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The Playlist's 15 Most Anticipated Films Of The Cannes Film Festival

by Oliver Lyttelton
May 9, 2012 1:13 PM
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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"  - 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.

"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" - 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.

"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" - 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.

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  • loco73 | May 20, 2012 3:54 AMReply

    Interestig list, I'm loking forward to seeing some of them whenever possible. I share the same concern about Robert Pattinson's staring role in David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis". The guy cannot act, a fact which he has amply proven with the terrible "Twilight Saga" movies, and his other failed projects. He has a one-note tone and look in pretty much all his roles. That moronic demeanour and constantly constipated look does not bode well for "Cosmopolis", which is a shame because that seems to be "Cronenberg's most interesting work since "A History Of Violence" and "Eastern Promises". I will put my trust in his directorial abilities and the incredible supporting cast for pulling this movie through inspite of its biggest handicap, namely the lead actor..

    The movie I'm most looking forward to is the new colaboration between Andrew Dominik and Brad Pitt. Originaly the movie was to retain the novel's title "Cogan's Trade" which seems more appropiate to the nature and tone of the movie, and made for a much more interesting title in my opinion. But for some very dumb reason, the idiotic step was taken to re-name it "Killing Them Softly", which makes me think of Roberta Flack's song...not a bout a professional enforcer investigating the mob being ripped-off. In spite of all this, I'll still see the movie, its just too tempting of a cinematic bit to ignore. The cast is terrific and the premise really catchy. This can be a great one, and I hope it is!

  • Isaac | May 12, 2012 11:51 AMReply

    Let's not be to hard on TAOJJBTCRB. The film was good, and considering that it was meant to be a little alienating because of Jesse James own sens own alienation, a wonderful take on his life. Killing Them Softly will very likely be an academy nominated film, and if you have actually scene the first clip then there may be more action than you'd like to say. besides the best movies use action when it's necessary and sometimes its necessarily to have a lot. Like Drive for example.

  • James | May 12, 2012 3:44 AMReply

    Most looking forward is Cosmopolis by David Cronenberg, next Rust & Bone by Jacques Audiard, Lawless by John Hillcoat, No by Pablo Larrain, & Post Tenebras Lux by Carlos Reygadas.

  • jingmei | May 10, 2012 3:30 AMReply

    Anticipate The We and The I, L'amour, Mud, et especially On The Road. It's juste kinda not quite objectively speaking of "ill-fated Hollywood experiment The Green Hornet", since as long as if shoot any Hollywood's blockbuster by a french director, gonna be something complex, another example is Mathieu Cassovitz's Babylon A.D.

  • Arch | May 10, 2012 7:09 AM

    Nooot really sure what you mean here, but in any case Kassovitz would be among the firsts to say that Babylon A.D. was a wreck. He even went on to say that F*ckin Kassovitz (the making-of he released himself on the Internet, although in a "short" version) was better than Babylon !

  • Greg | May 9, 2012 10:48 PMReply

    Nicole Kidman is great actress and don't deserves to be lumped together with Efron just a bad actor, can't act for his life.

  • John | May 19, 2012 1:28 PM

    That's exactly what I was thinking, thanks Greg. Rabbit Hole was pretty recent and she was great in that, so I found that comment mostly to be rather confusing.

  • Jamie | May 15, 2012 4:55 PM

    If you've only seen High School Musical, then your argument about Efron's acting is invalid. Until you have seen Miracle Run, 17 Again, Me and Orson Welles, or Liberal Arts (all of which got excellent critic reviews for the movies and Efron's performances), then you don't have a solid basis to judge his acting.

  • gonad | May 9, 2012 9:09 PMReply

    Killing Them Softly clip

  • AF | May 9, 2012 6:59 PMReply

    I was so taken with the Rust and Bone trailer, that I truly cannot wait!

  • Michael | May 9, 2012 6:49 PMReply

    I scrolled down to the comments to write pretty much exactly what Casey Fiore said! I don't think Nicole deserves to be lumped together with Efron, McConnaughey and Cusack in regards to recent performances. Her performance in one of her most recent films, 2010's 'Rabbit Hole' was one of the greatest performances given by an actor - male or female - in a long time in my opinion. I think Nicole is in top form, and I'm sure she will continue with The Paperboy (as well as Hemingway & Gellhorn).

  • Casey Fiore | May 9, 2012 2:21 PMReply

    I think it's a major stretch to place Nicole Kidman's career in the same conversation as Efron, McConnaughey, and Cusack. She might have taken a couple ridiculous paycheck jobs but she was Oscar nominated 2 years ago for Rabbit Hole and she's certainly been one of the most adventurous and accomplished actresses of the past decade and a half.

  • Arch | May 9, 2012 2:20 PMReply

    I realize that casting is always a sore spot when it comes to book adaptations, even more so when characters are based on actual persons.
    Yet I just can't get used to the two lead actors from On the road !

  • Carson Wells | May 10, 2012 1:09 AM

    A negative comment made respectfully. That makes a nice change.

  • BubbaJoe | May 9, 2012 1:45 PMReply

    If you're expecting a violent and bloody action-based thriller out of Killing Them Softly, you can forget about all that. The book is 90% thought-provoking dialogue with very little action. This should be somewhere along the lines of TAOJJBTCRF that audiences will be alienated by in the same way.

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