PARIS — Eight years ago, Steven Spielberg unveiled “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” at the Cannes Film Festival. Half a decade later, he served as president of the competition jury, and now, he returns with what could be his most commercial film since “Jurassic Park”: the big, family-friendly Roald Dahl adaptation “The BFG,” set to unspool out of competition in Cannes nearly two months before its July 1 release in the States.
The submission deadline has barely closed for the tony French festival’s 69th edition, which unfurls May 11-22, but already more than half the coveted competition lineup is in place — or as close as these things go, considering how much fest head Thierry Fremaux likes to leave things in limbo until the last minute, as politics play their course and last-minute arrivals hustle to be considered.
Among the films virtually assured to be vying for the Palme d’Or this year are new features from Paul Verhoeven (“Elle”), Sean Penn (“The Last Face”), Pedro Almodovar (“Julieta”), Xavier Dolan (“It’s Only the End of the World”), Asghar Farhadi (not yet titled) and Belgium’s two-time Palme winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (“The Unknown Girl”) — all of them male, but boasting the sort of strong female roles actresses relish.
Those films are expected to bring such stars as Isabelle Huppert, Charlize Theron and Marion Cotillard to Cannes, where they will join director Jodie Foster (“Money Monster”) and Oscar winner Andrea Arnold (“Wasp”), the gritty British helmer whose first U.S. feature, “American Honey,” is being tipped for official selection. Meanwhile, Japanese favorite Naomi Kawase was tapped to preside over the Cinefondation and short-film jury, while Valerie Donzelli will chair the Critics’ Week jury.
No less a star than Kristen Stewart — who now holds the distinction of being the first American actress to have won a Cesar award (for her role in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria”) — is said to have two films bound for the Croisette. In Woody Allen’s 1930s-set “Cafe Society,” she co-stars with Jesse Eisenberg. While sure to screen out of competition, the film has been discussed as a possible opening-night selection — which would make it Allen’s third pic to hold that honor. Stewart also toplines Assayas’ “Personal Shopper,” set in the demimonde of Paris fashion.
French films are often the last to be slotted in Cannes, though insiders suggest that Fremaux is loath to repeat last year’s mistake, whereby he denied Arnaud Desplechin’s “My Golden Days” a slot in competition, only to see it earn raves in the rival Directors’ Fortnight section. He will likely be more aggressive about holding on to such pics, which could explain rumors that Bruno Dumont’s period comedy “Slack Bay” is competition-bound.
Other high-profile French films in play include “Staying Vertical” (from “Stranger by the Lake’s” Alain Guiraudie), Rebecca Zlotowski’s Natalie Portman starrer “Planetarium,” Nicole Garcia’s “From the Land of the Moon” and “Saint Laurent” director Bertrand Bonello’s touchy, topical “Paris Is Happening,” in which restless young people plant bombs and plan terrorist activities around the city.
France dominated the competition selection last year, which stands to reason, given the sheer political influence of French producers, sales agents and stars on the programming process, though Fremaux and his fellow programmers make every effort to represent creative diversity. Italy had a strong showing last year, and this time, Romania stands to shine, with two films already positioned for competition — Cristi Puiu’s “Sierra-Nevada” and Cristian Mungiu’s “Family Photos” — plus another four strong contenders allegedly done and awaiting word.
As in previous years, there are exotic directors making their first foray into foreign languages, including prolific Japanese helmer Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who shot “The Woman in the Silver Plate” with a mostly French cast. In addition to Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and “Saint Laurent” star Gaspard Ulliel leapt at the chance to work with Canada’s Dolan, who seems to have secured his place in competition after “Mommy.”
Nicolas Winding Refn’s Los Angeles-set horror entry “The Neon Demon” features the Danish director’s first female protagonist, though its fate is said to be on the fence. Other American films expected in Cannes include Jeff Nichols’ period romance “Loving,” about an unlawful mixed-race marriage, and Jim Jarmusch’s modest “Paterson,” which stars Adam Driver as a bus driver.
Cannes tends to be ultra-picky about programming films that previously played Sundance, although there is speculation that “Swiss Army Man” or “Christine” (from Cannes veteran Antonio Campos) could be picked, while Amazon Studios is supposedly trying to keep Kenneth Lonergan’s critically acclaimed “Manchester by the Sea” under wraps until the fall. In a number of cases, American distributors are making things difficult for Cannes, with Paramount reportedly withholding Martin Scorsese’s “Silence” and Open Road insisting on keeping Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” under wraps until closer to its Sept. 16 release date.
