Spader, Grace Gummer and Miranda Otto all pop up. As big supporters of his first feature, we can't wait to see how Jones' sophomore effort turns out, especially as early trailers look so promising.
Cast: Christina Hendricks, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Eva Mendes, Ben Mendelsohn
Synopsis: A single mother gets drawn into a macabre, fantastical underworld when her son discovers a secret road that leads to an underwater town.
What You Need To Know: While we’d grown kind of attached to the working title of Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut “How to Catch a Monster” and are less enamored of its more generic replacement, early pictures from the film and a stellar cast sees it riding high on our radar, whatever it’s called. It’s perhaps a mark of Gosling’s cachet on the Croisette that as an untested writer/director he’s slotted immediately into the Un Certain Regard sidebar, but then again, Warners stumped up $3m for the domestic rights even before that announcement was made, so perhaps it’s just a mark of Gosling’s cachet, period. Or perhaps, leaving cynicism aside for a moment, it’s a mark of the quality of the film, and certainly the actor is to be admired for the scope and unusual tone of his debut. Not many first-timers go for this kind of ambitious dark fantasy and Gosling certainly has chosen some promising collaborators, with the likes of “Drive” soundtrack star Johnny Jewel and “Spring Breakers” DP Benoit Debie on board. In fact, Jewel describes the film as “ ‘The Goonies’ meets ‘Twin Peaks’ ” which, hello, awesome if true, and if the aesthetic of the film looks a tad derivative of some of the directors Gosling’s most associated with, if you’re going to look like anyone, you could do worse than looking like Derek Cianfrance by way of Nicolas Winding Refn.
Cast: Guy Pearce, Robert Pattinson, Scoot McNairy
Synopsis: In a dystopian near future in the Australian outback, a man hunts down the gang of criminals who stole his car, forcing a wounded and abandoned member of the gang to help track them.
What You Need To Know: For a long time “Foxcatcher” was our automatic response to the inevitable “which Cannes movie are you most looking forward to?” question, but in recent days Bennett Miller’s drama may have been overtaken in those stakes by the second film from “Animal Kingdom” director David Michôd, which sees him share writing duties with ‘Kingdom’ star Joel Edgerton. The reasons probably do credit to the blanket marketing tactics that have seen myriad pictures and clips roll out in the last week or so, but the fact is the pictures look that good, and the performances, from Pattinson and from our perennial favorite Guy Pearce look pretty special too, from this distance. In any case, seeing Michôd return to his “Animal Kingdom” themes of brotherhood, masculinity and criminality, but spread against a broader canvas of societal breakdown would be enough to get us in line alone. And whatever the haters have to say about Pattinson, we're rooting for him and hoping that the less-travelled career path he’s chosen post-stardom pays off in no uncertain terms soon. With this and “Maps to the Stars” both playing, maybe Cannes 2014 is the place that will happen for him.
"The Search" (dir. Michel Hazanavicius)
Cast: Berenice Bejo, Annette Bening
Synopsis: In war-torn Chechnya, a French NGO employee finds a boy who's been separated from his family and sets out to reunite him with his lost mother.
What You Need To Know: Three years ago, "The Artist" was a little French comedy from the director of the broad parody series "OSS-17," anticipated only by those canny enough to notice that it had been upgraded from an out-of-competition slot to the main show. Now, of course, we all know that the black-and-white silent film love letter was the popular hit of the 2011 festival, eventually going on to be a global hit and picking up a number of Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. As such, helmer Michel Hazanavicius doesn't have surprise on his side for his follow-up, which reteams him with "The Artist" co-star and wife, Bérénice Bejo. Or does he? "The Search," a remake of Fred Zinnemann's 1940s post-war melodrama, promises to be something of a departure, with a much more serious and timely subject matter, and likely little of the comedy that made the French director's name. But hot off her Best Actress win at the festival last year for "The Past," all eyes will be on Bejo (who gets some A-list Hollywood support from Bening). You can probably expect the critical brickbats to be out for this one, given the post-Oscar backlash towards "The Artist," but it could still be an audience favorite, and if Hazanavicius can bring new blood to Zinnemann's film with the same love and care that he paid homage to Chaplin and Keaton and co, we'll welcome it warmly.
"The Blue Room" (dir. Mathieu Amalric)
Cast: Lea Drucker, Mathieu Amalric
Synopsis: Julien, a self-absorbed womaniser, and Delphine, his manipulative lover, meet regularly for unabandoned sex in the titular blue room of a certain hotel on eight occasions over eleven months. But during their last encounter a misunderstanding arises between them leading to murderous results.
What You Need To Know: This film will mark Mathieu Amalric's return to the Croisette as a director—his last film "Tournee" debuted In Competition in 2010 and earned him a Best Director award and the FIPRESCI prize. This time he's been shunted sideways into the Un Certain Regard sidebar, but that shouldn't necessarily be taken as a reflection on the film's quality, since this time out he seems to be playing a much more genre game than with his previous offbeat dramedy, adapting a novel from famous French detective novelist Georges Simenon. And if we can look beyond the horribly '90s phrase "erotic thriller" to describe the plot, the picture looks like a handsomely shot, atmospheric dark-edged drama, featuring what looks to be another fine showcase for Amalric's peculiar talent to make often unprepossessingly self-centered characters engaging.