Cannes 2011: The Guardian names 10 festival highlights
Peter Bradshaw at the Guardian names 10 films to keep an eye on at Cannes. For this preview he’s choosen titles with enough mainstream brandname appeal to ensure they’ll keep generating interest throughout the year.
The Skin I Live In
(dir. Pedro Almod√≥var)
Almod√≥var is a Cannes favourite, one of the few directors who draws superstar-level crowds in the streets wherever he goes. Yet he has still to win the big prize. This film reunites him with Antonio Banderas, and is based on a Sadean horror-thriller by French author Thierry Jonquet, published in the UK under the title Tarantula. Banderas plays Ledgard, a plastic surgeon who keeps his partner chained up in his chateau, where he has a secret operating theatre. The theme of obsession will be familiar to admirers of Almod√≥var’s work, but this looks set to be one of his darkest and most challenging films to date.
The Tree of Life
(dir. Terrence Malick)
Until very recently, Malick’s film was bafflingly slated to premiere in the UK, before Cannes. Now this British debut has been cancelled, prompting whispers of industry brinkmanship and power-play. The Tree of Life, thought to be a radical new departure, stars Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, and is reportedly set in the 1950s. Penn plays Jack, a man who as a young boy idolised his mother and imbibed her idealism ‚Äî but also hero-worshipped his tougher, more worldly-wise dad (Pitt).
(dir. Lars Von Trier)
At the end of last year’s festival, we heard that Von Trier’s new film was to be an old-fashioned movie about the end of the world. Would he do something sensational with the moribund “disaster” genre, as he had with horror in Antichrist? Perhaps this is what Von Trier, the master mischief-maker, intends, and perhaps not. The poster, showing a Millais-ish image of Kirsten Dunst floating in her wedding dress, is certainly captivating; it has something of the eerie quality of Antichrist. The plot centres on a family dispute between sisters (Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg), a dispute that gains momentum with the news another planet is on a collision course with Earth.
We Need to Talk About Kevin
(dir. Lynne Ramsay)
Ramsay’s return to the big league is the best possible news. This superbly talented film-maker slipped from the radar after her tremendous Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar; now she is directing Lionel Shriver’s award-winning novel about the mother of a teenage boy who is guilty of a Columbine-style high school massacre. Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly are the parents; Ezra Miller is Kevin. The subject matter will inevitably recall Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, which won the 2003 Palme d’Or, and Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine, previously in competition. The American press habitually becomes irritated with European intelligentsia fetishising their gun tragedies: a win could trigger some peppery comment in the US.
This Must Be the Place
(dir. Paolo Sorrentino)
To his admirers, Sorrentino’s stylised, angular compositions, his vivid shards of electro-pop, the way his characters all have a deadpan look, is masterly and gripping. For others, this is style over substance. Either way, his excursion into English-language film-making is bound to be intriguing. Sean Penn plays a retired rock star, a mix of Robert Smith and Bono, who travels from Dublin to the US in search of the Nazi who killed his father. It’s a rather Wim Wenders-ish premise, and some will be uneasy with the whole multi-pop-cultural mix. But the prospect of Penn in full Cure getup and guy-liner makes this a must-see.
(dir. Julia Leigh)
Australian novelist Julia Leigh makes her sensational debut, directing her own book. Emily Browning plays Lucy, a student and high-class prostitute, whose speciality is a creepy “sleeping beauty” chamber, offering clients a necrophile rape scenario in which she will sleep, drugged; Lucy cannot remember anything about it the next day. The trailer emphasises a dreamy quality at odds with the gruelling subject matter, while the poster advertises that it is “presented” by Jane Campion, who won the Palme d’Or for The Piano in 1993; her tutelary presence ‚Äì producer? mentor? ‚Äì was perhaps instrumental in getting the film into competition.
(dir. Jodie Foster)
For sheer loopiness, this film looks set not merely to take the biscuit but, in the words of PG Wodehouse, to absolutely walk off with the Huntley and Palmer. After his divorce fallout and revelations about his appalling behaviour, industry-watchers had been wondering if Mel Gibson would find some offbeat way of re-insinuating himself into polite showbiz society. A cool cameo appearance in The Hangover 2 was ruled out. Now he is to star in this decidedly strange drama, directed by Jodie Foster, showing out of competition. Gibson plays a corporate executive who has a breakdown, becomes mute and finds that he can only communicate by means of a hand-puppet ‚Äì a cute, furry beaver. Shades of Michael Redgrave in Dead of Night? Or will it make Gibson look like a guest on a particularly dark edition of The Muppet Show?
(dir. Andr√© T√©chin√©)
A classically French tale of artistry, passion, adultery and anxiety, starring Andr√© Dussollier (if French cinema has an equivalent to the sentimental Brit notion of a national treasure, it is surely Dussollier). He plays Francis, a novelist who comes to Venice looking for a place to work. He falls instantly for Judith, the estate agent who shows him a lovely, out-of-the-way villa, and impulsively suggests they move in together. She agrees with an alacrity that at first delights and then makes him uneasy. What does she do all day while he is writing?
(dir. Aki Kaurism√§ki)
Cannes has a very soft spot for the deadpan comedy of Finnish director Kaurism√§ki; the reported casting of Jean-Pierre L√©aud in the lead will perhaps have made it even more attractive to the selectors. L√©aud plays a shoe-shiner who attempts to save the life of an immigrant child in the port city of Le Havre. This is only Kaurism√§ki’s third film in the past decade, the others being The Man Without a Past (2002) and Lights in the Dusk (2006), both very big hits in Cannes.
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
(dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
The haunting movies Distant (2002) and Climates (2006) made the Turkish auteur Ceylan a heavy-hitter in world cinema. His 2008 movie Three Monkeys seemed to me an overcooked drama, even if every frame had something of interest. This features the tense 12-hour story of a doctor and prosecutor living in Keskin, in the central Anatolia region of Turkey. Ceylan is a director visibly yearning not just for the arthouse minutiae of emotion and atmosphere that made him a star, but for muscular theme and story; they may be within his grasp here.