Cannes 2011 Preview - What You Wanna Know About All the Top Films

Festivals Editor; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
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Cannes 2011 Preview - What You Wanna Know About All the Top Films

The Cannes Film Festival is kicking off today with a pretty damned impressive slate of 50 films from around the world. It is going to be a real battle for the top dog Palme d'Or with some of the strongest films in the fest's 20 film competition slate. Here's a look at the top 20 films that you should know about, be them in competition or out.


MELANCHOLIA
Lars Von Trier made chaos reign at Cannes two years ago with his debut of Antichrist and he returns to the Croisette in competition with his new "psychological disaster" movie. Yep they let him back, and from the trailer it doesn't look quite so intense. The film stars Kirsten Dunst, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and both papa and son SkarsgÄrd. I'm pretty damned excited for this one and hopeful it handles the two planets colliding scenario better than Sundance hit Another Earth did. Melancholia is planned for a limited release November 4th.

THE TREE OF LIFE
No one is accusing Terrence Malick of being a prolific filmmaker -- but he is most certainly a master. His sixth film is likely the most anticipated movie of the Cannes competition lineup and headliners Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are a big part of why. I tried to read the script a few years back and after a number of dense pages describing the creation of the universe, I decided to just wait for the finished product. It's been a long wait but it is finally almost over. The film opens stateside May 27th.

RESTLESS
Gus Van Sant's latest stars Mia Wasikowska (who seems to be everywhere) and Henry Hopper in a love story that involves terminal illness and ghosts of Japanese soldiers. It comes to theaters September 16th.

HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI
Takashi Miike follows up his ultra accessible yet bad-ass 13 Assassins with another samurai flick. Is Miike turning into Yoji Yamada? (Hey I'm not complaining). Called Ichimei in Japan, Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is the first 3D film to ever screen in competition at Cannes. More good news: this is screenwriter Kikumi Yamagishi's second film she has written for Miike. Her first? Personal favorite The Happiness of the Katakuris.


SLEEPING BEAUTY
Australian novelist Julia Leigh makes her directorial debut with this stylish looking film which stars Emily Browning as a lady of the floating world. In this case her clients do their thing while she sleeps. Ewww. Check out the trailer for more. The film screens in competition opening night -- not bad for a first timer.

OSLO, 31. AUGUST
At last a new film from Joachim Trier! 2006's Reprise was one of my favorite films of the decade because of its expertly told story and innovative narrative techniques. None of those techniques are on display in these released clips, but the beauty of the fire extinguisher scene and acting chops of returning star Anders Danielsen Lie point to good things.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Woody Allen is still kicking and this year's addition to his lengthy library stars a cavalcade of interesting actors. The likes of Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Michael Sheen, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody, Kathy Bates, and Tom "Loki" Hiddleston all grace the screen. But the biggest star for the French audience at Cannes will be French First Lady Carla Bruni, wife to French prez Nicolas Sarkozy. American audiences won't have to wait long to see the film which opens in limited release May 20th.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE
I can't get past how bizarre this Sean Penn starring competition film from Il divo director Paolo Sorrentino comes across in the recently yanked clip that leaked last week. Penn plays an aging rock star with a bad haircut who sets out across America's heartland to track down the Nazi who tormented his father. Uh huh. Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, Harry Dean Stanton and musician David Byrne co-star.


TATSUMI
Singaporean filmmaker Erik Khoo has crafted this animated biography as a tribute to one of Japan's most famous manga artists, Yoshihiro Tatsumi. It looks remarkably touching from the trailer.

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
Tilda Swinton stars in this competition film by Lynne Ramsay as a mother dealing with the grief of her son's involvement in a school shooting. Sounds like a Cannes film all right. John C. Reilly co-stars -- so not that part.

THE SKIN I LIVE IN
You can pretty much guarantee that when Almodovar makes a film it will make its debut at Cannes (this one premiering in competition). His latest is a revenge tale starring Antonio Banderas as a plastic surgeon hunting down his daughter's rapists. Seems like particularly dark material for Almodovar but the teaser looks great.

ARIRANG
The films of Kim Ki-duk like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring and 3-Iron have been some of the most interesting art films of the past decade. His new film is being billed as an autobiographical documentary and from the trailer, it looks pretty cryptic.


THE ARTIST
A late addition to the competition lineup, this film by French comic director Michel Hazanavicius made waves with a seven figure pre-fest sale to The Weinstein Company. Not that rare perhaps, except that the film is shot in black and white and it is silent! We can only guess that means it is exceptionally good. The film stars John Goodman, Missi Pyle, Jean Dujardin and James Cromwell and revolves around a silent film actor facing a career crisis with the arrival of the talkies. I can't wait to see how they pull this one off.

MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE
Kudos to Sean Durkin for following up his big Sundance sale to Fox Searchlight by winning a free trip to the South of France. Not too shabby. This Sundance fave stars Elizabeth Olsen (yes sister of Mary-Kate & Ashley) along with Deadwood actors John Hawkes and Sarah Paulson. The trailer is fantastically creepy but those not at the fest will have to wait until October 7th to see the film in theaters.

MISS BALA
Mexican filmmaker Gerardo Naranjo's 2006 film Drama/Mex was an ultra sexy if not a bit flawed story of infidelity. His latest is the story of a young woman who dreams of being a beauty queen in crime-riddled Mexico.

WHERE DO WE GO NOW?
Lebanese music video director Nadine Labaki follows up her 2007 Cannes hit Caramel with this film about a group of women striving to protect their village from religious conflict. Labaki again stars in the film.


WU XIA
HK star director Peter Chan returns with this costume actioner screening at midnight. Donnie Yen and Takeshi Kaneshiro star alongside Lust, Caution hottie Tang Wei. The teaser shows a whole lotta promise -- which the Weinsteins obviously agree with as they have already picked up the film for US distribution.

DAYS OF GRACE
There isn't a whole lot out there on this Mexican actioner by director Everardo Gout but it is the other film screening in the two film Cannes Midnight section and takes place across three World Cup Finals. I'm in.

THE YELLOW SEA
This South Korean actioner from up and coming director Hong-jin Na (The Chaser) was a big hit when it was released in South Korea last December. Here's the trailer.

DRIVE
Are there really so many Nicolas Refn's in Denmark that the cult fave director of the Pusher Trilogy, Bronson, and Valhalla Rising really needs his middle named included? I guess if your middle name is as cool as Winding... Anyway Nicolas Refn makes his big Hollywood debut with this in-competition heist flick that stars Ryan Gosling as a stunt driver. Alongside him are Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston,Christina Hendricks, and Ron Perlman! The film drops in the states on September 16th. Refn will next team with Gosling in the remake of Logan's Run.

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