The Top 5 Films To Be Excited About at Cannes

Last week the official selection for the 64th Cannes Film Festival was announced.  49 films will be screened this year across all four categories: Competition, Un Certain Regard, Out of Competition, and Special Screenings.  But out of all that, which of these films should you be most excited to see?

Here is my list of the top 5 film to be stoked about:

1. The Tree of Life – dir: Terrence Malick

2. Sleeping Beauty – dir: Julia Leigh

3. Midnight in Paris – dir: Woody Allen

4. Melancholia – dir: Lars von Trier

5. Restless – dir: Gus Van Sant

Please continue after the break for a full breakdown of these films.

2011 seems to be an interesting year for film selections and, more specifically, the films that directors are choosing to do.  This seems to be the year of huge mainstream directors purposely choosing to do more artsy, lower budget indie films.  In addition, the other major trend appears to be young actresses that just got their big break in major summer blockbusters now choosing to show off more serious acting in an artsy role with established directors.

1. The Tree of Life – dir: Terrence Malick

With surprisingly little marketing material to go off besides one mind-blowing theatrical trailer released last year along with an equally creative poster, director Terrence Malick has come out of his hole to astound us with one of his once-every-five-or-ten-years film.  The trailer alone was easily the best cut trailer of the past year, bombarding the audience with amazing visuals and dynamic performances while giving away almost nothing about the actual plot of the film.  This was less of a theatrical trailer than the most elaborate teaser ever put on the big screen.

All that, along with Malick’s track record for taking the time not to rush any project but rather deliver a perfect film (The Thin Red Line, The New World), makes this film the one not to miss at this year’s festival.  Even more, this film doesn’t actually appear to be one of his usual epics, but rather a step into the existential with the possibility of easily having the best cinematography  in the festival, if not the year.

2. Sleeping Beauty – dir: Julia Leigh

Now here’s an interesting one.  Described as a “hauntingly erotic fairy-tail”, there really isn’t any other way to describe the anticipation for this film as intriguing.  Lead by Emily Browning, most recently from Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch (and yes, also from Lemony Snicket at a much earlier age), this film could easily be the best career move for her to establish herself as a serious actress.  While ultimately this film probably won’t be for everyone since the even the trailer touches on some fetish material, there is no doubt that this film will have an incredible visual atheistic and dynamic story line.

3. Midnight in Paris – dir: Woody Allen

Woody Allen seems to have a film at Cannes almost every year, but it is only every other film that is actually good.  And since Vicky Christina Barcelona was a couple years ago now and his film last year was never heard of again, this one is bound to be a hit.

Right off the bat, this film appears to be one of the most beautifully shot films of his career.  Usually (and rightfully so) his concentration on the script and performances out-weights his film’s cinematography and editing.  His choice to finally move beyond New York and into Europe is giving his films a new life, and a new look.

On this top of this bill are Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, who coincidently are both actors that if left to their own devices with bad scripts can easily come dangerously close to mediocre, have proven that under the right direction they can be straight-up amazing.  I’m sure with Woody Allen dialogue and direction, this will be a great project for both of them.  And this isn’t even mentioning the rest of this all-star cast, including Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard, and Adrien Brody.

Midnight in Paris will be opening this year’s festival, taking the classic Woody Allen film of the 70s and mixing it with today’s young stars.

4. Melancholia – dir: Lars von Trier

What do Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland have in common?  Besides being the two actors least expected to do an odd indie film at this point in their careers, they are both in the next film by Scandanavian director Lars Von Trier, along with Charlotte Gainsbourg of Michel Gondry’s The Science of Sleep.

Sure, the subject matter of this film may be a little odd for a lot of people, but the one guarantee going in is that it promises to be unique.  You only have to look at director Lars von Trier’s most famous piece of work Dogville, where he chose to shoot the entire film on a blank stage with only tape marks on the ground where roads, doors, and building should be, to see the kind of vision he brings to his films

This diverse cast and unique director will surely bring spectacular visuals to a film that will linger with you long after the credits have rolled.

5. Restless – dir: Gus Van Sant

While this film certainly seems intriguing on its own, by far the biggest draw has to be it’s outstanding director Gus Van Sant.  With a film reel including Good Will Hunting and most recently Milk, there is no way that this film could disappoint.

And, for another young actress trying her hand at a real role, we have Mia Wasikowska, who last year starred in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland as well as appeared in the Oscar nominated The Kids are Alright.  This film will surely be her chance to prove her talent that was unfortunately lost in the horrible screenplay for the Alice in Wonderland remake.

This film is probably the most “mainstream hollywood indie” of this list, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be full of heart and expertly executed.  For some reason, this trailer gives me a Lost in Translation vibe, but that is most likely due to the similar color-saturation look of the film, and the fact that is is one of the higher budget independent films of the year.

Other noteworthy films:

Ishimei (hari-Kari: Death of a Samurai) – dir: Takashi Mikke

If you haven’t seen Mikke’s Ichi the Killer, and don’t mind sitting through one of the the most shocking, gory films ever made, then this is a must rent, if for nothing else than groundbreaking film history.  And with the release last year of his remake of 13 Assassins (to be released in the US later this year), Mikke has established himself as one of the most legendary filmmakers in Japanese cinema.  For that reason alone, this remake of another classic Japanese film is definitely one to catch if your at the festival.

The Beaver – dir: Jodie Foster

Already screened to an enthusiastic audience at South-by-Southwest, one might be pleasantly surprised by this unlikely film.  If you were just to hear a pitch of this film, or even watch the trailer for the first time, you might think this film was a joke.  Yes, it is Mel Gibson talking in his Australian accent through a beaver puppet, but this directorial effort from Jodie Foster actually has more heart than ever expected.

The Cannes festival kicks off this year on May 11th and continues for 11 days.  For a complete list of films selected to screen, visit the festival’s official site.

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