Big name directors and some ambitious local productions are in full evidence at theatres and on the film festival circuit this year.

From Michael Haneke to Wong Kar Wai, Jacques Audiard to Carlos Reygadas, Matteo Garrone to Olivier Assayas, some heavyweight international auteurs are unveiling new pictures this year. Jan Troell is back behind the camera at the age of 80; Alain Resnais has a new film at the age of 90. Abbas Kiarostami has shot in Japan, Susanne Bier in Italy. And while Laurent Cantet has made his first English-language film, Bernardo Bertolucci and Lasse Hallstrom have both gone back to their native languages for their newest projects. It promises to be another strong year for world cinema after a treasure-filled 2011. Screen previews just some of the films from well-known directors that will hit cinemas in the next 12 months.

All You Need Is Love

Directed by Susanne Bier

Fresh from winning an Oscar, EFA and Golden Globe for In A Better World, Susanne Bier moved to a romantic comedy starring Trine Dyrholm as a woman recovering from cancer and divorce who develops a close bond with the English father of her daughter’s fiancé at the wedding in Sorrento, Italy. Though it is in Danish, the film features Pierce Brosnan speaking English as the father. Kim Bodnia and Paprika Steen also star.

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Directed by Michael Haneke

Haneke is back after his Palme d’Or winning White Ribbon with a return to France and a more intimate drama. In this film, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play Georges and Anne, a refined elderly couple whose loving relationship is sorely tested when she has a paralysing stroke. Isabelle Huppert plays their daughter in the film, shot by Darius Khondji, which sounds like a shoo-in for Cannes Competition.

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Big House

Directed by Matteo Garrone

Garrone roared to the forefront of Italian cinema with Cannes prize-winner Gomorrah in 2009 and he is back this year with Big House, a no-doubt penetrating study of the TV industry and reality shows. Produced by Garrone with his longtime partner Domenico Procacci of Fandango, the film stars Claudia Gerini.

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The End

Directed by Abbas Kiarostami

Kiarostami heads to Japan for a drama about a young student who prostitutes herself to pay for her studies and develops a close friendship with an elderly client who shows her great kindness. A co-production between France’s MK2 and Japan’s Eurospace, the film stars Rin Takanashi and Tadashi Okuno.

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Directed by Laurent Cantet

Palme d’Or winner Cantet heads to the US for this adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel about a group of headstrong teenage girls in upstate New York in 1953 who unite to form a secret female-only society, rebelling against the era’s male-dominated culture. The film is a France-Canada co-production from Haut et Court and The Film Farm with a cast of unknowns led by Raven Adamson, Katie Coseni, Paige Moyles, Madeleine Bisson and Claire Mazerolle. Distributors so far include Artificial Eye in the UK and Golem in Spain.

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The Grandmasters

Directed by Wong Kar Wai

Screen was expecting Wong’s latest opus last year — as were many of its buyers — but the perfectionist director is still tinkering with his martial-arts saga starring Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi. Early footage includes stunningly shot fight sequences and a tragic romantic storyline, but nothing will be known for sure until the director decides to show it.

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Hand In Hand

Directed by Valérie Donzelli

After last year’s runaway hit Declaration Of War, Donzelli is back with a dance-themed film starring Valérie Lemercier as a teacher at the Paris Opera who is attracted to a no-hoper dancer. Scheduled to finish shooting at the end of February, the film should be ready for release in France by year-end.

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Hannah Arendt

Directed by Margarethe von Trotta

Focusing on Arendt’s exile in New York during the Second World War, von Trotta’s long-cherished biopic of the influential political theorist re-unites her with Barbara Sukowa who has previously played Hildegard von Bingen and Rosa Luxemburg for the director. Sukowa is joined by Julia Jentsch as well as awards favourite Janet McTeer in the film, which has shot in the US, Luxembourg, Germany and Israel.

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Holly Motors

Directed by Leos Carax

Eccentric film-maker Carax, whose last feature was the 1999 bomb Pola X, is back with an intriguing new project featuring his longtime acting collaborator Denis Lavant as a being who moves from life to life — sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, a murderer, a beggar, a company chairman or a family man. The fascinating cast also includes Kylie Minogue, Eva Mendes and Michel Piccoli.

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The Hypnotist

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

Based on the bestseller by Lars Kepler, The Hypnotist is Hallstrom’s first Swedish film since 1987. A hard-hitting crime thriller, the film stars Mikael Persbrandt as a psychiatrist dragged into a criminal case in which he is asked to hypnotise a boy in trauma. Set for an October 2012 release, the film co-stars Lena Olin as the hypnotist’s wife and Tobias Zilliacus as the detective who brings him onto the case.

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In Another Country

Directed by Hong Sang-soo

Isabelle Huppert teams with Korean master Hong for a film about a foreigner in a coastal town in Korea. Little is known about the picture, which is in post, other than it stars Yu Jun-sang, star of Hong’s Hahaha. A likely Cannes contender, given Hong’s frequent selection in the festival.

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In The House

Directed by Francois Ozon

The synopsis of Ozon’s latest is being kept tightly under wraps but he has attracted to this original project a big French cast led by Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emmanuelle Seigner. Ozon is hot at the box office again after the worldwide success of Potiche.

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Into The White

Directed by Petter Naess

A Second World War adventure from the director of Elling featuring David Kross and Rupert Grint as a German and English pilot shot down over the Norwegian wilderness who have to co-operate to survive.

