Cannes Film Festival: 'Foxcatcher,' 'Birdman' Likely

Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Stephen Frears to lead a strong British contingent at the 67th annual festival.

A belated festival premiere for Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher” and a powerhouse showing for British filmmakers including Mike Leigh and Ken Loach — plus appearances by other usual suspects such as David Cronenberg, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and the Dardenne brothers — are among the strong possibilities hovering over the lineup of the 67th annual Cannes Film Festival.

In recent years, festival topper Thierry Fremaux and his selection committee have tended to push their final decisions to the very last minute under a nearly impenetrable veil of secrecy, defying the intense media scrutiny and endless speculation that always swirl around the Cannes lineup at this time of year. Although anything could change between now and April 17, when the official selection is unveiled, there are still enough hotly anticipated titles in the mix to warrant some educated guesswork about what is shaping up to be a promisingly diverse slate of auteurs.

NORTH AMERICAN DIRECTORS

Given its December release date, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Inherent Vice,” adapted from Thomas Pynchon’s novel, seems more likely to premiere at one of the fall festivals than on the Croisette. Still, there’s no shortage of other high-profile names likely to wind up in the Cannes official selection:

Birdman” (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu). This rare foray into comedy for the often gravely serious Mexican helmer stars Michael Keaton as a famous actor struggling to mount a Broadway play. It should earn another shot at the Palme d’Or for Inarritu, who was previously in Cannes with 2010’s “Biutiful” and 2006’s “Babel” (both won prizes), and who took the Critics’ Week grand prize for his 2000 debut, “Amores perros.” Sales: Twentieth Century Fox

“Foxcatcher” (Bennett Miller). Originally slotted to open the 2013 AFI Film Festival but pushed back to 2014, this true-crime saga about Olympic wrestling champions Mark and David Schultz stars Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carell. Scripted by Dan Futterman (who wrote Miller’s debut feature, “Capote”) and E. Max Frye, the Sony Classics release looks to be the director’s first competition entry at a major international festival. Sales: Panorama Media

“Maps to the Stars” (David Cronenberg). A perpetual Cannes competition bridesmaid since 1996’s controversial “Crash,” the cerebral Canadian auteur reteams with his “Cosmopolis” star, Robert Pattinson, in this satirical takedown of the entertainment industry. Entertainment One has North American rights to the film, which also features Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams and Sarah Gadon. Sales: Entertainment One

“Welcome to New York” (Abel Ferrara). Likely to be one of the festival’s more talked-about entries with its reportedly graphic orgy scenes, Ferrara’s film focuses on former French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn (played by Gerard Depardieu) during and after the sexual-assault scandal that made international headlines in 2011. The film, which had to be financed primarily in Russia, is currently in post-production and will probably receive a noncompeting slot in the official selection. Sales: Wild Bunch

Longer shots: You can always expect a splashy blockbuster or two to play out of competition on opening weekend. Given their May release dates, there are cases to be made for Bryan Singer’s “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which would not be the first entry in the Fox/Marvel series to play Cannes, and Disney’s Angelina Jolie starrer “Maleficent,” a strong possibility on the basis of its leading lady alone. Woody Allen’s unflattering recent headlines are unlikely to jeopardize the festival prospects of “Magic in the Moonlight” (Sony Classics), a romantic comedy starring Emma Stone, Colin Firth, Hamish Linklater and Marcia Gay Harden; in keeping with Allen’s longstanding policy, the film would play out of competition.

Although it’s far from confirmed, one potentially juicy get would be Ryan Gosling’s writing-directing debut, “How to Catch a Monster,” a Detroit-shot fantasy-thriller with Christina Hendricks, Eva Mendes, Matt Smith and Saoirse Ronan. Atom Egoyan’s “The Captive,” a thriller starring Ryan Reynolds, Scott Speedman, Rosario Dawson and Mireille Enos, is an outside possibility for the official selection, while “Mommy,” a mother-child drama from the always busy Xavier Dolan, is in post-production and could make the cut. Possibly bound for Directors’ Fortnight is the Michael Pitt starrer “The Smell of Us,” Larry Clark’s latest look at youth skateboarding culture, this time set and shot in Paris.