Of course, though Paris is full of gossip as filmmakers await the official word, virtually nothing is set in stone at this early date — and Fremaux and his compatriots are known for changing their mind up until the last minute. (The programmers will announce the lineup at an April 14 press conference, with additional titles trickling out in the weeks that follow.) But hotels are being booked, flights reserved and red-carpet-appropriate footwear ordered in anticipation of the big event. And while public announcements remain weeks away, what follows is a list of films that Variety has learned have been submitted or screened — with many already jostling for the best possible placement in the lineup.
“Money Monster” (Jodie Foster). George Clooney plays the host of a television financial-advice program taken hostage by an angry viewer (“Unbroken’s” Jack O’Connell), who holds him responsible for a bad stock tip. Julia Roberts also stars as the show’s tough-as-nails producer in a film that brings Foster back to Cannes 30 years after “Taxi Driver” unspooled in competition. (Meanwhile, Martin Scorsese’s much-anticipated “Silence” is allegedly being held back by Paramount, though all agree that Fremaux desperately wants the world premiere.)
“The BFG” (Steven Spielberg). Although screenwriter Melissa Mathison died late last year, before seeing this passion project to completion, many hope that the reunion between Spielberg and the scribe responsible for his other best-loved acronym, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” will mark another multigenerational classic. Certainly, it represents the biggest (and friendliest?) film on the Croisette, kicking off an international campaign for Disney’s July 1 release. Mark Rylance plays the eponymous giant, while Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Jermaine Clement play more normal-sized characters.
“Cafe Society” (Woody Allen). The director’s until-recently-untitled 1930s romance, which divides its time between Hollywood and the Bronx, stars Kristen Stewart, Bruce Willis and Jesse Eisenberg. His first feature to be shot in digital, “Cafe Society” was lensed by “Apocalypse Now” d.p. Vittorio Storaro. Set to be released by Amazon Studios (rather than the director’s usual distributor, Sony Pictures Classics), Allen’s film will screen, per his usual preference, in an out-of-competition slot. The director was at Cannes just last year with “Irrational Man.”
“The Last Face” (Sean Penn). A competition slot is being saved for Penn’s drama starring Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem as aid workers who fall in love against the backdrop of war-torn Liberia. The film marks a return to Cannes for the actor-turned-director after his helming debut, “The Indian Runner” (1991, Directors’ Fortnight) and “The Pledge” (2001, competition). Penn served as president of the official Cannes jury in 2008.
“Loving” (Jeff Nichols). Mere months after “Midnight Special” premiered at Berlin (a film some, including Variety, had expected to debut at Cannes last year), Nichols will unveil this civil rights drama starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as an interracial couple in 1958 Virginia. Set to open theatrically Nov. 4 through Focus Features, the film would mark a return to Cannes for Nichols after “Take Shelter” (2011, Critics’ Week) and “Mud” (2012, competition).
“Paterson” (Jim Jarmusch). Adam Driver plays Paterson, a blue-collar bus driver who lives in the modest New Jersey city of the same name. He dabbles in poetry, encouraged by on-screen wife Golshifteh Farahani, in what’s sure to be one of the film’s more low-key entries — nothing like the director’s last Cannes competition selection, “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Six of his pics have competed for the Palme, though rumor has it that this one (to be distributed by Amazon Studios in the U.S.) could land in a sidebar.
“Voyage of Time” or “Weightless” (Terrence Malick). Although the suddenly prolific auteur’s reputation has slid somewhat since “Tree of Life” earned the Palme d’Or in 2011, Malick remains a force to be reckoned with at Cannes, and it has been strongly suggested that one of his upcoming movies will appear in the official selection. It could be “Weightless,” his star-studded tale of two love triangles set against the Austin music scene, which would put Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett and Val Kilmer on the red carpet. Then again, it could be “Voyage of Time,” his Imax documentary about the birth and death of the known universe.
