The Film: Matteo Garrone has been off the radar since scooping plaudits left right and centre for his adaptation of Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah in 2008, but he'll be hoping to return to the spotlight in grand style with media satire, Reality . The film focuses upon a Big Brother -style reality programme, and a man who becomes obsessed with it, going as far as to begin living his life as if he were a participant on the show.
Why We're Excited: Society's obsession with reality television isn't exactly new ground ( The Truman Show ploughed a similar furrow some 14 years ago), but we're excited to see how Garrone handles what promises to be a drastic change of pace from the grimy and gritty Gomorrah . Billed as a comedy, we'll be looking for a lightness of touch understandably lacking from the heavy subject material of his previous film.
The We And The I
The Film: Michel Gondry returns to indie cinema after his flirtation with the mega-budget blockbuster, recruiting a group of non-professional Brooklyn school kids to populate this tale of a group of students on a high-school bus on the last day of school. The finer details of the plot remain under wraps at present, but Gondry has piqued our interest by revealing that there are sci-fi elements involved. Opening the Director's Fortnight, the film remarkably represents the French auteur's first appearance at Cannes.
Why We're Excited: It will be interesting to see how Gondry responds after the failure of The Green Hornet , and this return to low-key filmmaking seems like the natural next step. The project first grew out of meetingings between the director and the publishers of his Be Kind Rewind tie-in book, and if The We And The I possesses half of that film's DIY charm, we'll be going home happy.
Beyond The Hills
The Film: Five years after winning the Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days , his jarring study of illegal abortion in Communist Romania, Cristian Munglu returns with his long-awaited follow-up. Beyond The Hills is set in an Orthodox convent and is based upon the non-fiction account of a monk who reportedly died during an exorcism ritual. More hard-hitting subject matter then, for this most unflinching of filmmakers.
Why We're Excited: The unremittingly bleak landscape painted by 4 Months, 3 Weeks And 2 Days was the runaway winner back in 2007, but having taken five years to fashion his next film, will Munglu be able to recapture the power and bravery of his fledgling effort? The subject material isn't quite so emotive this time around, but hopefully Munglu's perfect craftsmanship behind the lens will remain undimmed.
The Film: A coming of age story from Take Shelter 's Jeff Nichols, in which a teenage boy embarks on the risky course of hiding a fugitive from the authorities. Tree Of Life 's Tye Sheridan is the scamp in question, who falls into a friendship with Matthew McConaughey's ex-con and becomes a go-between for he and his estranged girlfriend, Reese Witherspoon.
Why We're Excited: Take Shelter was one of the finds of last year's festival, scooping the Grand Prize at the annual Critics' Week, while making a star of Michael Shannon in the process. This time around, Nichols is working with a considerably starrier cast (Shannon is on board once again, this time in a supporting role), but early buzz is already comparing the film to Stand By Me in terms of its bittersweet, coming of age appeal. Nichols draws an even more intriguing parallel, describing Mud as, "kind of like if Sam Peckinpah directed a short story by Mark Twain." Sold!
The Film: Chilean director Pablo Larrain completes his Pinochet trilogy (begun and continued by Tony Manero and Post-Mortem respectively) with this black comedy charting the long-awaited deposal of the hated dictator. Gael Garcia Bernal plays an ad executive who masterminds the campaign to remove the General from power, a process that finally came to fruition with the referendum of 1988. Where both previous films were harrowing, this one should provide the triumphant payoff appropriate to the closing of a dark period in the country's history.
Why We're Excited: Both Tony Manero and Post-Mortem were grimly hilarious, and we look forward to seeing how Larrain deals with a more explicitly upbeat moment in Chilean history. Gael Garcia Bernal is a more high-profile lead than Larrain usually works with, but the Mexican star is eminently watchable, and should provide a likeable conduit for the director's trademark sense of humour.
Like Someone In Love
The Film: Iran-based filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami has already made waves at Cannes in years gone by, with Certified Copy wowing the 2010 festival with a clutch of rave reviews. His latest sees the director relocate to Japan to tell the story of an unconventional relationship between an ageing college professor and a young student, who moonlights from her studies as a prostitute. Kiarostami describes the film as a "continuation" of Certified Copy , although how the two films mesh together remains to be seen.
