THE 64th CANNES FILM FESTIVAL kicks off Wednesday, with the new Woody Allen comedy, Midnight in Paris, followed by the debut feature from Australia’s Julia Leigh, Sleeping Beauty. Want to see what all the fuss is about? You can follow the action LIVE, as it happens, via the festival’s very own iPhone application, available from iTunes. Here are the top picks, set to be unveiled at this year’s fest…
1. The Tree of Life
Brad Pitt (pictured, above) stars with Sean Penn, as a father and son battling to reconcile their differences in an ever-changing world. From the celebrated filmmaker Terrence Malick (Badlands, The Thin Red Line), this latest opus is at last set for Australian release this coming July. It was due at Cannes last year, and only just reinstated for this year’s fest, having been briefly withdrawn to premiere earlier in the UK. Malick has ditched his characteristic reticence to follow up swiftly with an as-yet untitled all-star feature in 2012, with Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem all starring.
2. The Beaver
Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster is back behind the camera with this, her first directorial outing in 16 years. In a case of art imitating life, Mel Gibson stars as Walter Black: a once successful business and family man who’s fallen on hard times. Black suffers from crippling depression: until he stumbles upon a puppet beaver enters his life. Gibson has been hotly tipped to attend the festival, although it seems more likely that it will be his director on hand to promote her new film.
Lars von Trier follows the hugely controversial Anti-Christ with this highly anticipated follow-up, again starring Charlotte Gainsbourg. Justin (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skaarsgard) are celebrating their marriage at home with her sister Claire (Gainsbourg) and her brother-in-law John (Keifer Sutherland) just as the planet Melancholia heads towards Earth. The sisters’ relationship is soon affected, as the planets threaten to collide.
Celebrated filmmaker Gus Van Sant returns to Cannes with this latest look at the human condition. Australia’s Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland, Jane Eyre) stars as Annabel, a terminally ill young woman who is befriended by a likeminded young man named Henry (Enoch Brae), who has dropped out of life after losing his parents. Van Sant’s classic 1990s hit My Own Private Idaho was recently reimagined by James Franco. Restless is screening in the festival’s prestigious Un Certain Regard strand.
Indigenous filmmaker Ivan Sen, best known for his acclaimed 2002 feature Beneath the Clouds returns with this look at a 10-year-old boy’s yearning for a gangster’s life. Screening in the festival’s Un Certain Regard category, Toomelah (pictured, above) boasts a key lead performance from Daniel Conners as the boy facing a showdown with the town’s real-life drug lord. The film also features Mad Bastards star Dean Daley-Jones. Among the other Australian features screening at Cannes: Justin Kurzel’s stunning debut feature Snowtown (screening as part of Critics’ Week), Michael Henry’s kidnap thriller Blame, viral buzz film The Tunnel, Brendan Fletcher's Sundance hit Mad Bastards, and the short film Bear, from filmmaker Nash Edgerton.
6. The Conquest (La Conquete)
Never before has a French President in power been the subject of a biopic, let alone one that reportedly pours scorn on his rise to power, just one year before he seeks re-election. France’s First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, was due at Cannes to help promote this year’s festival opener, the Woody Allen comedy Midnight in Paris, in which she stars, but yesterday cancelled her appearance for “personal and professional” reasons. “I want to protect my private and family life,” she said in a statement. President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is said to be “caricatured” beyond belief in the film, will also be absent.
7. Unlawful Killing
Reportedly banned in its native UK, writer-comedian Keith Allen’s documentary look at the death of Princess Diana is already garnering headlines for its chief supporter: Mohammed Al Fayed. The film examines the theory that a cover-up took place over the princess’ tragic death, in a Paris underpass in 1997 – something Fayed has been vocal about since the horrific accident, which also claimed the life of his son, Dodi. Fayed will be in Cannes to face the press. The film’s timing is expected to deeply divide critics, given the royal wedding of her eldest son, Prince William, just two weeks ago.
8. Martha Marcy May Marlene
It’s already put its star on the map, having premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews. Elisabeth Olsen (yes, that very different sister to those infamous twins) will be at Cannes to promote this dark thriller from first-time filmmaker Sean Durkin, in which she stars as Martha: a girl desperately fleeing a cult and its charismatic leader. When she attempts to recall the reasons behind her disappearance, the line between reality and illusion soon begins to blur.
Celebrated Spanish director Pedro Almodovar brings his unique style back to Cannes with this typically daring feature (pictured, above). Plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) loses his wife in a car accident. Twelve years later, he has at last perfected the perfect facial: a tough ‘shield’ that can withstand anything. All he needs is an accomplice and a human guinea pig, willing to try the thing on for size.
10. A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick’s classic caution on violence – and how society deals with its perpetrators – is brought back to vivid life in this digitally restored print direct from the US. Its star, Malcolm McDowell, will be attending a master class on Friday May 20 at 2pm, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the film’s release, as he reflects on four decades in cinema as well as this, his “beautiful old relation”.
11. The Beloved (Les Bien-Aimes)
Legendary French actress Catherine Deneuve returns to close this year’s festival with this cross-border comedy from director Christophe Honore. Set in Paris, Prague and London, the film features a rare acting appearance from filmmaker Milos Forman. Last year’s closing night film, The Tree, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, drew a seven-minute standing ovation from industry types as the fest wrapped.
The 64th Cannes Film Festival runs until May 22.