“Zeroville” (James Franco). Another year, another dozen James Franco movies — though rumor has it that Cannes programmers actually requested that the multi-threat put his latest directorial effort forward. Based on Steve Erickson’s 1969-set Hollywood satire, the project features a laundry list of famous faces playing one-time industry titans (e.g. Seth Rogen as John Milius). Franco shaved his head, making room for an “A Place in the Sun” tattoo, for the role.
“American Honey” (Andrea Arnold). The British director, who was invited to serve on the Cannes jury in 2012, has earned her fair share of honors from the festival, claiming jury prizes for both “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” in official competition. Her latest — and her first-ever American film — follows a group of young people who travel the country selling magazine subscriptions and making trouble, starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough. A24 plans to release later this year.
“Free Fire” (Ben Wheatley). Executive produced by Martin Scorsese, the “High-Rise” director’s homage to vintage crime movies is set in 1978 Boston and turns on a gun deal gone bad, starring Brie Larson as a woman who arranges a meeting between two trigger-happy Irishmen (Cillian Murphy and Michael Smiley) and a heavily armed gang (featuring Armie Hammer and Luke Evans, among others). Though this would be Wheatley’s first time in the official selection, his 2012 black comedy, “Sightseers,” debuted in Director’s Fortnight.
“I, Daniel Blake” (Ken Loach). Britain’s celebrated social realist has been a Cannes mainstay, screening 16 films in the fest (a dozen of them in competition) since the 1970 premiere of “Kes” in Critics’ Week. Despite false reports that “Jimmy’s Hall” would be his last feature, the 79-year-old is tipped to compete again with his latest collaboration with screenwriter Paul Laverty (who wrote Loach’s Palme d’Or winner, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”), about an injured carpenter and single mother struggling to get by on welfare.
“The Secret Scripture” (Jim Sheridan). It’s a long shot, considering that Sheridan has never debuted a film in Cannes before, though there’s talk that this could be his year for this intimate look at the time a young woman spends in a mental institution, as chronicled in her personal diary. The films stars Rooney Mara (played by Vanessa Redgrave in old age), who also appears in Iceland-based, Australian theater director Benedict Andrews’ “Una,” expected to make its festival debut, if not at Cannes, then later in the year.
“Paris Is Happening,” aka “Paris est une fete” (Bertrand Bonello). A daring, timely and action-packed drama about ordinary young people from all social classes who rise up, riot and plant bombs around the city. Bonello has said this film was written before the Charlie Hebdo attacks and deals with terrorism that is driven by neither religion nor politics — though it could be one of the festival’s most subversive titles, especially if it lands in competition. Bonello has previously seen three of his films compete at Cannes: “Tiresia” (2003), “House of Tolerance” (2011) and “Saint Laurent” (2014). Sales: Wild Bunch.
“Personal Shopper” (Olivier Assayas). With a good shot at being selected for competition, Assayas’ latest reunites him with Kristen Stewart, who won critical accolades and a supporting actress Cesar for “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Set in the world of Paris fashion and interwoven with supernatural elements, the intriguing project stars Stewart as an American woman working as personal shopper for a celebrity. Sales: Mk2.
“Planetarium” (Rebecca Zlotowski). A graduate of the prestigious La Femis school who presented her feature debut, “Belle Epine,” in Critics’ Week and its follow-up, “Grand Central,” in Un Certain Regard, Zlotowski is one of the young filmmakers expected to land in competition with this 1930-set supernatural drama. Pic, which is in late post, stars Natalie Portman and Lily-Rose Depp as two spiritualist sisters. Sales: Kinology.
“Slack Bay,” aka “Ma loute” (Bruno Dumont). After earning some of the best reviews of his career with “Li’l Quinquin,” Dumont seems determined to get even wackier, eschewing unknowns for established stars, including Fabrice Luchini and Juliette Binoche. Set in the same dreary corner of northern France where the director has always lived and worked, during the summer of 1910, the period comedy is sure to debut in Cannes, though the actual placement could be a tug-of-war between Directors’ Fortnight, which hosted “Quinquin,” and official selection, where the film is being discussed for competition.
“Staying Vertical” (Alain Guiraudie). The director attracted international attention three years ago with “Stranger by the Lake,” a daring thriller set in a gay cruising spot. The edgy film earned him best director honors in Un Certain Regard and a handful of Cesar nominations at the end of the year. His latest feature, which turns on a film director who raises his young son alone, is tipped for a prominent Cannes premiere. Sales: Les Films du Losange.
