Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ten Films I'm Looking Forward to at Cannes 2014

Earlier this morning, the curators of the 67th Cannes Film Festival, running May 14-25 in the famed French locale, announced the lineup of each segment of the festival, including the prestigious "Main Competition" segment. This year, the festival heavily favored European filmmakers (though that's not too unusual), with the major headlines focusing on the showdown between master British filmmakers Ken Loach (Jimmy's Hall) and Mike Leigh (Mr. Turner). Main Competition jury president Jane Campion (The Piano, Bright Star) certainly has plenty of great films to choose from, but here are the ten films that I'm looking forward to the most.

(All films are in the "Main Competition" section unless otherwise noted)

Grace of Monaco (dir. Olivier Dahan)

Opening out-of-competition as the opening night film, Grace of Monaco was speculated to be released last year just in time for the Oscar cutoff, but was ultimately pushed back. Starring Nicole Kidman as actress-turned-royalty Princess Grace Kelly, the film has had a tumultuous history, including Dahan's very public denouncement of producer Harvey Weinstein's right to the final cut of the film. All of that aside, Dahan is best known for La Vie en Rose, the Edith Piaf biopic that won Marion Cotillard a Best Actress Oscar, and Kidman is an inspired choice to play the famed icon. Hopefully, it delivers on its much-anticipated promise.

The Search (dir. Michel Hazanavicius)

After winning the Best Director Oscar in 2011 and watching his film The Artist go on to win four other Oscars, including Best Picture, Hazanavicius has been very quiet in the years following. All that was known was that he wanted his next film to be a remake of the 1948 Montgomery Clift drama The Search. Finally, he's made the film, and like The Artist, it will bow at Cannes. The film updates the premise - a mother and child search for each other after being separated by war - from post-WWII Berlin to war-torn Chechnya, in which an NGO worker bonds with a young boy. Annette Bening and Berenice Bejo (who also starred in The Artist and is Hazanavicius' wife) are the only confirmed cast members at the moment, though more will surely be made available by the time it premieres. It's about time Hazanavicius finally returned to our cinemas.

More after the jump.

Foxcatcher (dir. Bennett Miller)

As far as I'm concerned, Miller is a perfect two-for-two in his career, with the fantastic Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011) on his resume. Foxcatcher, his third feature, stars Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum as David and Mark Schultz, respectively, two Olympic wrestlers who are sponsored by John Du Pont (Steve Carell), a schizophrenic heir to the Du Pont fortune who murders David. This film has the potential to showcase previously-unknown depths to both Tatum's and Carell's talents, and Miller's proven ability to bring out the best in all of his actors bodes well for both of them. The film was rumored to be ready for the end of last year, and a trailer briefly made its way online before being yanked and the release pushed back. Thankfully we're not waiting another six years between films for Miller, but it's still a longer wait than I had hoped for.

Mr. Turner (dir. Mike Leigh)

Speaking of long waits: Mr. Turner will be British miserablist Leigh's first film since 2010's meditative glimpse at aging, Another Year. The film is a biopic of famed British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, who will played by Timothy Spall, perhaps best known to American audiences as Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter movies. This will be Leigh's first period piece since 2004's Vera Drake, and promises to focus on Turner's tense relationship with the art community. Leigh's notorious pre-production style - usually involving months of rehearsals in which the actors contribute to the writing process - has resulted in a number of terrific character studies anchored by strong performances. Spall is an invigorating actor who's never really had the spotlight to himself - hopefully this film will let him really show what he's got.

Winter Sleep (dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

For more than a decade now, Turkish director Ceylan has been consistently making terrific films: Climates (2004), Three Monkeys (2007), and Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) are all truly great, original films. There isn't much known about the film, other than that it was filmed around Cappadocia, Turkey, and Ceylan used a new Sony M65 camera to film it. Even with that little information, though, based on his recent output, it's hard not to get excited about a new Ceylan film.

Maps to the Stars (dir. David Cronenberg)

I'll be the first to admit that Cronenberg hasn't exactly been at the top of his game lately. A Dangerous Method played with tight psychological warfare but was ultimately wooden, while Cosmopolis was an ambitious mess that never found coherence. Still, every time a new Cronenberg film is announced, there's always hope that the maestro will return to form. Maps to the Stars is his first film to be shot in the United States, and centers around pair of former child stars (Evan Bird and Mia Wasikowska) as they readjust to society after lengthy stints in mental health facilities. John Cusack, Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, Olivia Williams, and Sarah Gadon also star in this satirical take on the entertainment industry. Knowing Cronenberg, it'll probably have plenty of psychosexual themes running through it, too. Here's hoping for a comeback.

Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) (dir. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne)

The Dardennes Brothers are, without a doubt, two of Cannes' favorite filmmakers of the past decade. Since 1999, they have two Palme d'Or winners (1999's Rosetta, 2005's The Child), and each of their submitted films have won at least one prize from the jury. Their latest stars Marion Cotillard as a woman who must convince her co-workers to give up their bonuses over one weekend so that she can keep her job. Cotillard has been doing a lot of great work recently, and the film seems like the perfect showcase for her talents. It will likely be heartbreaking, too, based on the Dardennes' previous films, as well as unbelievably good.

Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language) (dir. Jean-Luc Godard)

Godard is widely celebrated as one of the preeminent filmmakers of the French New Wave, a boundary-pushing artist who's made films that have forced us to reconsider the possibilities of cinema while creating characters that are embody '60s cool. What many don't realize is that the man is still working, though his recent films aren't nearly as acclaimed as his early works. Adieu au Langage is his first fully 3D film, and the description of the plot is as abstract as you would want a Godard film to be. Regardless of its quality, it'll certainly be an odd curio from a living legend of a director.

Lost River (dir. Ryan Gosling)

Formerly known as How to Catch a Monster, Gosling's directorial debut will be premiering in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes. The plot of the film has been described as "a really bizarre, fantasy-type story, in the vein of Goonies meets Twin Peaks," which at the very least sounds like something you won't see anywhere else at Cannes. Christina Hendricks, Saorise Ronan, Ben Mendelsohn, Eva Mendes, and Matt Smith all have roles in the film. It could be a mess, but it'll certainly be fascinating.

Timbuktu (dir. Abderrahman Sissako)

It's hard to find any good English descriptions of this film, and most are written in French and produce difficult Google translations. From what I can tell, the film follows a couple who were stoned to death in 2012 in a village in Islamist-occupied Mali, and was filmed in the Sahara in a village in Mauritania. Sissako - who is a Mauritania-born Malian - is one of the few Sub-Saharan African filmmakers whose films have achieved international attention, and his inclusion in the festival's Main Competition is generally considered a big deal. The film itself sounds interesting; hopefully it'll make its way to the States somehow in the future.

Check out the full slate of films across all events here.

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