BRITISH DIRECTORS

It’s shaping up to be a fine year indeed for revered U.K. directors with biopics, at least three of which are almost certainly competition-bound:

“Jimmy’s Hall” (Ken Loach). This portrait of the Irish communist leader James Gralton (Barry Ward) is said to be the veteran British realist’s final work before he retires from fiction filmmaking. It’s a valedictory occasion for one of the more decorated helmers in Cannes history: Loach won the Palme in 2006 for “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and has won jury prizes for 2012’s “The Angel’s Share,” 1993’s “Raining Stones” and 1990’s “Hidden Agenda.” Sales: Wild Bunch

“Mr. Turner” (Mike Leigh). Timothy Spall plays the 19th-century English painter J.M.W. Turner in Leigh’s first period piece since 2004’s “Vera Drake.” Leigh previously competed in 2010 with “Another Year,” and earlier won the Palme d’Or for 1996’s “Secrets & Lies” and a directing prize for 1993’s “Naked.” Sales: Focus Features International

Untitled Lance Armstrong Biopic (Stephen Frears). Ben Foster plays the disgraced cyclist in what will likely be Frears’ first Cannes entry since 2010’s out-of-competition “Tamara Drewe,” and possibly his first Cannes competition entry since 1996’s “The Van.” The helmer has recently been a more prominent fixture at the Venice Film Festival, where last year’s “Philomena” and 2006’s “The Queen” scored major prizes. Sales: Studiocanal

Longer shots: More distant possibilities include “The Face of an Angel,” Michael Winterbottom’s fictionalized take on the Amanda Knox trial, starring Daniel Bruehl and Kate Beckinsale; and “Queen and Country,” John Boorman’s sequel to his 1987 Oscar-nominated “Hope and Glory.” Boorman was previously at Cannes with his 1998 drama “The General,” for which he won a directing prize.

FRENCH/BELGIAN DIRECTORS

French films are always dominant at Cannes, but that looks to be more the case than ever this year, with strong Gallic representation likely throughout the official selection and in Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight. Notably, at least two of the French directors being tipped for competition slots are women.

“Bird People” (Pascale Ferran). Josh Charles (“The Good Wife”) plays an American in Paris opposite Anais Demoustier in this much-buzzed-about relationship drama, Ferran’s first picture since her lushly romantic 2006 drama “Lady Chatterley.” It could prove a rosy Cannes homecoming for the director, who won the Camera d’Or for her 1994 debut, “Petits arrangements avec les morts.” Sales: Films Distribution

“The Blue Room” (Mathieu Amalric). The French actor-helmer won a directing prize for 2010’s “On Tour,” and while a second competition slot may be hard to come by in this, well, competitive bunch, an official-selection berth seems assured for Amalric’s adaptation of a 1964 Georges Simenon novel. The film was originally slated for an April 23 release in France but the producer/distributor Alfama recently moved it to the second half of May. Sales: Alfama

“Clouds of Sils Maria” (Olivier Assayas). Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart and Chloe Grace Moretz lead the cast of this English-language German-French-Swiss co-production set in the titular Swiss town. Assayas was previously in competition with “Clean,” “Demonlover” and “Les Destinees sentimentales,” and his 2010 Cannes-premiered miniseries, “Carlos,” was deemed Palme-worthy by many; the new film could wind up in competition or Un Certain Regard. Sales: MK2

“Eden” (Mia Hansen-Love). Her first two films were selected for Directors’ Fortnight (“All Is Forgiven”) and Un Certain Regard (“The Father of My Children”). Either program might prove a fitting home for Hansen-Love’s latest, about one of the DJs who pioneered the electronic music movement known as “French touch,” though its ambition and scope might well earn this rising talent a first-time competition berth. (Given that Hansen-Love and Assayas are married, it’ll be interesting to see where their respective films wind up in the selection.) Sales: Kinology