“Eternity” (Tran Anh Hung). With a cast that includes Audrey Tautou, Melanie Laurent and Berenice Bejo, it will be hard for Cannes to ignore this ambitious, century-spanning drama from the Vietnam-born French director, hoping to recapture his early acclaim (he won the festival’s Camera d’Or for his 1993 debut, “The Scent of Green Papaya,” as well as the Golden Lion for “Cyclo” two years later in Venice). The film is an adaptation of Alice Ferney’s novella “L’elegance des veuves,” about three generations of women and the men they loved and lost. Sales: Pathe.
“From the Land of the Moon” (Nicole Garcia). The French actress-turned-helmer first competed in Cannes as an actress in Alain Resnais’ “Mon oncle d’Amerique,” returning to premiere two features and a short in competition in her capacity as a director. Her latest stars Marion Cotillard in the central role of Milena Agus’ Italian novella “Mal di Pietre,” which tells of a young woman’s romances, both real and imagined, from 1943 until the mid-’60s, as discovered by her granddaughter many years later.
“Heart,” aka “Reparer les vivants” (Katell Quillevere). The helmer, who has Cannes history with her debut, “Love Like Poison” (Directors’ Fortnight, 2010), and its follow-up, “Suzanne” (Critics’ Week, 2013), could graduate to official selection with this drama, based on Maylis de Kerangal’s “Mend the Living,” about what becomes of a young surfer’s heart after an accident leaves him brain dead. The film stars Tahar Rahim, Anne Dorval and Emmanuelle Seigner. Sales: Films Distributions.
“Orpheline” (Arnaud des Pallieres). The French director, who presented “Michael Kohlhaas” in competition in 2013, reportedly wanted to try his hand at a story far from his own personal experience. He could be back in the official selection with this look at a female character at four different stages in her life, starring Adele Exarchopoulos (“Blue Is the Warmest Color”), Adele Haenel (“Love at First Fight”) and Gemma Arterton (“Gemma Bovery”). Sales: Le Pacte.
“Tour de France” (Rachid Djaidani). Following his 2012 Directors’ Fortnight sensation, “Hold Back,” Djaidani could be back in Edouard Waintrop’s lineup to present this drama, about the unlikely friendship between an aging bigot (played by Gerard Depardieu) and a young rap singer who are forced to embark on a road trip across France. Sales: Cite Films.
“Grave” (Julia Ducournau). Whereas most La Femis film-school graduates stick to humanist stories (a la “Mustang” or “Augustine”), Ducournau is attracting attention for her dark genre debut, about a 16-year-old (Garance Marillier) who makes a radical break from her family’s vegetarian ways after sampling flesh during her first day at veterinary school. Discovering that she rather likes the taste, the instant cannibal convert goes to extreme lengths to feed her newfound appetite. The director’s short “Junior” won a Critics’ Week prize in 2011.
“Voir du pays” (Delphine and Muriel Coulin). The Coulin sisters made their directorial debut with “17 Girls,” a French drama inspired by an epidemic of teen pregnancies in a provincial U.S. high school. “Voir du pays,” which could go to either Directors’ Fortnight or Critics’ Week, is based on Delphine Coulin’s novel by the same name and follows two female soldiers who return from Afghanistan and spend three days in a five-star hotel on Cyprus.
“Ma vie de courgette” (Claude Barras). Here’s a tasty prospect: a stop-motion movie about a boy called “Zucchini” who’s taken away from his abusive alcoholic mother and put into a group home, where he tries to find his place among the other misfit kids. Adapted from Gilles Paris’ novel by Celine Sciamma (a master of adolescent-centric pics, whose widely admired “Girlhood” opened Directors’ Fortnight two years ago), the animated entry presents realist details in a highly expressionistic visual style.
“Family Photos” (Cristian Mungiu). A Palme d’Or winner for “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Mungiu took three years after directing his last feature, “Beyond the Hills” (a Cannes screenplay winner), to make his next film, discreetly shooting the film last summer in Romania. After making films about abortion and forbidden lesbian love, Mungiu’s new project is remarkable in that it centers around a male protagonist, a small-town doctor played by Adrian Titieni.
