"The Bastards" ("Les Salauds")
Synopsis: The captain of a container ship seeks revenge on the businessman who caused the suicide of his sister's husband, by getting closer to the man's mistress and her young son. Full synopsis here.
What You Need To Know: With the first of what will no doubt be many minor kerfuffles erupting over the placement of Claire Denis' new film not in Competition, where it was widely regarded as a shoo-in, but in the prestigious but distinctly lesser Un Certain Regard category, it was clear in just what high esteem the African-born French-based director is held in cinephile circles. And not without reason; she is a uniquely talented filmmaker with the unusual ability to spin almost hypnotically graceful stories around grounded and authentic-feeling experiences. But after a prolific burst of activity in the late '00s, with the excellent duo of "35 Shots Of Rum" and "White Material" coming back to back in 2008/2009, things have been mostly quiet from her, bar a short film. "The Bastards," which marks her first time back to Cannes since 2001's "Trouble Every Day," stars Vincent Lindon ("Vendredi Soir"), Chiara Mastrioanni ("A Christmas Tale") and Lola Creton ("Goodbye First Love," "Something In The Air"). And judging by the logline, may see Denis incorporate some almost thriller-ish elements into her repertoire, but whether it's a change of tack or more of the (brilliant) same, we're pretty much dying to see it.
"Behind The Candelabra"
Synopsis: Based on an autobiographical novel of the same name, the picture is a behind-the-scenes look at the tempestuous relationship between legendary entertainer Liberace and Scott Thorson, his younger lover.
What You Need To Know: So the much-vaunted "retirement" that Steven Soderbergh was threatening has now been thankfully downgraded to an "extended break," but it still means that his Liberace biopic will be the last thing we see from the polyglot filmmaker for at least a while. And it's a project that has only increased in stature since its inception -- from its humble movie-of-the-week style premise to a fully fledged Cannes Competition entry that boasts, if reports are to be believed, possibly career-defining performances from Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Liberace and Thornson. With Soderbergh talking openly about how it was judged by studios to be "too gay" a film to find an audience, HBO came to the rescue, which also means, unlike many of the films on this list, U.S. audiences will get to check out the film relatively soon -- May 26th to be precise. Check out the trailer here and when (not if) that whets your appetite, there is a behind the scenes featurette here and a making-of featurette here. It may be a great example of precisely the sort of movie of which Soderbergh recently mourned the decline.
"Only God Forgives"
Synopsis: An English gangster in Thailand sets out to avenge his murdered brother in a brutal story of rage, betrayal and the possibility of redemption. Watch the red-band trailer here.
What You Need To Know: Let's be honest, you probably already know all you need to know about "Only God Forgives" -- it's the reteaming of director Nicolas Winding Refn with his "Drive" star and current muse (isn't he everyone's? sigh) Ryan Gosling, with able support coming from the reliably bewitching Kristin Scott Thomas. With the aestheticized violence and minimalist storylines of his previous films, Winding Refn has established himself as a master of a kind of subzero cool, but while the surface pleasures are many, his sensibilities have more depth than just fetishizable costumes and dorm-wall-friendly poster design. There can be something almost subversive in the deconstructualism of his approach, for those who care to look for it, and we're hopeful that this Bangkok-set fable provides an even richer canvas for him to work against. And lots of heady sexy cool violence too, yes please -- for a taster of which, go here.
"The Bling Ring"
Synopsis: A group of teenagers obsessed with fashion and fame burglarize the homes of celebrities in Los Angeles.
What You Need To Know: Beautiful teens, celebrity, existential rich people ennui...yawn right? Well, if anyone has made that milieu their own, and added substance and real emotion, it's Sofia Coppola. And while the synopsis might seem trite, the first review has suggested there is lot more bubbling beneath the surface, and that it will display an unexpected pull and heft. Also? Emma Watson playing a bad girl has its own potential charms... Plus there's an added layer of interest here with this being based on a true story that most of us heard about in 2008/2009, when Paris Hilton and Orlando Bloom's (among other celebs) houses were broken into. The layers of truth and fiction, image and reality that exist here, and the potential for something with a degree of metatextuality, as well as the director's way with a visual, has us interested in a story that in any other hands we might skip on by.
"Blue is the Warmest Color" ("La Vie D'Adele, Chapitre 1 & 2")
Synopsis: Adele is a teenager who unexpectedly falls in love with another girl, Emma, who is noted for her striking blue hair. While her affection for Emma grows over time, Adele finds it difficult to escape the judgment of family and friends. See the poster here.
What You Need To Know: A 3-hour-long lesbian love story might seem like a tough watch, and from anyone else our expectations would be duly muted, but director Abdellatif Kechiche has earned such a reputation for exactitude and formal precision that we're hopeful this graphic-novel adaptation will earn its long running time. Kechiche also gets our special attention for being behind the wonderful "Secret of the Grain," which won the Special Jury Prize in Venice, and the top prize at the Cesars and made out . His fifth feature in 13 years, we're looking to 'Blue' to be one of those rewarding and contemplative cinematic experiences, and a welcome, if challenging lead role for Lea Seydoux, who is fast making good on her potential as one of the most interesting (and, yes, gorgeous) of the next generation of French film stars. She herself characterised the shoot (perhaps due to Kechiche's demanding ways) as "Difficult. Six days a week shooting, sometimes seven days, for five months. It was extreme." But she's also proud of this "very dramatic love story," and we look forward to seeing if it lives up to our high hopes.