With April 14 set as the day when Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux unveils his 2011 lineup, Fremaux and his programming team are screening a deluge of titles from A-list European directors which promises a vintage year on the Croisette.
At time of going to press, it appeared that Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In will bypass Cannes to appear at a festival closer to its Sept 2 Spanish opening date. The Spanish film-maker has never won the Palme d’Or and his last film Broken Embraces walked away empty-handed, although he is apparently reluctant to screen this film on the Croisette since the plot has a twist in its final act which he does not want public four months before opening.
Likewise Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmasters is set for release in mainland China at the end of the year and there are no plans to have the film ready for Cannes.
At time of going to press, only a few titles seem assured of a slot in competition, led by Nanni Moretti’s Habemus Papam which stars Michel Piccoli as a newly elected Pope who is crushed by the responsibility of the role. It opens in Italy through 01 Distribution on April 15.
Also likely to see the light of day, finally, is Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life [pictured] which was a hot tip for Cannes 2010. EuropaCorp opens the film in France on May 18, during the festival.
Cannes-beloved auteurs sure to be ready are the Dardenne Brothers (The Kid With A Bike), Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Once Upon A Time In Anatolia), Aki Kaurismaki (LeHavre) and of course Lars Von Trier with his latest opus Melancholia.
Palme d’Or winner Gus Van Sant is also likely to be in competition with his Sony-backed love story Restless featuring rising star du jour Mia Wasikowska.
In addition to Morretti, two other Italian films are ready and vying for competition slots – Emanuele Crialese’s Terraferma, the auteur’s first film since Golden Door in 2006, which explores the impact of immigration on a small island; and Paolo Sorrentino’s English-language This Must Be The Place which teams the director with Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn. The two met when Penn was head of the Cannes jury and Sorrentino’s Il Divo was in competition. The resulting collaboration is the story of an ageing rock star on the hunt for his father’s Nazi executioner. The film shot in the US, Ireland and Italy.
In such a bumper year for Italy, other high profile titles like Gianni Amelio’s English-language The First Man starring Jacques Gamblin and Ermanno Olmi’s TheCardboard Village starring Rutger Hauer look more likely for Venice premieres.
From the UK, the year’s key contender is Lynne Ramsay’s We Need To Talk About Kevin [pictured], her long-awaited third feature based on the novel We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly star in the film which is generating terrific advance buzz.
And Pawel Pawlikowski is back with his first film since My Summer Of Love. The Woman In The Fifth is an Anglo/French thriller set in Paris and starring Ethan Hawke and Kristin Scott Thomas that has Cannes written all over it.
From the US, rumour has a Cannes slot in the bag for Alexander Payne’s latest The Descendants which features George Clooney as a man trying to reconnect with his two daughters. Payne was in competition with About Schmidt in 2002.
Other US movies which could make their presence felt include Pixar’s Cars 2 (US release date: June 24), Tom Hanks’ Larry Crowne (US release date: July 1) and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (scheduled for US release on Sept 16).
Meanwhile, Fremaux is fielding a bumper crop of French directors:
Dominik Moll, whose previous films With Friends Like Harry and Lemming both had high profile Cannes slots, is back with the Franco-Spanish The Monk starring Vincent Cassel, Deborah Francois and Sergi Lopez which is an adaptation of the 1796 novel by Mathew Gregory Lewis about a monk undone by carnal temptation.
Perennial Cannes favourite Robert Guedeguian returns with The Snows Of Kilimanjaro about a happily married middle aged couple whose lives are torn apart by an armed attack in which they are beaten, tied up and robbed. Gueduguian regulars Jean-Pierre Darroussin and Ariane Ascaride star.
The prolific Christophe Honore, who was in Cannes competition with Love Songs in 2007, adds Catherine Deneuve, Paul Schneider and Milos Forman to his regular troupe of Chiara Mastroianni, Louis Garrel and Ludivine Sagnier in The Beloved, a musical homage to Jacques Demy about a mother and a daughter which starts in the 1960s and moves to the 1990s.
Bruno Dumont is ready to deliver his sixth film The Empire which is set in the Pas-de-Calais region in the northernmost part of France. David Dewaele plays a mysterious man who lives in the dunes and combats evil in a small village community.
Mia Hansen-Love, who scored worldwide distribution on her 2009 Un Certain Regard title The Father Of My Children, has a new title Goodbye First Love in which Lola Creton and Sebastien Uzendowsky star in the story of a teenage girl torn apart when her first love leaves her to travel.
Bertrand Bonello, who was in the Quinzaine in 2008 with De La Guerre, has a new film called House Of Tolerance set in the early 20th century and starring Noemie Lvovsky as a disfigured prostitute.
Andre Techine is in post-production on Unforgivable, an adaptation of Philippe Dijan’s novel starring Andre Dussolier as a writer trying to rebuild his life after the death of his wife and daughter. Carole Bouquet and Melanie Thierry co-star.