“La Rancon de la gloire” (Xavier Beauvois). Like Inarritu, Beauvois (winner of the 2010 Grand Prix for “Of Gods and Men”) is venturing into comedic terrain for the first time with this heist caper, starring Roschdy Zem and Benoit Poelvoorde as two men who scheme to steal the coffin of Charles Chaplin in Switzerland. The film is in the editing room but will be ready in time for Cannes. Sales: Wild Bunch

“The Search” (Michel Hazanavicius). After “The Artist” charmed the socks off the 2011 festival en route to Oscar glory, Hazanavicius’ follow-up seems a solid bet for competition, although programmers have yet to view a final cut. While it reteams the director with many of his collaborators on “The Artist” (including star Berenice Bejo), on paper it couldn’t sound more different: a remake of Fred Zinnemann’s 1948 drama of the same title, transplanted to war-torn Chechnya. Sales: Wild Bunch

“Two Days, One Night” (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne). With two Palmes under their belt (for 1997’s “Rosetta” and 2005’s “L’enfant”) and a Grand Prix for their most recent film, 2011’s “The Kid With a Bike,” the revered Belgian neorealists are sure to earn another competition slot for their latest and reportedly most mainstream picture, starring Marion Cotillard. Sundance Selects acquired U.S. rights at Cannes last year. Sales: Wild Bunch

Longer shots: Coming off his well-received 2012 Berlin opener, “Farewell, My Queen,” Benoit Jacquot could find himself in the official selection with “Three Hearts,” starring Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Chiara Mastroianni; the film, sold by Elle Driver, was originally tipped for Venice but will be ready in time for Cannes. And don’t count out Bertrand Bonello, whose “House of Pleasures” screened in competition at Cannes in 2011 (under the English-language title “House of Tolerance”), and who could return with “Saint Laurent,” his drama about the famous French fashion designer (played by Gaspard Ulliel). EuropaCorp is  selling it.

Andre Techine, previously in Cannes with the 2011 Directors’ Fortnight entry “Unforgivable,” might find a home in the official selection for his latest, “L’homme que l’on aimait trop.” French-Israeli filmmaker Katia Lewkowicz, whose “Bachelor Days Are Over” screened in Critics’ Week in 2011, could either return to that sidebar or head to Directors’ Fortnight with her sophomore effort, “French Dolls.” Another young and daring femme scribe/director, Celine Sciamma, whose debut “Water Lilies”  played in Un Certain Regard and follow-up, “Tomboy,” opened in Berlin,  could be back in Un Certain Regard or make it into Directors’ Fortnight with her third film, “Bande de Filles.” 

ASIAN DIRECTORS

Although it recently completed shooting, “The Assassin,” the long-in-the-works martial-arts epic from Taiwanese helmer Hou Hsiao Hsien, will not be finished in time for Cannes. These films, however, should make the deadline:

“Coming Home” (Zhang Yimou). Zhang’s 12th collaboration with Gong Li is shaping up to be his first Cannes competition entry since their 1995 effort, “Shanghai Triad.” Set to be released this year by Sony Classics, the film is a romantic drama adapted from “The Criminal Lu Yanshi,” Yan Geling’s novel set against the backdrop of China’s Cultural Revolution. Sales: Wild Bunch

“The Golden Age” (Ann Hui). Either the competition or Un Certain Regard might find a home for the Hong Kong helmer’s film about the life of Chinese left-wing novelist Xiao Hong, starring Tang Wei (“Lust, Caution”) and Feng Xiaofeng. Sales: Edko Films

“Hwa-jang” (Im Kwon-taek). The prolific Korean auteur, who won a directing prize at Cannes for 2002’s “Chihwaseon,” is racing to complete his 102nd feature in time for a possible competition slot. Adapted from a Kim Hoon novel, the film tells the story of a man who, while caring for his dying wife, falls for a younger woman at his office.