Why We're Excited: Certified Copy was Kiarostami's first European outing, and one of his most accessible works for years, so another international offering is an exciting proposition. Plot details are relatively sparse at present, but the set-up is a juicy one, and the Ella Fitzgerald-accompanied trailer is suitably captivating. Juliette Binoche won the Best Actress award for Certified Copy , and Kiarostami will be hoping to be in the jury's thoughts once more…
The Film: The Proposition 's John Hillcoat returns to the western genre with this action-heavy tale of the Bondurant brothers, a pair of bootleggers looking to turn a profit in Prohibition-era America. Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy will star as the aforementioned siblings, with Guy Pearce on villain duties as the demonic-looking lawman seeking to bring them to justice. Gary Oldman and Jessica Chastain are also on hand to complete one of the classiest ensembles of the festival.
Why We're Excited: Tarantino's Django Unchained might be giving the western a stylised polish, but Hillcoat looks to be taking it back to its bleak and blood-spattered roots. The director has built his reputation upon stark, hard-bitten drama (he also helmed the recent adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road ), and the first trailer for this one suggests he's mined a similar seam of gruff, character-driven action. It also features Gary Oldman brandishing a tommy gun with frightening gusto, which is enough to get us scrabbling to the front of the queue…
The Film: Ben Wheatley promises his follow-up to Kill List will be "lighter" in tone than the nerve-shredding crime drama, although judging by the uneasy tension on show in the latest clip to be released, we're disinclined to believe him. Sightseers follows bickering couple Chris and Tina (Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, who also wrote the screenplay) as they take a caravan holiday in the British countryside. Chris is hoping to give Tina an insight into the Britain he loves, but it isn't long before a series of unfortunate incidents sends their rural getaway on an unpredictable tangent…
Why We're Excited: Kill List was an extremely innovative take on the hitman story, and Wheatley is clearly a name to watch among young British filmmakers. Plus, what we've seen of the film so far looks extremely intriguing, with Wheatley's sense of humour rubbing uncomfortably against a suffocating feeling of dread. Something is going to happen among those green rolling hills, and we've a suspicion that it isn't going to be pleasant…
The Film: Another Matthew McConaughey vehicle (what can we say, the man finally seems to be making some decent choices), this time directed by Precious 's Lee Daniels. McConaughey will co-star with Zac Efron as a pair of brothers working to investigate the potentially wrongful conviction of John Cusack's Death Row inmate. Nicole Kidman reportedly steals the show as a trailer-park femme fatale who engages Cusack in a letter-based relationship.
Why We're Excited: It seems that Daniels has created a barmily eclectic cast here, with Kidman, Cusack and McConaughey's characters all possessing something of the grotesque about them. Based on the novel by Peter Dexter, it's also thought to be genuinely steamy in parts, with Efron describing his love scenes with Kidman as "the highlight of my life". Precious might not have been to everybody's taste, but it looks as though Daniels' latest will be similarly impossible to ignore.
Rust & Bone
The Film: A Prophet helmer Jacques Audiard returns to La Croisette with what sounds like a bit of a wildcard: a romance between a disabled killer whale trainer and a bare-knuckle boxer. Not your typical tale of girl meets boy then, but with Marion Cotillard and Matthias Schoenarts (star of the oscar-nominated Bullhead ) in the lead roles, one that should certainly be worth watching.
Why We're Excited: After the testosterone-soaked tension of A Prophet , it will be interesting to see how Audiard navigates the gentler waters of romantic drama. As we've already mentioned, the two leads are of the highest calibre, but Audiard has also assembled an enticing off-screen team, including A Prophet 's screenwriter Thomas Bidegain and cinematographer Stephane Fontaine. Having missed out to Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon three years ago, the director is among the bookies' favourites to scoop the Palme d'Or this time around…
On The Road
The Film: The last time Walter Salles took a stab at a road movie, we were treated to the thouroughly entertaining Che Guevara biopic, The Motorcycle Diaries . Salles will be hoping to repeat the trick with his adaptation of Jack Kerouac's famous novel, the story of a would-be writer (a substitute for Kerouac himself) who joins the devil-may-care Dean Moriarty on a voyage of discovery across mid-20th century America. Sam Riley stars as wide-eyed protagonist Sal Paradise, with Garrett Hedlund landing what should be a peach of a role as Moriarty.