“Sierra-Nevada” (Cristi Puiu). One of the most revered Romanian filmmakers has remarkably never been in competition at Cannes; both “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” and “Aurora” premiered in Un Certain Regard. That looks to change at last. Once tipped for Berlin but now widely expected to contend for the Palme, “Sierra-Nevada” (which stars “Lazarescu’s” Mimi Branescu”) is set around a contentious family reunion intended to commemorate the life of a recently deceased patriarch.
“Dogs” (Bogdan Mirica). After inviting the work-in-progress debut to its Atelier last year, Cannes is poised to introduce the world to this new Romanian talent. The film concerns a city boy stuck trying to unload a patch of rural land inherited from his late grandfather. Along the way, he discovers that the old man was once a local crime lord — which severely complicates his intention of selling the property, especially after a severed foot gives the local cop reason to retaliate on the gang. Sales: BAC Films.
The crop of available Romanian titles extends to a number of other fest-proven directors, including Catalin Mitulescu, whose “By the Rails” could follow in the footsteps of Un Certain Regard-launched “Loverboy.” Expectations are high for director Calin Peter Netzer’s “Ana, mon amour,” his first feature — and one of Romania’s priciest local productions — since winning the Golden Bear at Berlin in 2013 for “Child’s Pose.” Another Berlin vet, Radu Jude (“Aferim!”), is also said to be nearing completion on his latest, “Scarred Hearts.”
“Sweet Dreams” (Marco Bellocchio). Last year was a huge year for Italian cinema in Cannes, with new films from Nanni Moretti, Paolo Sorrentino and Matteo Garrone all premiering in competition. That leaves Fremaux with fewer Italo options this time around, though it looks as if Bellocchio — who unveiled “Blood of My Blood” in competition at Venice last fall — could be on track to deliver this Berenice Bejo starrer, about a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s death, in time. Bellocchio was last in Cannes with 2009’s “Vincere.”
“Like Crazy” (Paolo Virzi). From the director of “Human Capital” and “The First Beautiful Thing,” this lively Italian entry follows two mental patients — one claims to be a rich countess, while the other keeps her delusions to herself — who escape their institution, their subsequent encounters blurring the lines between sanity and insanity. The film entry stars Micaela Ramazzotti and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, the Italian actress whose last directorial effort, “A Castle in Italy,” screened in competition in 2013.
OTHER EUROPEAN DIRECTORS
“Elle” (Paul Verhoeven). The “Black Book” director hasn’t had a film in official competition since 1992’s “Basic Instinct” — though that’s where he seems to be headed with this thriller, which announced itself by draping a huge banner across the Croisette at last year’s festival. The film, which finds Verhoeven working in French for the first time, stars Isabelle Huppert as a top exec for a video-game company, who turns the tables after being violated in a home invasion.
“Julieta” (Pedro Almodovar). Rumor has it that Fremaux wants the international premiere of Almodovar’s latest, set to open in Spain next month. Taking inspiration from a trio of stories by Pulitzer winner Alice Munro included in her book “Runaway,” this latest celebration of a strong female protagonist from the director of “All About My Mother” stars Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez, who split the title role over the span of more than 30 years. As usual, Sony Pictures Classics will release in the U.S.
“The Neon Demon” (Nicolas Winding Refn). According to an early statement by the Danish director, “After making ‘Drive’ and falling madly in love with the electricity of Los Angeles, I knew I had to return to tell the story of ‘The Neon Demon,’” a style-drenched horror movie in which Elle Fanning plays a young model preyed upon by jealous rivals. After the disappointment of “Only God Forgives,” it’s anybody’s guess where the film (which has allegedly divided the selection committee) could land. Amazon will release in the U.S. this summer.
“On the Milky Road” (Emir Kusturica). A two-time Palme d’Or winner (for “Underground” and “When Father Was Away on Business”), Kusturica looks set to compete at Cannes for the first time since 2007’s “Promise Me This.” His latest is a lavish adventure epic in which he plays a man at three different stages of his life: as a milkman during wartime; falling in love with a woman (played by Monica Bellucci); and living out his twilight years as a monk. The film is one of a few in talks for the opening-night slot.
