The Cannes Film Festival is still the most pretigious film festival in the world, and likely always will be. The Palme D'Or is, along with the Oscar, the most sought after cinema prize in the world - and outside of America, where filmmakers know they do not have a shot at winning an Oscar, probably the most sought after. They have annouced their 20 film lineup for the Competition this year, and for better or for worse, in many ways, these 20 films will come to define 2011 for the crowd of people who care about film. The films are:
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen) - It's not unusual for Allen to premiere his yearly film at Cannes - what is unusual is it to be in competition - as this is the first time it has happened. It is a romantic comedy set in Paris, starring Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Owen Wilson. Marion Cottillard and Adrian Brody. I just hope it's better than You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar) - Almodvoar is a Cannes favorite, and this is his fourth film in competition over the years, although strangely, he has never won the Palme. Is this his year? The film reunites him with his one time frequent star Antonio Banderas, as is a revenge tale about a plastic surgeon looking for vengeance from the men who raped his daughter.
House of Tolerance (Bertand Bonello) - I have to claim ignorance on Bonello and his work, as I have never seen one of his films. He was in competition back in 2003 for Tieresia. I cannot find any information out about what this may be about.
Footnote (Joseph Cedar) - Another filmmaker I know nothing about, except that he is Israeli, and made the acclaimed Beaufort a few years ago, that I somehow managed to miss. This film is apparently about a rivalry between a father and son, both of whom are professors at a University in Israel. This is his first time in competition at Cannes.
Pater (Alain Cavalier) - Yet another filmmaker I don't know. He has a long list of credits, stretching back to 1958. This is his third time in competition - he won the Jury Prize back in 1986 for Therese. I can find nothing about this film anywhere.
Once Upon a Time in Anatlia (Nuri Bilge Ceylon) - A favorite in recent years at the festival, this will be his fourth time in comeptition since 2002. He has was the Grand Prize of the Jury for Distant in 2002 and Best Director for Three Monkeys in 2008, but has yet to win the Palme. Will this be the year for the Turkish filmmaker?
Boy with a Bike (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) - Among the most acclaimed filmmakers in recent years, the Dardenne brothers return to competition for the the fifth time - already have won the Palme twice (for Rosetta and L'Enfant). I can only assume that they will be in play again this year - and that their film will be neo-realist, like the rest of their oeuvre.
Hanezu no Tsuki (Naomi Kawase) - This is Kawase third time in competition, although I missed her other two films, including The Mourning Forest which won the Grand Prize of the Jury back in 2007. She could be a factor this year - although I have no idea what her film is about.
Le Harve (Aki Kaurismaki) - The enigmatic Finnish director Kaurismaki is back in Cannes competition for the third time - having already won the Grand Prize of the Jury for The Man Without a Past. The bigger news, since this is a French festival afterall, is that this film stars Truffaut's old buddy Jean Pierre Leaud. Could the French cinema legend win the Best Actor prize?
Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh) - Novelist Julia Leigh makes her directing debut in this strange sounding film, described as an "erotic fairy tale" starring Sucker Punch's Emily Browning drawn into a mysterious world. Sound interesting.
Polisse (Maiwenn) - French actress turned filmmaker (best known for her work with Luc Besson) makes her Cannes debut with this film about a social worker who works with juveniles, who becomes more involved with one than she should.
Tree of Life (Terrence Malick) - Inarguably the biggest title to debut at this year's festival will be Terrence Malick's long awaited Tree of Life, starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. Malick is one of the most beloved filmmakers in history, despite the fact he has only made 4 films over the span of 40 years. He has only been in competition at Cannes once - winning the best director prize for Days of Heaven (1978). Sight unseen, this is the favorite to win this year.
The Source (Radu Mihaileanu) - This Romanian filmmaker, whose films I have never seen, is making his first apperance at Cannes this year this is apparently a comedy about the war of the sexes in a remote village.
Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Takashi Miike) - Personally, I stopped paying much attention of Miike a few years ago - he seems to make 3 or 4 films every year, and I felt they were devolving into ridicilousness fairly rapidly when I stopped. Still, he has some adament admirers. Who knows, perhaps I should start paying attention again.
Habemus Papam (Nanni Morretti) - The acclaimed Italian filmmaker Nanni Morretti returns to the Cannes for the fifth time - already having won the Best Director prize for Caro Diaro and the Palme D'Or for The Son's Room. His last film, The Caiman, was generally considered a flop, but it will be interesting to see this film - which is apparently about the relationship with the new Pope and his therapist.
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay) - Other than Tree of Life, this is my most aniticpated film of the festival. Lynne Ramsay comes the official competition for the first time (two of her shorts won here before), with her film based on Lionel Shriver's brilliantly novel starring the incomparable Tilda Swinton. This should be a homerun - I could easily see Swinton winning the best actress prize.
Michael (Markus Schleinzer) - This is apparently Schleinzer's first film as a director, and I can find now information on it anywhere.
This Must Be the Place (Paolo Sorrentino) - Sorrentino is back in competition for the fourth time - his most recent being for Il Divo which won the Jury prize three years ago. This film also stars Sean Penn, this time as a bored rock star, who goes looking for the ex-Nazi who killed his father, now living in America as a refugee. Sounds interesting.
Melancholia (Lars von Trier) - Von Trier is back in competition for the ninth time with this film - having already won the Technical Grand Prize (for The Element of Crime), three prizes for Europa, the Grand Jury Prize for Breaking the Waves and Palme for Dancer in the Dark. This film is apparently a dark sci-fi film starring Charlotte Gainsbourg (who won Best Actress here for Von Trier's last film Antichrist) and Kristen Dunset as sisters, whose relationship is threatened as the earth is on collision course with another planet. I'm sure it will be among the most talked about film at the festival.
Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn) - A surprising inclusion, considering it does not sound much like a Cannes film. This marks Refn's first time at Cannes - this Danish filmmaker best known for the violent films like the Pusher trilogy, Bronson and Valhalla Rising, returns with this film about a heist gone wrong starring Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan. I must say, I'm looking forward to it.
So those are the 20 films in the official competition this year. Who knows what will join the ranks of Palme D'Or winners this time. Last year's jury headed up by Tim Burton, went off the map with the offbeat, art film Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. I thought it was a daring, brilliant choice. This year's jury will be headed by Robert DeNiro, a favorite of mine, so I'm looking forward to what they come up with.