12 Riveting 2014 Cannes Film Festival Titles to Watch

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The most exciting time of the year for cinephiles has arrived. The 2014 Cannes Film Festival slate was announced earlier this week. This year’s lineup will surely be a feast for the eyes with auteurs new and old returning to the French Riviera red carpet. Opening the fest will be Olivier Dahan’s much-talked about Grace Kelly biopic, Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as the movie star turned princess — but there are a number of titles that have merely been hinted at leading up to the announcement. We took a look at 12 of the Cannes features to watch in the coming weeks as trailers and stills continue to roll out in anticipation of the May 14 festival — all absolute must-sees when they arrive in a theater near you.

Adieu au langage (Goodbye To Language), Jean-Luc Godard

It’s been four years since the enfant terrible’s opaque feature Film socialisme, but judging by the (NSFW) previews for his new work, Goodbye To Language, a sense of clarity about Godard’s late-life output isn’t necessarily forthcoming. Godard’s 39th picture was shot in 3D — but this isn’t his first foray into the medium. The omnibus feature 3X3D, which featured works from the French auteur, Peter Greenaway, and Edgar Pêra, explored the evolution of 3D throughout cinema and its effects on the viewer’s sense of perception. Here is the enigmatic synopsis for Goodbye to Language (featuring a “talking” dog):

The idea is simple: A married woman and a single man meet. They love, they argue, fists fly. A dog strays between town and country. The seasons pass. The man and woman meet again. The dog finds itself between them. The other is in one, the one is in the other and they are three. The former husband shatters everything. A second film begins: the same as the first, and yet not. From the human race we pass to metaphor. This ends in barking and a baby’s cries. In the meantime, we will have seen people talking of the demise of the dollar, of truth in mathematics and of the death of a robin.

The Captive , Atom Egoyan

In his earlier works acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan examined powerful themes of loss, tragedy, and isolation. He returns to that dark, meditative space with thriller The Captive, starring Ryan Reynolds as a man who desperately tries to track down his kidnapped daughter. As Egoyan’s previous films have demonstrated, such as The Sweet Hereafter, the filmmaker is adept at weaving together the complex threads of a community tapestry of fear, guilt, and pain in quietly devastating ways.

Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night), Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

You’ll have to brush up on your French for this trailer, but we’re willing to do whatever it takes to catch a peek at the latest Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne film. The sibling directors feature Marion Cotillard in the heartbreaking slice of life story about a woman who has one weekend to convince her colleagues to fork over their bonus checks so she can keep her job. The film made our list of foreign titles to watch this year. Cotillard spoke highly of her experience working with the art house auteurs in an interview with Variety :

We’ve just finished shooting. What I can say is that when I began working in the U.S., I started to think that all those amazing, greatest directors I never thought I could work with, suddenly … I realized it was not unreachable anymore. But there were two people for me who were unreachable: Bruno Dumont and the Dardennes Brothers. When my agent told me they wanted me to meet with them, I genuinely thought it was a joke. Then I thought it would be a totally different movie than what they do usually, because they do stories in their hometown.

With all due respect for all the directors I worked with, this experience was the greatest of my life as an actress, so I hope it’ll be good. They push the actors so far in the detail. That’s the relationship that I’d always expected with directors. That was idyllic.

Maps To The Stars , David Cronenberg

It took more than five years for us to finally set eyes on David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars — a twisted Hollywood fairy tale (and potentially fascinating sister film to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive) that takes the guise of a darkly absurdist family drama. Mia Wasikowska plays another delightfully creepy girl (similar to the emotionally stunted teen in Stoker) who makes an unpleasant return to her dysfunctional Tinseltown family (Julianne Moore, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson also starring). Commenting on the industry’s relationship with Western culture, Cronenberg’s satirical side promises unhinged sex and violence if this trailer is to be believed — and that’s fine by us. “Maps to the Stars is very extreme. It’s not obviously a very big commercial movie, and even as an independent film it’s difficult,” the filmmaker told the Playlist in 2012. “Maps to the Stars is completely different [from Cosmopolis], but it’s very acerbic and satirical . . . . ”

Le meraviglie , Alice Rohrwacher

We just ranked Alice Rohrwacher’s luminous debut feature Corpo celeste amongst the top teen angst films you might have missed, and the director returns to Cannes with Le meraviglie as one of only two female directors in the main competition category (out of 18 films). Monica Bellucci stars in the drama that centers on four beekeeping sisters and their isolated, rural world:

Le meraviglie tells a small but cruel love story between a father and daughter, their torments, jealousy and shyness. They give abundantly, and betray each other painfully. It tells of the ties that bind one family together, and a land undergoing a profound transformation.

The film also boasts one of our favorite posters at Cannes this year.