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Directed by Joachim Roenning, Espen Sandberg

The directing team behind Norwegian smash Max Manus takes on the true story of Thor Heyerdahl and his 1947 plan to cross the Pacific on the fragile Kon-Tiki raft with five loyal friends. Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen plays Heyerdahl in the film, which is a UK-Norway-Denmark co-production produced by Oscar winner Jeremy Thomas and Aage Aaberge.

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Laurence Anyways

Directed by Xavier Dolan

Canadian wunderkind Dolan is doubtless headed for Cannes with his third feature starring Melvil Poupaud as a man whose revelation that he wants to become a woman causes his girlfriend (Monia Chokri) to walk away. Nathalie Baye co-stars.

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The Lookout

Directed by Michele Placido

After Romanzo Criminale and Angel Of Evil, Placido goes French with a Paris-set crime thriller starring local superstars Daniel Auteuil and Mathieu Kassovitz. The story of a burglary and its aftermath, the film also features Olivier Gourmet and Placido’s daughter Violante.

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Directed by Cate Shortland

Australia’s Shortland (Somersault) comes to Europe for her second feature based on the novel The Dark Room by Rachel Seiffert. Being readied for Cannes, the German-language film is set in Germany in spring 1945. The title character is a 14-year-old girl whose Nazi parents are imprisoned and who is left in charge of her four siblings. The five children set off on foot for their grandmother’s house 900km away and are befriended by a young Jewish refugee.

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Me And You

Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

Bertolucci recently wrapped his first Italian-language feature in 31 years. Shot entirely in Rome, it is based on the book by Niccolo Ammaniti and stars 14-year-old newcomer Jacopo Olmi Antinori as a boy whose troubles with adults lead him to spend a lot of his time in the family basement. Tea Falco plays his sister.

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Midnight’s Children

Directed by Deepa Mehta

Mehta is in post-production on her ambitious movie of Salman Rushdie’s novel about the boy Saleem Sinai, born on the eve of Indian independence in 1947 with telepathic powers. Rushdie wrote the screenplay for the film, which stars Satya Bhabha in the lead role.

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Only God Forgives

Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Re-uniting the white-hot Drive team of director Nicolas Winding Refn and star Ryan Gosling, Only God Forgives is the first joint project between Wild Bunch and Gaumont. With a cast that also includes Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm and Yaya Ying, the Bangkok-shot film follows a man searching for his brother’s murderer.

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The Players

Directed by Michel Hazanavicius, Jean Dujardin, Fred Cavayé, Alex Courtes, Emmanuelle Bercot, Eric Lartigau, Gilles Lellouche

Male infidelity comes under the microscope in a portmanteau comedy consisting of several vignettes illustrating the perennial masculine quest to get laid. The Weinstein Company, revelling in the response to The Artist, has taken on domestic rights to the film which is directed by — among others — The Artist director Hazanavicius and his star Dujardin.

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Post Tenebras Lux

Directed by Carlos Reygadas

Jean Labadie of Le Pacte is among the producers of Reygadas’ first feature since Silent Light, which played in Competition at Cannes in 2007 and won the jury prize. Little is known of the project, backed by Arte France Cinema and now in post, though it is set in the various places Reygadas has lived including Spain, Mexico and northern England. Silent Light DoP Alexis Zabe is again on board as cinematographer.

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A Royal Affair

Directed by Nikolaj Arcel

A Royal Affair is a lavish 18th century costume epic from Zentropa featuring Mads Mikkelsen as Struensee, a man of enlightenment and idealism. He falls in love with Queen Caroline Matilda (rising star Alicia Vikander) and starts a revolution in Denmark.

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Rust & Bone

Directed by Jacques Audiard

Audiard is back with a film based around the short stories of Craig Davidson set in the underworld of gamblers, boxers, dogfighters and addicts. Written by Audiard and his A Prophet co-writer Thomas Bidegain, the film stars Marion Cotillard and, industry readers will be amused to know, was shot partly in Cannes.

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Something In The Air

Directed by Olivier Assayas

Assayas gets intimate after the epic Carlos with a semi-autobiographical story about a high-school student (Clément Métayer) in Paris, swept up in the politics of the early 1970s. The cast of largely newcomers includes some familiar faces such as Lola Créton and Dolores Chaplin.

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Thérese Desqueyroux

Directed by Claude Miller

Miller, whose oeuvre includes The Accompanist, La Petite Voleuse and A Secret, returns with another period piece based on Francois Mauriac’s novel. Audrey Tautou stars as a free-spirited young woman in late 1920s Paris who marries her wealthy neighbour and ends up convicted of his murder by poisoning. Gilles Lellouche and Anais Demoustier join Tautou in the drama.

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Truth And Consequence

Directed by Jan Troell

Veteran Swedish master Troell is back with his first film since Everlasting Moments in 2008. Danish actor Jesper Christensen stars in the story of journalist Torgny Segerstedt who became famous during the Second World War for his aggressive anti-Nazi stance. Pernilla August co-stars.

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Twice Born

Directed by Sergio Castellitto

A Sarajevo-set drama based on the novel by Margaret Mazzantini starring Castellitto’s Don’t Move headliner Penelope Cruz as a woman returning to Sarajevo with her son and recalling the love she shared with his father during the siege of the city in 1992. Emile Hirsch plays the lover; Castellito and Jane Birkin co-star.

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You Haven’t Seen Anything Yet

Directed by Alain Resnais

Loosely based on Jean Anouilh’s play Eurydice, Resnais’ latest film would seem certain for a Cannes slot if it were not for its April release date in France. A typically spectacular cast leapt at the chance to work with the master including Michel Piccoli, Mathieu Amalric, Lambert Wilson, Anne Consigny, Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot and Pierre Arditi. The cast portray actors who gather at the house of a deceased playwright for the reading of his will.

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