“The Unknown Girl” (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne). After casting movie stars Marion Cotillard and Cecile de France in their previous two films, the Belgian brothers — who have twice won the Palme d’Or (for “Rosetta” and “L’enfant”) — cast the lesser-known but rising French star Adele Haenel (“Love at First Fight”) alongside regulars Jeremie Renier and Olivier Gourmet in this story of a young doctor investigating the identity of a patient who died after being refused treatment. Given their track record, the film is surely bound for competition.
“The Beautiful Days of Aranjuez” (Wim Wenders). Critics have been far more reticent toward Wenders’ recent fiction work (including the 3D James Franco weepie “Every Thing Will Be Fine”) than his documentaries (“Pina” and the Cannes-selected “The Salt of the Earth”), though the buzz is strong on his latest, adapted from a play by Peter Handke. In what sounds like one of Richard Linklater’s “Before” films, the script amounts to a long, free-ranging conversation between a man and woman, played by Reda Kateb and Sophie Semin.
“L’economie du couple” (Joachim Lafosse). Though the Belgian director dreams of a Cannes competition slot, his best bet appears to be Directors’ Fortnight for this intimate drama, about a husband and wife who break up and decide to continue sharing the same roof for financial reasons. His last movie, “The White Knights,” bowed in Toronto’s inaugural competition section last fall, while his 2012 drama, “Our Children,” was critically acclaimed in Un Certain Regard.
“The Red Turtle” (Michael Dudok de Wit). A Studio Ghibli movie … helmed by the Dutch-born, London-based Oscar winner? This elegant, wordless cartoon — told in a blend of charcoal and watercolor techniques, about a man stranded on a desert island — is the Japanese studio’s first international co-production, initiated when nature lover Hiyao Miyazaki, touched by Dudok de Wit’s “Father and Daughter” short, suggested a collaboration, brokered by Wild Bunch. The result was written by “Bird People’s” Pascale Ferran and produced by Isao Takahata, whose “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” played Directors’ Fortnight.
“Brimstone” (Martin Koolhoven). Cannes is said to be keen on this slick genre effort from the Dutch helmer whose previous effort, “Winter in Wartime,” was short-listed for the Oscar foreign language prize. The distaff-driven Western — lensed in Romania, Spain and Germany — stars Dakota Fanning as a woman falsely accused of a crime, forced to rely on her wits to evade the ruthless man on her trail (Guy Pearce).
“The Giant” (Johannes Nyholm). After screening three shorts in Directors’ Fortnight, the Swedish director is on track to deliver his feature debut — the flip side of Spielberg’s “The BFG,” about a severely deformed and autistic 30-year old abandoned by his mother at birth. Tortured by fantasies and a wild imagination, the character fancies himself a 50-meter-tall giant, enlisting in a petanque tournament in hopes of convincing his mother to take him back. Sales: Indie Sales.
“Heartstone” (Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson). Among the more intriguing debuts under discussion, this autobiographical story of a rural upbringing — focused on the discoveries and disillusions of youthful friendship — hails all the way from Iceland. The helmer caught Cannes’ attention with his award-winning short film work, earning a special mention for “Whale Valley” in 2013. He was invited to do a Cinefondation residence the following year, where he developed this personal story, which attempts to show the world from a child’s p.o.v.
“It’s Only the End of the World” (Xavier Dolan). After serving on the jury of last year’s festival, the young Canadian director — who premiered all but one of his films in Cannes and earned the jury prize for “Mommy” — is expected to return with this French-language drama, which stars Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. Inspired by Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play “Juste la fin du monde,” the film follows a writer who returns home to announce his imminent death to his immediate family.
“Boundaries,” AKA “Pays” (Chloe Robichaud). Another Montreal talent with an excellent shot at returning to Cannes, Robichaud launched her debut, “Sarah Prefers to Run,” in Un Certain Regard in 2013. This follow-up centers on three women — Emily VanCamp, Macha Grenon and Nathalie Doummar — living on Besco, an imaginary island, where they wage a battle against the exploitation of their city’s natural resources. Sales: Indie Sales.
LATIN AMERICAN DIRECTORS
“Neruda” (Pablo Larrain). The Chilean director reteams with “No” leading man Gael Garcia Bernal, who plays a police inspector in hot pursuit of dissident poet Pablo Naruda (played by Luis Gnecco), who served as a senator until president Gonzalez Videla outlawed communism in 1948, issuing a warrant for his arrest. Oscar nominee Larrain’s star has been steadily on the rise, and a prominent Cannes slot would cement his place as one of South America’s most important young directors.
