Cannes 2012 Killing Them Softly

A week from today, the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival will be getting underway on the south coast of France, opening with Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom," and as ever, it's possibly the biggest date in the cinephile calendar, with a host of hotly anticipated films set to premiere over the ten days that follow. A jury headed up by Nanni Moretti, and also including Andrea Arnold, Ewan McGregor, Alexander Payne, Diane Kruger and Jean-Paul Gaultier will have to decide which of over twenty films to award the Palme d'Or to. But while the In Competition category will be typically fierce in competition, there's plenty of gems to find in the Directors' Fortnight, Un Certain Regard and Critics' Week sidebars too.

Once again, The Playlist are packing our suntan lotion and shorts to hit the Croisette, and we'll be bringing our extensive coverage from next week. But to get you warmed up, we've picked out 15 of the films that we're most looking forward to while we're in Cannes. Read on for more, and let us know what you're most eager to hear about from the festival.

Cosmopolis Robert Pattinson
"Cosmopolis"  - dir. David Cronenberg - France/Germany/Canada
Synopsis: Based on the novel by American author Don DeLillo, this centers on Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson), a young multi-billionaire making an epic, ultimately doomed limo ride across New York City.  
What You Need to Know: At the outset, "Cosmopolis" seems to fall in line with the mannered, critic-friendly films of the recent Cronenberg era. It is, after all, an adaptation of a critically revered and best-selling novel and stars hunky heartthrob-of-the-moment Robert Pattinson. But having seen those first few trailers, the movie seems more atypical and dangerous (a good thing, since "A Dangerous Method" felt far too safe for a filmmaker known for exploding heads and genital mutilation), and certainly a return to a more recognizable kind of picture for the director with a number of Cronenberg's favorite thematic tics look to be explored, including man's relationship with modern technology, the messiness of murder, and sexual obsession. The big question is whether "Twilight" star Pattinson can pull off that lead role. His starring efforts outside the vampire franchise, like "Water For Elephants" and "Bel Ami," have mostly been met by shrugs, but we're impressed with what we've seen of him here, and if he ever wins over his doubters, it'll be on this one. He's got a strong supporting cast behind him which'll help, with Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Sarah Gadon and Mathieu Amalric along for the ride.

Cogan's Trade Pitt Jenkins
"Killing Them Softly" - dir. Andrew Dominik - U.S.
Synopsis: Based on the 1974 George V. Higgins novel “Cogan’s Trade,” this follows Jackie Cogan (Brad Pitt), a professional enforcer who investigates a heist that went down during a mob-protected poker game.
What You Need to Know: It's Australian director Andrew Dominik’s first film since “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” of 2007, a picture (to our minds, one of the finest of the past decade) that was criminally ignored by audiences and awards ceremonies. It may have been Brad Pitt’s best performance to date, and clearly he wanted to repeat his collaboration with Dominik. He takes the lead once again with a cast that also includes James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta and Richard Jenkins, with newcomers Bella Heathcote and Scoot McNairy on board as well. Pitt hasn’t struck out in a while, and The Weinstein Company has already bought the rights to distribute in North America, so clearly it's got commercial potential, but whether it becomes a critical favorite remains to be seen. It's essentially a thriller, so we're expecting something pulpier. That being said, "Drive" was pretty pulpy, and still won Best Director at Cannes, so don't count this out for awards attention on the Croisette entirely.

Laurence Anyways
"Laurence Anyways" - dir. Xavier Dolan - Canada
Synopsis: On his 30th birthday, academic Laurence tells his girlfriend Fred that he wants to become a woman. Can their relationship survive?
What You Need To Know: Precocious 23-year-old French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan has grown up around film – he was a child actor, and to this day serves as the Quebecois voice of Ron Weasley, Jacob from "Twilight" and Stan from "South Park," among others – so it's no surprise that he's become a director. But that he managed to make his first film, "I Killed My Mother," when he was only 20, and have it premiere in the Director's Fortnight at Cannes, quickly put him on the map. His follow-up, "Heartbeats," was even more successful, once again premiering at Cannes and hitting festivals worldwide. With such acclaim at such a young age, his third effort, "Laurence Anyways," has been on radars for a while now, and the fledgling helmer's showing signs of maturing. He's skipped an acting role this time, with the lead role of Laurence instead falling to Melvil Poupaud ("A Christmas Tale," "Mysteries of Lisbon") who replaced the originally cast Louis Garrel. Indeed, he's working with non-Canadian talent for the first time as well, with Nathalie Baye also joining favorites Monia Chokri and Suzanne Clément. Dolan's divisive, but the subject matter here suggests this might be less navel-gazing than previous works and the gorgeous trailer suggests a bigger scope and ambition than his work so far (not only that, the film runs 2 hours and 40 minutes long). And we'd wager Poupaud's performance could be one of the highlights of the festival when it premieres in Un Certain Regard.

Tom Hardy Jessica Chastain Lawless
"Lawless" - dir. John Hillcoat - U.S.
Synopsis: The true story of the Bondurant brothers who run a bootlegging gang but find their moonshine dynasty in Franklin County, Virginia threatened by a rival ganster and the authorities looking for a cut.
What You Need To Know: It feels like we’ve been talking about this movie’s delays, production and upcoming release for years which, unfortunately, is becoming a hallmark of John Hillcoat’s work. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, though, and is probably just indicative of his challenging, genre-oriented fare, which is harder for studios to market and release. Based on Matt Bondurant’s novel "The Wettest County," this looks no different. Starring the trio of Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke as the leading bootlegging brothers, the film has apparently been killing test screenings and features a stellar supporting cast including Jessica Chastain as Hardy’s love interest Maggie; Mia Wasikowska as LaBeouf’s belle; Dane DeHaan as his partner-in-crime; Guy Pearce as a violent deputy with the brothers in his sights; and Gary Oldman as a gangster who employs the boys. The script comes courtesy of Nick Cave who will also be reteaming with Warren Ellis to score the film as they did with Hillcoat’s two previous films, “The Road” and “The Proposition.” The film's trailer, courtesy of the Weinstein Brothers, sold the action, but with Hillcoat at the helm, and a slot In Competition, we're hopeful that it'll be just as thoughtful and powerful as his previous efforts.

Like Someone In Love
"Like Someone In Love" - dir. Abbas Kiarostami - Iran/Japan/France
Synopsis: Formerly titled "The End," this is the Japan-set tale of the relationship between a student, who works as a prostitute on the side, and her elderly professor/client.
What You Need To Know: Any nervousness as to whether Abbas Kiarostami's brilliance would continue when he started making films outside his native Iran was swiftly quashed when "Certified Copy" premiered at Cannes in 2010 – the film was rapturously received and became a fixture on Top 10 lists in 2011. For his follow-up, a film described as a "continuation" of "Certified Copy," he's keeping up the international flavor by heading to Japan, shooting in Tokyo and Yokohama late last year. How exactly it ties into its predecessor remains to be seen, but it sounds like we're heading for another tender puzzle of a two-hander, with young TV star Rin Takanashi ("Goth"), who replaced the originally cast Aoi Miyazaki, and veteran Tadashi Okuno taking the lead roles. Not much is known beyond that -- the Ella Fitzgerald-scored trailer didn't give much away -- but any Cannes with a new Kiarostami is bound to be a good one.