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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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“On the Road” - dir. Walter Salles - U.S/France/Brazil
Synopsis: Long-time-coming adaptation of Jack Kerouac's famous Beat Generation novel. Drifter poets Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty travel across the country in search of themselves, colliding with a rigid and impermeable society along the way.
What You Need To Know: Over thirty years in the making, director Francis Ford Coppola has been trying to get this picture made since the mid 1970s. Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles signed on to make the picture in 2005, with Coppola exec producing, but none of it became a reality until early 2010 when casting and financing finally coalesced. Starring Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley as the two leads and Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard and more in support, it's certainly got a mean cast (even if the two leads are relatively unproven quantities), and Salles, as the man behind "The Motorcycle Diaries," seems to be as strong a fit for the material as you could hope for. But will one of the great unfilmable novels give in to the attempt, or will it serve as nothing more than a good stab at a tricky piece? Fingers crossed, it'll be the former.

"The Paperboy" - dir. Lee Daniels - USA
Synopsis: A journalist and his college drop-out brother dig into the possible wrongful conviction of a death-row inmate who was found guilty of killing a sheriff.  
What You Need To Know: It's been three years since Lee Daniels took Sundance, Cannes and the Academy by storm with "Precious," and returning to the Croisette with a film in competition isn't a bad way to come back to the limelight. Based on the novel by Pete Dexter, this looks like a bit of a potboiler on the surface, with a cast including Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and John Cusack, none of whom have exactly been the mark of quality in recent years. But then, all seem to be making conscious efforts to work with better material and filmmakers, and this was, after all, at one point set to be Pedro Almodóvar's English-language debut, so we're hopeful it'll be a gripping, twisty piece of American gothic. We've not been massively enamored of Daniels' directing skills to date, but the Cannes selection committee must see something in this other than star names on the red carpet, right?

"Post Tenebras Lux" - dir. Carlos Reygadas - Mexico
Synopsis: Juan and his young urban family live in the countryside of Mexico. There, they enjoy and suffer a world that understands life in a different way. Juan wonders if those worlds are complementary or if they fight unconsciously to eliminate one another.
What You Need To Know: If there's any director who should be set free of structural shackles, it has to be Carlos Reygadas. His signature loose narratives have always allowed him to really explore the small and the weird, and coming from what seems to be a deep personal well, his latest film, "Post Tenebras Lux," should prove to be a true work of art. Described as an "expressionist painting," this is apparently a semi-autobiographical tale about the director's feelings, memories, dreams, hopes and fears. Coming off the incredible Cannes Jury prize winner and Martin Scorsese favorite, "Silent Light," there are plenty of reasons to be excited for his one, not least the glorious-looking images that have appeared in the build-up to Cannes.

“Rust & Bone” - dir. Jacques Audiard - France
Synopsis: An adaptation of Canadian writer Craig Davidson's 2005 short story about the relationship between a homeless man and a marine park worker.
What You Need To Know: While French filmmaker Jacques Audiard illustrated he was one to watch with internationally accepted fare like “Read My Lips" and "The Beat That My Heart Skipped," it perhaps wasn’t until 2010’s striking and near-perfect “A Prophet,” which won the Grand Prix at Cannes, that he was recognized as one of the most exciting foreign film talents working today. Described as a mix of a suspense story and a love story, it looks as though he's weaving a couple of stories from Davidson's collection into one, with "The Dark Knight Rises" star Marion Cotillard as a woman who loses her legs in an accident, and the relationship she forges with the homeless Matthias Schoenaerts of "Bullhead" fame. The central conceit is a curious one, but the film debuted a very strong trailer recently, and Audiard is one of the most exciting filmmakers in the world right now, so we'll have a little faith in him. Indeed, this might be our single most anticipated film of the festival.

“Sightseers” - dir. Ben Wheatley - U.K.
Synopsis: A sheltered couple (Steve Oram and Alice Lowe) attempt to relax on a holiday in the countryside, only to find themselves pushed over the edge by irritants and inconvenience.
What You Need to Know: Ben Wheatley certainly made an impression with his darkly funny family crime dramedy “Down Terrace” in 2010, and he followed that up with the bold, unnerving hitman thriller “Kill List,” which has become a cult hit since premiering at SXSW last year. So it’s little stretch to realize that Wheatley’s attempt at something lighter than either of those nonetheless turned out to be a serial-killers-in-love lark heavily improvised by stars Oram and Lowe (a.k.a. Liz on “Garth Marenghi's Darkplace”). The director has already proven himself terrifically adept at wringing suspense out of his concepts, and the fact that this is reported to have more of a darkly comedic tone makes it that much more alluring; he's promised a lighter tone than his last film, but that wouldn't exactly be hard... Oh, and did we mention that Edgar Wright is serving as executive producer on the project as he did with the great “Attack the Block”? (Lowe starred in his “Hot Fuzz,” but let’s face it: all hilarious Brits know one another anyway.) The film's still fairly heavily under wraps, but a slot in the Director's Fortnight is a big vindication of Wheatley's talents, and we should know much more soon enough.

"The We & The I" - dir. Michel Gondry - France/U.S.
Synopsis: A drama/fantasy following students on a Bronx high-school bus on the last day of the school year.
What You Need To Know: It has been over a year since Michel Gondry's ill-fated Hollywood experiment "The Green Hornet" landed, but the filmmaker didn't spend too long licking his wounds. Instead the French helmer got underway on production of "The We & The I," a smaller-scale film born out of meetings with the publishers of his "Be Kind Rewind"-tied book about community filmmaking. Starring a group of non-professional Brooklyn school kids, and with the same focus on community that much of the director's best recent work has had, this seemingly won't just be some kitchen-sink flick, with the film reportedly containing sci-fi elements as well. It opens the Director's Fortnight at Cannes, which marks the filmmakers' first appearance at the festival, and we've got our fingers crossed hard for a return to form.

Honorable Mentions:  We could have gone on all day, but we wanted to keep this list digestible, so we've kept it only to fifteen must-sees, but there's plenty of others that we've got our eye, first and foremost among them "Holy Motors," the long-awaited return of Leos Carax, an out-there, time-hopping film that could either be this year's "Southland Tales" or the glorious retun of a much-missed auteur. Also in competition and anticipated: "Beyond The Hills" from Cristian Mungiu, "The Hunt" from Thomas Vinterberg, "In Another Country" from Hong Sang-Soo, the long-in-the-offing "Paradies; Liebe" from Ulrich Seidl, Alain Resnais' "Vous N'Avez Encore Rien Vu," and "Reality" from Matteo Garrone.

Elsewhere, there's Bernardo Bertolucci's "Io E Te," HBO drama "Hemingway & Gellhorn" directed by Philip Kaufman and starring Nicole Kidman and Clive Owen, and omnibus picture "7 Days In Havana." Genre fans will have their itch scratched by "Antiviral," the debut of Brandon Cronenberg, son of David, POV-horror remake "Maniac" with Elijah Wood, and Dario Argento's 3D "Dracula," along with Chris O'Dowd-starring Australian comedy "The Sapphires." And finally, we're intrigued both by Rufus Norris' "Broken" in Critic's Week, with Cillian Murphy and Tim Roth, and "Elefante Blanco" from Pablo Trapero ("Carancho"), while rock star Pete Doherty stars with Charlotte Gainsbourg in "Confessions Of A Child Of The Century," and there are short documentaries from Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Fatih Akin out of competition too.

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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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