The Cannes Film Festival, cinema’s most esteemed yearly event, begins this week. While we’ll soon be on the ground for coverage, today brings a preview of what we’re most looking forward to among the eclectic line-up, ranging from films in competition to special screenings to select titles on the various sidebars. We should note that while we’re greatly looking forward to The Nice Guys, we’ve elected to make room for films that won’t be getting a wide release next week. Check out our most-anticipated features below and follow our complete coverage here throughout the month.
25. Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie)
Following up his acclaimed prison drama Starred Up, featuring Jack O’Connell’s best performance thus far, director David Mackenzie is back. The film, previously titled Comancheria, is now going by Hell or High Water, and will premiere in the Un Certain Regard section ahead of an August release. Featuring a script by Sicario writer Taylor Sheridan, Chris Pine and Ben Foster lead the story of two brothers — a divorced father and ex-con, respectively — who plan a bank robbery to save their farm, and the illustrious Jeff Bridges as the Texas ranger who’s soon on their heels.
24. Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
After returning to filmmaking a few years back, Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky — known for his landmark surrealist films such as The Holy Mountain and El Topo — is back with a new feature. Endless Poetry, premiering in the Directors’ Fortnight section of Cannes, is yet another autobiographical tale, this time focusing on his young adulthood in the ’40s and ’50s as it recounts his introduction to the Latin American literature scene. As with any Jodorowsky feature, we’re not sure what to expect (in the best sense), but it’ll certainly look beautiful, having been shot by the one and only Christopher Doyle.
23. Neruda (Pablo Larraín)
The Club finally arrived earlier this year in the United States, and Pablo Larraín is back with his next film, Neruda, a biopic of the Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, here played by Luis Gnecco. His No star Gael García Bernal plays Inspector Oscar Peluchoneau, who led the police manhunt for the title character. The director, who recently finished up his Hollywood debut, the Natalie Portman-led Jackie, has been a rising star on the international scene, and there’s no reason to believe his latest will break this streak.
22. Café Society (Woody Allen)
Set to kick off the Cannes Film Festival this year is Woody Allen‘s 1930’s-set Café Society, which looks to be a fittingly lavish spectacle, having been shot by the great Vittorio Storaro. The promising first trailer and trio of clips show off the intriguing mix of characters, played by the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Parker Posey, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Paul Schneider, and Judy Davis, hopefully making for one of the director’s better films from this decade.
21. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade)
With it being seven years since her last feature, the wait for Maren Ade‘s Everyone Else follow-up has been a long one, but hopefully worth the wait. The German director, who also produced last year’s Cannes premiere Arabian Nights, is back with Toni Erdmann, which depicts a strange father-daughter relationship in which the former plays pranks on the latter, who he believes to be too self-serious.
20. Risk (Laura Poitras)
With the secretly shot Citizenfour cementing itself as one of the most important and thrilling documentaries of the decade thus far, director Laura Poitras has now set her sights on WikiLeaks and Julian Assange for her latest feature. As one might expect, there’s little known about Risk, premiering as part of the Directors’ Fortnight line-up, but if she can once again examine the governmental overreach and those that battle it in the typically fascinating light, we could have another fantastic documentary on our hands.
19. Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu)
While he won the Un Certain Regard’s top prize around a decade ago for The Death of Mr. Lăzărescu, director Cristi Puiu will now compete in the official line-up for the first time at Cannes. His first narrative feature in six years, Sieranevada, follows a doctor who goes to attend a family gathering remembering his recently passed father, as well as reflecting on the recent terrorist attacks at Charlie Hebdo. It sounds like heavy, dense material, but Puiu has given himself great time to explore it, as it’s the longest-running feature in the competition line-up at 173 minutes.
18. After the Storm (Hirokazu Koreeda)
Being a recurring figure amongst Cannes’ competition line-up, it’s not much of a surprise that Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s next film will premiere at the festival — albeit in the Un Certain Regard section. Titled After the Storm (Umi yori mo Mada Fukaku, which literally translates to Still Deeper Than the Sea), it follows an author-turned-private-detective who is attempting to regain contact with his estranged ex-wife and their young son. With a promising first trailer, we imagine it’ll be a stand-out in its section.
17. Staying Vertical (Alain Guiraudie)
After earning a larger audience with his Cahiers du Cinéma-topping feature Stranger by the Lake, director Alain Guiraudie has made Staying Vertical. The story centers on a filmmaker, on a journey in French wilderness, who fosters a child. Following a promising first clip, we’re looking forward to seeing Guiraudie take on a larger scope with what we imagine will be the same uncompromising style.