“Kuime” (Takashi Miike). The gonzo Japanese auteur’s films have veered between the competition and midnight sections at Cannes in recent years, and a similar toss-up likely awaits Miike’s adaptation of a famous Japanese ghost story, about a man who tries to poison his wife so he can be with a wealthier woman. The film stars Ebizo Ichikawa (“Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai”), Ko Shibasaki and Hideaki Ito (“Lesson of the Evil”). Sales: Celluloid Dreams/Uconnect

“Still the Water” (Naomi Kawase). A Cannes competition regular (she won the Grand Prix for 2007’s “The Mourning Forest”), Kawase could earn another shot at the Palme with this drama about a 14-year-old boy who enlists his girlfriend to help solve the mystery of a dead body he finds floating in the sea. Sales: MK2

Longer shots: Korean auteurs and Cannes regulars Kim Ki-duk and Hong Sang-soo both have films in the can, which could conceivably turn up in noncompetitive slots. One Nipponese title that’s targeting the Directors’ Fortnight is “My Man,” Kazuyoshi Kumakiri’s adaptation of Kazuki Sakuraba’s 2008 novel about a 10-year-old girl taken in by her 26-year-old male relative following a tsunami disaster.

OTHER TERRITORIES

Danish directors and Turkish talents abound, although there are many more projects from far-flung corners of the globe likely to come into focus between now and April 17.

“The Cut” (Fatih Akin). Starring Tahar Rahim in a dialogue-free role that crosses Charlie Chaplin and the hero of a Sergio Leone western, the Turkish-German auteur’s latest will complete the spiritual trilogy he began with 2005’s “Head-On” and continued with 2007’s “The Edge of Heaven,” which won a screenplay prize at Cannes in 2007. Akin could land in competition again. Sales: The Match Factory

“Far From the Madding Crowd” (Thomas Vinterberg). Vinterberg returned to international prominence with his 2012 Cannes entry, “The Hunt,” which scored a Cannes acting prize for Mads Mikkelsen and, later, an Oscar nomination for foreign-language film. The Danish auteur’s mainstream ascension looks to continue with this Fox Searchlight-produced adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s 1874 classic (previously filmed in 1967 by John Schlesinger), starring Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Juno Temple and Tom Sturridge. Official selection material, natch.

“Nasty Baby” (Sebastian Silva). Silva’s 2013 psychological thriller “Magic Magic” screened in Directors’ Fortnight, which could also find a home for the Chilean helmer’s latest, a Brooklyn-set drama starring Kristen Wiig as a woman helping a gay couple (played by Silva and Tunde Adebimpe) have a baby. The film could also find its way into Un Certain Regard. Sales: Versatile

“When Animals Dream” (Jonas Alexander Arnby). A horror picture about a lonely 16-year-old girl who lives with her wheelchair-bound mother in a remote island village, this heavily courted debut for Danish helmer Arnby is a strong contender for the always genre-friendly Directors’ Fortnight, but is also said to be on the radar of the official selection and Critics’ Week. Sales: Gaumont

“Winter Sleep” (Nuri Bilge Ceylan). With three festival prizes under his belt (Grand Prix wins for “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and Distant,” plus a directing award for “Three Monkeys”), the well-regarded Turkish auteur has ascended to the Cannes pantheon (Cannes-theon?). His latest picture has been finished for months, quietly awaiting its competition premiere.

Longer shots: In addition to Vinterberg and Arnby, there at least two more Danes with Cannes prospects. Susanne Bier’s “Serena” stars a pre-“American Hustle” Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as a newlywed couple in Depression-era North Carolina; an out-of-competition slot seems possible. Kristian Levring will likely receive a berth in the official selection or Directors’ Fortnight for his English-language Danish western “The Salvation,” with Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Mads Mikkelsen. Possibly competition-bound is “The Rover,” Australian director David Michod’s follow-up to his acclaimed crime drama “Animal Kingdom”; it stars Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson, who could find himself on the Croisette for both this and “Maps to the Stars.” Swedish iconoclast Roy Andersson was previously at Cannes with “You, the Living” and “Songs From the Second Floor,” and could be back with his latest absurdist effort, “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence.”

As previously announced, Olivier Dahan’s “Grace of Monaco,” starring Nicole Kidman, will open the festival in a noncompeting slot, with Jane Campion (a Palme d’Or winner for 1993’s “The Piano”) serving as president of the competition jury.

(Scott Foundas in New York and Maggie Lee in Hong Kong contributed to this report.)

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