Why We're Excited: It's about time somebody took a stab at filming Kerouac's well-loved novel, and Salles is an exciting choice to bring it to life. While the counter-culture themes might not be so resonant today as when the book was first published, the cinematic narrative should still make for a cracking spectacle. Throw in an extremely talented supporting cast including the likes of Kristen Stewart, Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, Amy Adams and Kirsten Dunst, and you've got one of the most eagerly awaited films among this year's selection.
The Film: Austrian provocateur Michael Haneke returns to the scene of his 2009 Palme d'Or triumph with latest offering, Amour , a love story between a pair of ageing music teachers. If that sounds a little cuddly for the man behind Funny Games , we can at least be assured that the course of true love will not be allowed to run smoothly, with one half of the couple suffering a debilitating stroke that pushes the relationship to breaking point. Expect to shed a few tears over this one.
Why We're Excited: While Haneke's anger at American sensibilities and voyeuristic viewing habits might be invigorating, it will be interesting to see him turn his attention to the more low-key subject matter of the ageing process. The film will also see the director reunited with his The Piano Teacher star, Isabelle Huppert, a creative partnership that tends to bring the best out of both parties.
Killing Them Softly
The Film: Aussie director Andrew Dominik takes on George V. Higgins' 1974 crime novel Cogan's Trade , the story of a mob-owned enforcer charged with looking into a poker heist that has cost his employers heavily. Brad Pitt stars as the muscle in question, as part of a ridiculously starry cast containing Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, Bella Heathcote and Animal Kingdom 's Ben Mendelsohn.
Why We're Excited: The last time Dominik and Pitt collaborated together, we got a beautifully crafted epic in the shape of T he Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford . This one looks to be a similarly hard-bitten tale, but it's the return of Liotta and Gandolfini to the world of organised crime that's really got us excited. Throw in the superlative Mendelsohn, and you've got a crime aficionado's dream cast!
The Film: Opening the festival will be Moonrise Kingdom , Wes Anderson's coming of age story set amongst a remote island community. Taking place in the '60s, the film will follow the adventures of a young boy and girl who fall in love and run away together. However, their disappearance just so happens to coincide with the biggest storm to hit the island in many a long year, causing various sections of the community to join the search party. Tempers become frayed and old resentments bubble to the surface, as the town begins to turn on itself in a time of crisis…
Why We're Excited: Anderson might not be everybody's cup of tea, but as fans of his kooky oeuvre, we cant wait to see what looks to be another idiosyncratic gem. Several former collaborators can be found among the cast, including Rushmore duo Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, while the exciting new additions include Ed Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand. If Anderson's films are too whimsical for your taste, this probably won't be the film that converts you, but for fans, it promises to be the highlight of this year's festival.
The Film: Probably the most eagerly hyped film at this year's festival, and one of the supposed frontrunners for the Palme d'Or, Cosmopolis marks David Cronenberg's return to the arena of the bizarre. Adapted from the novel by American author Don DeLillo, the film will follow Robert Pattinson's young billionaire on a journey into darkness as he discovers his fortune has evaporated, and decides to cut loose from conventional society. Paul Giamatti, Juliette Binoche, Samantha Morton and Jay Baruchel round out a pleasingly offbeat cast.
Why We're Excited: After a couple of enjoyable but conventional films in the form of A History Of Violence and Eastern Promises , we're looking forward to seeing Cronenberg return to the outer-limits of big screen storytelling. Cosmopolis represents the director's first self-penned script since 1999's eXistenZ , and from the looks of the clips and trailers we've seen so far, it promises to be deliciously weird. It also stands to catapult Pattinson out of the clutches of the soul-sapping Twilight series into a role more deserving of his talents. Put simply, we can't wait.