16. Dog Eat Dog (Paul Schrader)
It’s been some time since Nicolas Cage was a part of the Cannes line-up in any official capacity, so it is with great pleasure that we see Paul Schrader helping make it happen. The Taxi Driver writer’s latest feature, Dog Eat Dog, concerns three ex-cons who get involved in a kidnapping scheme gone wrong. Set to premiere in the Directors’ Fortnight section, it looks to be the often-overlooked director’s first proper feature in a while, and with a cast also including Willem Dafoe, we’re greatly looking forward to it.
15. Slack Bay (Bruno Dumont)
Coming off one of last year’s best films, Clouds of Sils Maria, Juliette Binoche has teamed with Bruno Dumont (Li’l Quinquin) for Slack Bay. Also starring Fabrice Luchini and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, the quirky, dark comedy follows an investigation into a series of mysterious disappearances on the beaches of northern France. Binoche, reteaming with Dumont after Camille Claudel, will take the role of a matriarch within the town. Following a fantastic first trailer, we’ve already heard strong buzz, based on French pre-screenings, so definitely keep it on your radar.
14. The BFG (Steven Spielberg)
The sole big-budget entry on this list deservedly goes to the man who helped create the blockbuster. Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies follow-up is an adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s The BFG. Coming from the late E.T. scribe Melissa Mathison, it follows a young girl, Sophie, who guides the Queen of England and the BFG (Mark Rylance, coming off his Oscar win for Spielberg) — a big, friendly giant — to stop Bloodbottlers, the big and unfriendly sort, from eating children. With an eclectic cast also including Bill Hader and Jemaine Clement, it’s also a show of faith by Disney to screen one of their biggest 2016 titles about two months early.
13. The Neon Demon (Nicolas Winding Refn)
Drive and Only God Forgives director Nicolas Winding Refn is returning to Cannes with The Neon Demon this year. Starring Elle Fanning, Keanu Reeves, Christina Hendricks, Jena Malone, Abbey Lee, and Bela Heathcoate, the horror-thriller follows an aspiring model who moves to Los Angeles, where her youth and vitality are devoured by a group of beauty-obsessed women who will go to any length to get what she has. With the first trailers steeped in evocative, gorgeous imagery, we get the sense this is Winding Refn’s Suspiria-meets-Black Swan-esque take on the world of modeling, and it’s certainly going to get bloody — and hopefully in a more meaningful way than his last feature.
12. Loving (Jeff Nichols)
“It was creatively paralyzing for a couple of months,” Jeff Nichols told us earlier this year when it comes to Loving. “I missed my first deadline for the script because I just felt like I couldn’t write in these character’s voices. I just felt like a fraud, partly because they were real people, but also because the film is a period film that goes from 1958 to 1967. I wasn’t born until 1978, so I felt especially fraudulent — but, at some point, I just had to take control of who they were. So I said, ‘Okay, these are real people, but they’re also characters in my movie, so I have to take ownership of them.’ And that got me through the process. It’s a beautiful film. It’s just a love story, and it’s the most beautiful love story, maybe, in American history.” It’s led by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga, and we’re greatly looking forward to the Midnight Special director taking on a period drama.
11. It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan)
Following the release of Mommy and before kicking off production on The Life and Death of John F. Donovan this spring, Xavier Dolan got another film under this belt with the incredible cast of Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, Nathalie Baye, and Gaspard Ulliel. The French-language It’s Only the End of the World, translated from Juste La Fin Du Monde, is based on a play by Jean-Luc Lagarce. Specifically, it follows a writer who goes back to his hometown, planning on announcing his upcoming death to his family. As resentment soon rewrites the course of the afternoon, all attempts of empathy are sabotaged by people’s incapacity to listen and love. Judging from the first clips, Dolan seems to be taking on a more standard form, which could prove beneficial.
10. American Honey (Andrea Arnold)
With it being around five years since her last feature, a striking update on Wuthering Heights, we’ve been looking forward to Andrea Arnold‘s follow-up for quite some time. Last year, she finally shot American Honey, the director’s first feature in the U.S. — a road movie that follows a runaway teenager selling magazine subscriptions around the country. Played by Shia LaBeouf, he gets caught up in a whirlwind of hard-partying, law-bending, and young love. For also featuring one of last year’s biggest break-out actors, Arielle Holmes, we simply can’t wait to see what Arnold has in store.