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the duo behind Persepolis, are back with a live-action drama Chicken With Plums based on Satrapi’s graphic novel about the last eight days in the life of a relative in 1958 Tehran. Mathieu Amalric, Jamel Debbouze, Chiara Mastroianni and Edouard Baer star.
Michel Hazanavicius, the director behind the OSS films, reunites with his OSS star Jean Dujardin on the black and white silent comedy The Artist about a silent movie star whose career is destined to end with the arrival of sound in 1927. An international cast includes John Goodman, James Cromwell, Penelope Ann Miller, Missi Pyle and Berenice Bejo.
Maiwenn, the actress-film-maker is generating heat for her third film as director Polisse which is set among the men and women who work in the child protection unit of the Paris police. Maiwenn, who is the sister of actress Isild Le Besco, also stars with Joey Starr, Marina Fois, Karin Viard, Nicolas Duvauchelle and Italy’s Ricardo Scamarcio.
Antoine Charreyron’s 3D animated epic The Prodigies (aka The Night Of The Infant Kings) is set to receive an out-of-competition special screening. Based on Bernard Enteric’s 1982 novel, it follows five gifted teenagers who turn to crime after being brutally assaulted in Central Park. The French release for the Studio 37 film is May 25.
Tahar Rahim from A Prophet takes the lead in Ismael Ferroukhi’s second film Free Men, a World War II drama in which he plays an Algerian man who develops a friendship with a young Jewish man under the watchful gaze of the Paris police.
Among other film-makers with an eye on Cannes are actress Julie Delpy with her latest directorial effort The Skylab and Poland’s Malgorzata Szumowska whose Paris-set feature Sponsoring stars Juliette Binoche as a journalist investigating students who work as prostitutes to finance their studies.
Perhaps most intriguing of all will be to see if Cannes programmes The Conquest, Xavier Durringer’s narrative film about the rise to power of Nicolas Sarkozy and the separation from his second wife Cecilia. Greek actor Denis Podalydes plays Sarkozy and Florence Pernel plays Cecilia. The film, which could be hugely embarrassing for Sarkozy, is the first about a French premier to be made while he is in office. It is set to open through Gaumont sometime in May, and a Cannes screening could coincide with the possible appearance on the red carpet of Sarkozy’s current wife Carla Bruni who appears in opening night film Midnight In Paris directed by Woody Allen.
Likely Cannes candidates from the Middle East include Eran Kolirin’s The Exchange (Israel) in which a man comes home from work to observe his life like a tourist. Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit was a worldwide hit after it played in Un Certain Regard. And Lebanon’s Nadine Labaki whose first feature Caramel was in the Quinzaine should be selected for her follow-up Where Do We Go Now? about five women, some Muslim, some Christian, united by grief in an unnamed wartorn land.
Leading the charge from the Netherlands is Code Blue, Urszula Antoniak’s follow up to her much-liked debut Nothing Personal, about a middle-aged nurse (played by Bien de Moor) who is comfortable around death but thrown into emotional and sexual confusion when she catches the attention of a stranger.
It doesn’t look like it will be a bumper year for the Far East. Potential titles in official selection include Hirokazu Koreeda’s I Wish about a child who believes the new bullet train will help reunite his divorced parents. Koreeda has been in competition before with Nobody Knows (2004) and Distance (2001).
Brillante Mendoza is back this year with Prey aka Captured starring Isabelle Huppert as foreign missionary Gracia Burnham who was taken hostage by the fundamentalist Muslim Abu Sayyaf Group in Mindanao in 2001. Huppert was president of the Cannes jury in 2009 when Mendoza was named best director for Kinatay; Huppert’s admiration for Kinatay led her to accept this part.
Pen-ek Ratanaruang’s Headshot from Thailand follows a hitman who wakes up from a coma and sees everything upside down; From Korea, Im Kwon-Taek’s 101st film Hanji, about a man who becomes consumed by the traditional art of paper-making is a possibility for Cannes. It opened in Korea last week. Yellow Sea, the newest thriller from Chaser director Hong-jin Na, could also snag a spot.
Lou Ye’s France-set Love And Bruises should find a slot in the festival, although it is not yet confirmed whether it will be competition where Lou has played three times (Purple Butterfly, Summer Palace, Spring Fever).
Nor is it clear whether Andrey Zvyagintsev who was in competition with The Banishment will snag a slot this year for Elena, a story set in contemporary Moscow revolving around a doomed middle-aged woman. Also on the cards from Russia could be Aleksandr Sokurov’s long-awaited Faust starring Hanna Schygulla which is the fourth and final instalment of the director’s films about the corruption of power after Moloch, Taurus and The Sun. Moloch and Taurus were both in competition.
Whether Nikita Mikhalkov’s The Citadel: Burnt By The Sun 3 gets a special screening is also up in the air, especially after Part 2 had such a poor reception at Cannes last year.
Not ready for Cannes or likely to be held for Venice and Toronto are David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method, Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, Philippe Garrel’s That Summer and Terence Davies’ Deep Blue Sea.