Cannes 2013 Preview: The Official Competition

Editor, Festivals; Los Angeles, California (@RylandAldrich)
Cannes 2013 Preview: The Official Competition

Yesterday European Editor Brian Clark and I took you through the Critics' Week and Directors' Fortnight sidebars and today we turn our attention to the main event, the competition for the coveted Palme d'Or at the 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival. Unlike in some past years, there's no clear favorite this go around. While plenty of the directors have had films in previous years' comps, no matter who ends up on top, this time they will be a first time winner.

We can't touch on every film, but here are some of the titles we felt particularly like gushing about. We'll be back tomorrow to talk Midnighters, Un Certain Regard and the Out of Competition flicks.

Mads Mikkelsen stars as horse-merchant who becomes a vigilante, and Denis Lavant (Holy Motors) plays a supporting role. Sold! -Brian Clark

So Alexander Payne's latest may not feature A-list celebs or be in "color," but this story of an alcohol-fueled father-son road trip shows exactly the kind of indie promise that made Payne a household name with Election. The film is written by first-time feature writer Bob Nelson, who will be instantly recognizable to Northwesterners for his long time role on the Seattle sketch comedy Almost Live. -Ryland Aldrich

The current corruption-fueled landscape of many towns in modern Mexico, with violent drug cartels and human trafficking responsible for most of the economy, seems ripe for hard-hitting, socially conscious neo-noir, and so I'm very anxious to see Amat Escalante's tale of a man confronting it all head-on as he searches for his missing father. -BC

Miike's second time competing for the Golden Palm after 2011's Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai is this thriller about a powerful Japanese politician looking for his granddaughter's murderer. -RA

Roman Polanski adapts David Ives' Tony-Award Winning Play with his life and longtime collaborator Emmanuell Siegner playing a fragile woman auditioning for a Sadomasochistic drama. Any new Polanski is a cause for celebration in my book. Also, given the raw emotion and humor with which he approached Sadomasochism in his underrated Bitter Moon, as well as the fact that he created a "fragile woman" for the ages in Repulsion, Venus in Fur sounds like it's perfectly suited to him. -BC

From the looks of things Nic Refn is going elevator scene all over Thailand in his latest teaming with best bud Ryan Gosling. The fact that Kristin Scott Thomas plays the crime boss mom is one of many reasons that we are very, VERY excited for this. -RA

The French adore James Gray. They hold him in the same regard as giants like Scorsese, and, as with many of their assessments about American directors, I believe the French are right. His last film, Two Lovers, was a masterpiece of melodramatic comedy unlike any I've ever seen, and the fact that he's teamed up with Joaquin Phoenix again for this period piece bodes very well indeed. -BC

Much touted for its use of music, the latest from the Coens is packed with enough stars to force the French photographers buy a new set of flashbulbs. The cast includes Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund, Adam Driver, and Alex Karpovsky. -RA

Jia Zhangke is perhaps best known for his Venice Golden Lion winning Still Life in 2006. The "Sixth Generation" Chinese director is back with this intertwined story of four parts of modern day China, infused with Wuxia spirit. -RA

The vampire genre has always inherently toyed with a number of existential questions which many films have already exploited, but, based on Jim Jarmusch's previous "genre" movies like Ghost Dog and Dead Man, I'm betting that few vampire films have been as sublime as this one. Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston and Mia Wasikowska star. -BC

Relatively unknown on US shores, Dutch director Alex van Warmerdam's eighth feature is this thriller about a mysterious visitor who may be... the Devil! -RA

I'm more critical than most of French darling Arnaud Desplechin -- I thought A Christmas Tale was too long, and The Sentinel was an absolute bore -- but there's still something undeniably intriguing about him directing Benicio Del Torro as a Native American who forges a friendship with a white psycho-analyst. Also, Jury President Steven Spielberg's documented fondness for historical films that deal with oppressed people may make this a strong contender for the Palme d'Or. -BC

Kore-eda Hirokazu is becoming something of a Cannes sweetheart with his third film in competition after 2001's Distance and 2004's Nobody Knows. His latest tells the story of a man who is confronted by the shocking truth that the son he has raised may not be his own. -RA

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