10 Cannes 2011 Films We Can’t Wait to See

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The 64th annual Cannes Film Festival kicks off tomorrow. Before you get jealous, let us just clarify that we’re not going either. Luckily, Cannes makes an excellent spectator sport, even from thousands of miles away. Celebrities clamber down the red carpet in their most outrageous get-ups (Europeans seem to enjoy this kind of thing), audiences actually boo the movies that suck, and the industry buzz around the festival is a great predictor of which films we can expect to see in American art-house theaters later this year. Although Cannes is always packed with great global cinema, the class of 2011 looks particularly promising, with entries by everyone from Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier to Pedro Almodóvar and Gus van Sant. Check out our ten most anticipated Cannes films after the jump.

The Tree of Life

Terence Malick has been teasing us since December, when the trailer for The Tree of Life debuted with the theatrical print of Black Swan. Since then, we’ve seen clips and images, but this is basically all we know about it: it’s set in the ’50s, amid a family with three sons. Brad Pitt plays their father, and one of them grows up to be Sean Penn. Big, cosmic, sci-fi things happen. It is all, apparently, very symbolic. Anyway, Malick has never made a boring film, and we have a funny feeling that this will be his biggest statement since Badlands — for better or for worse. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait much longer than Cannes audiences to see it: The Tree of Life opens May 27th in the US.

Melancholia

Are we the only ones who have been thinking of Malick and Lars von Trier’s new films as companion pieces of a sort? Granted, we haven’t seen either of the yet. But, like The Tree of Life, Melancholia seems to inject a healthy dash of genre styling into a big, splashy, apocalyptic auteurist film. Von Trier’s version takes place at a wedding; stars Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, and Alexander Skarsgård; and features the tag line “a beautiful movie about the end of the world.” Sadly, Americans will have to wait until November 4th to see this one.

The Skin I Live In

As we mentioned yesterday, the first teaser trailer for Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In has finally hit the web. This tale of a surgeon (Antonio Banderas) who tries to save his wife’s (Elena Anaya) life by making new skin for her is an adaptation of Thierry Jonquet’s novel Tarantula. And although it doesn’t sound like typical Almodóvar fare, the lush decorations and beautiful cinematography are enough to confirm that his first collaboration with Banderas in over two decades still bears his stamp. The Skin I Live In will see limited US release November 18th.

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai

Takashi Miike may be the world’s fastest filmmaker whose movies are (mostly) worth watching. So it’s no surprise that, while his 13 Assassins is just hitting American theaters now, he’s got another one ready to compete at Cannes. As the title suggests, it’s another samurai movie set in the past, with shots that seem to recall his Japanese countryman and predecessor, Yasujirō Ozu. But there is one decidedly non-retro element: Hara-Kiri is in 3D. Unfortunately, the film has no US release date yet. While many of Miike’s movies eventually screen across the Pacific, not all of them make it. Let’s cross our fingers that some American distributor snaps this one up at Cannes.

We Need to Talk about Kevin

We aren’t terribly familiar with the work of Scottish director Lynne Ramsay, but We Need to Talk about Kevin intrigues us nonetheless. An adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel of the same name, about a mother’s struggle with grief and guilt after her son shoots up his high school, the film’s subject matter is enough to raise our eyebrows. But the real draw is that it stars Tilda Swinton, who would surely hold our attention reading the phone book. Also interesting: John C. Reilly is the movie’s other boldface name. Guess we’re going to find out how he does at playing it straight. We Need to Talk about Kevin doesn’t have a US release date yet, but considering the talent involved and the hot-button issue it addresses, we have no doubt it will pop up eventually.

Restless

Gus van Sant is both a hit-or-miss and a love-him-or-hate-him director. So, his latest effort is bound to be polarizing, especially with a plot that has been summarized (on IMDb) as follows: “The story of a terminally ill teenage girl who falls for a boy who likes to attend funerals and their encounters with the ghost of a Japanese kamikaze pilot from WWII.” Whatever the male equivalent of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is called, van Sant is clearly a fan. And yet, despite our skepticism about the plot, the movie does star two of our favorites: Mia Wasikowska and Jane Adams. Restless makes its US debut September 16th.

Oslo, August 31st

The English-speaking world is still a bit in the dark about the second feature by Norwegian director Joachim Trier (a distant relative of Lars von Trier’s). This is the log line that’s been making the rounds: “One man, one city, 24 hours. Oslo, August 31st is a portrait of contemporary Oslo. A visually striking and quietly shattering drama about a man in deep existential crisis.” Honestly, this sounds a bit like other films we’ve seen about other solitary figures wandering through cities. But we’ve been chomping at the bit to see what’s next for the filmmaker whose first film, Reprise, was one of the strongest debuts in recent memory. And the fact that the “one man” in question is breakout Reprise star Anders Danielsen Lie bodes well. Oslo doesn’t seem to have American distribution yet, but if it’s half the film its predecessor was, it’s sure to get it at Cannes.

The Kid with a Bike

The Dardenne brothers are back, with another entry in their consistently strong back catalog of realist films set in working-class Belgium. The Kid with a Bike concerns an 11-year-old boy who grows attached to a young woman (Cécile de France) when his father abandons him at a hostel. The trailer above is in French, but even those who don’t speak the language should be won over by the relationship it depicts. There’s no US release date yet, but the Dardennes’ films have a pretty decent track record for making it to at least a few screen stateside.

This Must Be the Place

If you know anything about Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be the Place at this point, it probably has something to do with Sean Penn’s portrayal of aging goth-rock star Cheyenne. And it’s true, we’d pay the price of admission to spend some quality time with Penn’s Robert Smith impression. But let’s not forget that there’s a compelling story here, of Cheyenne’s quest to find the Nazi war criminal who tortured and killed his father. Co-stars include Frances McDormand, Judd Hirsch, and Harry Dean Stanton, while David Byrne appears as himself. According to IMDb, This Must Be the Place will see release in the US sometime this year, hopefully before it hits European theaters this fall.

Sleeping Beauty

Fairy tale retellings have been all the rage recently, from Catherine Hardwicke’s supposedly terrible Red Riding Hood to Catherine Breillat’s beautiful and disturbing take on Bluebeard and Sleeping Beauty. But don’t be fooled by the title of Australian novelist Julia Leigh’s debut feature. Her Sleeping Beauty is a college student (Emily Browning) who allows herself to be seduced by the dark fantasy world of high-end prostitution. The trailer doesn’t give away a whole lot of the plot, but this much is clear: The film certainly looks gorgeous. There’s no US release date yet, but we’re confident a movie that uses “erotic” so often in its marketing copy will eventually wash up on our shores.