Mommy , Xavier Dolan

Quebecer wunderkind Xavier Dolan’s fifth feature debuts in the competition category at Cannes. The intriguing story about a widowed single mother who is raising her son alone stars actresses Anne Dorval and Suzanne Clément from Dolan’s 2009 Prix Regards Jeune, C.I.C.A.E., and SACD Prize Cannes winner, I Killed My Mother. The weary mother finds hope through a mysterious neighbor, another woman, who asserts her place in the family’s household.

Mr. Turner , Mike Leigh

Mike Leigh’s highly anticipated biopic about British Romantic landscape painter J. M. W. Turner will finally make its debut at Cannes. Here’s what Leigh had to say about his examination of Turner’s inner life and the watercolorist’s artistic compulsion (more on that in the above video):

I want to explore the man, his working life, his relationships and how he lived. But what fascinates me most is the drama that lies in the tension between this driven eccentric and the epic, timeless world he evoked in his masterpieces. I also see rich tragic-comic potential in his often turbulent relationship with the English Art Establishment, especially in his later years, when his increasingly radical work was misunderstood and derided.

Incompresa , Asia Argento

I Am Love and The Night Porter screenwriter Barbara Alberti has teamed up with Asia Argento (daughter of Italian horror legend Dario Argento) for the actress turned filmmaker’s first feature since 2004’s The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (based on JT LeRoy’s crafty novel of the same name). Plot details on Incompresa (Misunderstood) are scarce, but we know it stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Gabriel Garko. Anyone following the filmmaker on Twitter has watched its development through various videos and photos — perhaps the most intimate way to keep up with Argento’s career trajectory. She recently released a debut album, Total Entropy, and has been focused on short film projects, but her fans are happy to see her return to the big screen. She’s also one of the only female directors celebrated in this year’s slate (in the Un Certain Regard category, which is typically more gender diverse).

Lost River , Ryan Gosling

Ryan Gosling is stepping behind the camera for the first time to make his directorial debut with Lost River — a very Lynchian picture that takes place in a bizarre dreamscape. Drive co-star Christina Hendricks plays a single mom named Billy who is swept into the nightmarish world of a vanishing city. Her son Bones (Iain De Caestecker) discovers a secret road that leads to an underwater town where the family must travel to if they are to survive. Gosling cast English scream queen and Italian horror icon Barbara Steele in the film — whose otherworldly looks will be a haunting addition to the picture — alongside Ben Mendohlson, Matt Smith, and Eva Mendes. The Un Certain Regard category is the wilder, younger sibling of the competition category, typically featuring more experimental works — making it the perfect place for the first-time filmmaker to screen his surreal story.

The Salt Of The Earth , Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

We expected to see Wim Wenders 3D drama Every Thing Will Be Fine in competition at Cannes. That’s the James Franco-starring tale about a troubled writer who struggles to come to grips with a fatal accident in which he caused the death of a child (co-starring Rachel McAdams and Charlotte Gainsbourg) — but the film will continue shooting later this year. Instead, Wenders channels his admiration for the work of Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado in Salt of the Earth . The decorated photographer is known for his documentary-style images of workers and communities in developing nations. Son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado co-directs the feature, examining the life and work of a father who was often far away from home.

Clouds of Sils Maria, Olivier Assayas

Kristen Stewart’s new non-Twilight role finds her co-starring with Juliette Binoche in Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria. She plays the assistant of Binoche’s Maria, an aging actress. When a younger starlet (Chloë Grace Moretz) joins Maria for a revival of the theater production that made her famous, the young woman becomes an unsettling reflection of Maria’s past. Assayas, an ardent cinephile, continues the metafictional tone of previous works — this time centered on the dramas of the stage. “I wanted to do a sort of portrait of an actress in her 40s, and I thought it would be more interesting to set it in the theater, because it gets rid of the material constraints of cinema,” the director explained. “It’s about that very fine line between reality and imagination — actors are always somewhere in between.”

The Rover , David Michôd

We pity the fool who steals Guy Pearce’s car, because we’ve seen what atrocities he’s willing to commit in The Proposition (against his own brother). Animal Kingdom filmmaker David Michôd, who directed Pearce in his ambitious and operatic tale of a crumbling Australian crime family, has cast the actor in his post-apocalyptic thriller as a loner who will stop at nothing to recover his car from a band of thugs. He’s left to contend with Robert Pattinson’s character — a man from the same gang of thieves who is left behind. The catastrophic landscape provides a fine backdrop for Michôd’s brand of bleak, character-driven drama. We’ll also have two films this year (see: Maps to the Stars) to compare Pattinson’s post-Twilight performances against (Bel Ami and Cosmopolis).