While anticipations are high for Argentine auteur Lucrecia Martel’s ambitious “Zama” and Mexican firebrand Amat Escalante’s “The Untamed,” sources close to both films suggest they won’t be done in time — although Escalante (who took best director honors for “Heli,” the 2013 shocker with the notorious “balls of fire” torture sequence) just might pull it off.
“Oppenheimer Strategies” (Joseph Cedar). Cannes has often smiled on well-regarded international auteurs who have branched out to work with English-language scripts and big-name stars. It could do the same for Cedar, who wrote and directed this thriller starring Richard Gere, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Dan Stevens and Michael Sheen. The Israeli writer-director was previously at the festival with “Footnote” (2011), which won the screenwriting prize.
Untitled (Asghar Farhadi). Little is known about this Farsi-language drama, reportedly inspired to some degree by Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman,” except that it focuses, like so much of Farhadi’s work, around a couple’s fractious relationship. It looks to snag the Iranian director his second competition berth, after 2013’s prize-winning “The Past.”
“The Handmaiden” (Park Chan-wook). The surest thing in terms of Asian cinema, this latest from the Korean director of “Old Boy” — last in Cannes with 2009’s “Thirst” — marks a return to Korean-language filmmaking after “Stoker,” although it takes its inspiration from Sarah Waters’ novel “Fingersmith,” in which a female pickpocket aligns with a con man to seduce and scam a wealthy Japanese heiress. Park has taken considerable liberties with the source material, which was previously (and more faithfully) adapted for the BBC. Amazon Studios has U.S. rights.
“The Woman in the Silver Plate” (Kiyoshi Kurosawa). A year after winning the best director prize in Un Certain Regard, the prolific Japanese talent returns with his first French film, which — like nearly all of his Japanese work — boasts shades of the supernatural. Olivier Gourmet plays a photographer obsessed with making old-fashioned daguerreotypes, whereby a subject (and her soul) are said to be preserved forever. Co-stars Tahar Rahim (“A Prophet”) as the assistant, who falls for his boss’s daughter (Constance Rousseau), who suffers a nasty fall of her own.
“After the Storm” (Hirokazu Kore-eda). Already set for a May 21 release in Japan, the helmer’s latest arrives a year after “Our Little Sister” debuted in competition, though whispers suggest that this is a relatively minor work — about a washed up writer (Hiroshi Abe) trying to make amends with his elderly mother (Kirin Kiki) and ex-wife (Yoko Make) in order to reconnect with his young son — that could be headed for Un Certain Regard instead.
“The Wailing,” aka “Gokseong” (Na Hong-jin). The gritty Korean genre director has been to Cannes twice before — with “The Chaser” (midnight, 2008) and “The Yellow Sea” (Un Certain Regard, 2011) — and could presumably land a midnight slot for his ultra-stylish new film, set in a remote village set into turmoil by a series of deaths. It’s told from the perspective of a police detective who comes to suspect that the crimes have something to do with his own daughter. Sales: Finecut.
“Apprentice” (Boo Junfeng). Six years after his debut, “Sandcastle,” premiered in Critics’ Week, the Singaporean helmer reportedly has a spot saved for him in the official selection (most likely in Un Certain Regard) for this prison-set drama, about a young correctional officer who finds himself befriending — and possibly being positioned to replace — the resident executioner. The film was produced by Eric Khoo and lensed by French d.p. Benoit Soler (“Ilo Ilo”).
Asia is always a tricky region to predict, as diligent programmers can uncover films no one was tracking, though there are rumblings that the programming team has seen, but not yet decided on a new feature from Korean helmer Hong Sang-soo, who won Locarno’s Golden Leopard last summer for “Right Now, Wrong Then.” Plus, ultra-prolific Japanese helmer Takashi Miike (from whom festivals seem to accept virtually anything, as evidenced by last year’s “Yakuza Apocalypse”) has another of his action epics in the can — which may as well be in the Cannes.
(Justin Chang, Leo Barraclough, Maggie Lee, John Hopewell contributed to this report.)