9. The Red Turtle (Michaël Dudok de Wit)
If we were basing our anticipation solely on released stills, then The Red Turtle is a strong contender for the most beautiful film of Cannes. Co-produced by Studio Ghibli, the feature animation directed by Michaël Dudok de Wit will premiere in the Un Certain Regard section and follows a marooned sailor on a desert island who desperately tries to escape until, one day, he encounters a strange turtle that will change his life. With no more feature films in the pipeline for Ghibli, this is the best we’ll get for now, and it looks to be something genuinely special.
8. Graduation (Cristian Mungiu)
Romania’s Cristian Mungiu, after deservedly winning the Palme d’Or back in 2007 for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, is back with Graduation. The drama is described as “a powerful and universal study about the imprecision of parenthood, the relativity of truth and the ambiguity of compromise, revealed by a father-daughter relationship.” An international trailer promised another beautifully composed drama, and this one even has a shorter running time than he’s accustomed to — but, we imagine, the same amount of emotional heft.
7. Paterson and Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch)
Following up one of the best films of this decade, Only Lovers Left Alive, Jim Jarmusch is heading to Cannes with two features — both set to be distributed by Amazon Studios. Along with his documentary on The Stooges, Gimme Danger, which premieres as a Midnight Screening, he’ll be in competition with Paterson. Led by Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani (About Elly), it follows the former as a bus driver in New Jersey, and the latter as his creative wife. The first clips showed off an unexpectedly playful tone, so here’s hoping Jarmusch has yet more surprises up his sleeve with these two features.
6. Elle (Paul Verhoeven)
In returning to his more genre-based roots for the first time in nearly two decades (with one exception), Paul Verhoeven is finally back this year. Teaming with one of our finest actresses, Isabelle Huppert, Elle follows a successful businesswoman who is attacked and then enacts revenge in a cat-and-mouse game. With a thrilling director-actor pairing and the strong early reactions we’ve heard, this could be the most entertaining feature within the line-up.
5. Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar)
The only feature in the line-up that has already hit theaters in its respective country, Pedro Almodóvar‘s Julieta has received high praise since its release in Spain. Led by Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte, the story follows a woman’s life in a 30-year span, from 1985 to the present-day, where she reflects on her daughter, who has run away. This looks to be a welcome return to his female-centered dramas; hopefully, Sony Pictures Classics will release it here by the fall.
4. The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook)
After trying out the world of Hollywood with his English-language debut Stoker, Park Chan-wook has returned to South Korea for his follow-up. Adapting Sarah Waters‘ novel Fingersmith, the period crime drama was initially set in Victorian London and follows young female thieves (aka fingersmiths), but the Oldboy director switched the locations to his native country and Japan. Titled The Handmaid, it stars Ha Jung-woo, Kim Min-hee, Jo Jin-woong, and Kim Tae-ri, and we were completely sold on its evocative latest trailer.
3. The Unknown Girl (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
After the shortest break they’ve ever had between features — and following up one of their best films, the Marion Cotillard-led Two Days, One Night — Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will return to Cannes with La Fille inconnue, aka The Unknown Girl. Leading the feature is Adèle Haenel (House of Tolerance, Suzanne) as Jenny, a woman who refuses to answer a knock on her door from a young girl. When the girl is found dead a short time after, she searches for her identity once the police come up short. With Haenel earning a César Award for the recent Love at First Fight, the Dardennes may very well have another pristine performance and exemplary social drama.
2. Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)
Returning to Cannes after her César-winning performance in Clouds of Sils Maria, Kristen Stewart is back with director Olivier Assayas for Personal Shopper. It’s described as a ghost story that takes place in Paris’ fashion underworld, and we’re deeply curious as to how one of France’s most talented directors weaves this genre element into that scenario. With a cast also including Joachim Trier’s go-to lead Anders Danielsen Lie, it has the makings of one of the best of this year’s Cannes.
1. The Salesman (Asghar Farhadi)
A last-minute addition to the Cannes Film Festival, Asghar Farhadi‘s The Salesman is also our most-anticipated of the slate. His follow-up to The Past, which also premiered at Cannes, is led by previous collaborators Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti, and follows them as a couple who are forced to move out of their apartment, only to find conflict with the previous tenant of their new home. With a flawless filmography, Farhadi’s latest may be the closest to a sure thing in the line-up, and that doesn’t it make any less of an immensely compelling prospect.
Cannes runs from May 11 through the 22nd. Follow our coverage below.