"All Is Lost" (J.C. Chandor)
Though it will premiere on HBO while the festival is still in full swing, itâs still hard not to be excited by the prospect of this long-planned Liberace biopic from retiring renaissance man Soderbergh, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon" (two actors Soderbergh has made excellent use of in the past) surrounded by Rob Lowe, Dan Aykroyd and Debbie Reynolds. Bring on the sequins!
"Grand Central" (Rebecca Zlotowski)
With its raw, feral performance by Lea Seydoux as a wayward Jewish teen drawn into the subculture of illegal street motorcycle racing, Zlotowskiâs 2010 Belle Epine ranks among the most assured debut features of recent years. Seydoux is back for Zlotowskiâs followup, alongside "A Prophet" star Tahar Rahim and Dardenne brothersâ muse Olivier Gourmet. Details about the plot are scarce, except that it is a love story set against the world of the French nuclear power industry. No matter; that Zlotowski is at the helm is all you really need to know.
"The Immigrant" (James Gray)
Previously graced with the more allusive title Low Life, this period drama set among the immigrant communities of New Yorkâs Lower East Side in the 1920s marks Grayâs fourth competition berth. All the more remarkable, "The Immigrant" is only Grayâs fifth feature, and yet he remains more of a household name in France than at home, where his highest-grossing film, the 2007 We Own the Night, topped out at $28 million. A stellar cast â Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Renner and Marion Cotillard â plus Grayâs always atmospheric direction could make this the dark horse of Cannesâ U.S. slate.
"Norte, the End of History" (Lav Diaz)
One of the heartening things about Cannes is its inclusion of films by some of the worldâs best-known filmmakers alongside those who are relatively unknown even in rarefied critical and programming circles. Case in point: The Philippinesâ Lav Diaz, whose credits include the panoramic, five-hour New Jersey crime drama "Batang West Side" (2001) and the nine-hour "Evolution of a Filipino Family" (2004), a film I once spent an entire day watching at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley, emerging high on Diazâs rapturous black-and-white images and his profound, unpatronizing concern for his people and their place in the world. At merely four hours, Diazâs latest â his overdue Cannes debut â seems practically a short, even as the title intones another epic.
"Seduced and Abandoned" (James Toback)
This hybrid fact/fiction whatsit from the always provocative director was shot on location during Cannes 2012, with Toback and co-star Alec Baldwin playing thinly fictionalized versions of themselves, on the Croisette to seek financing for a film project. Along the way, they turn their camera â and their questions about everything from filmmaking to fear of dying â on a whoâs who of actors, directors and film financiers, including Bernardo Bertolucci, Ryan Gosling, Martin Scorsese, and yes, even this humble critic â¦ provided I havenât ended up on the cutting room floor.
"The Selfish Giant" (Clio Barnard)
Barnardâs thrilling "The Arbor" was the revelation of the 2010 Tribeca Film Festival, using a most unconventional style â actors lip-synching to pre-recorded documentary interviews â to tell the life story of the troubled British playwright Andrea Dunbar. For The Selfish Giant, a self-described contemporary fable loosely based on an Oscar Wilde story, Barnard tells the tale of two outcast teenage boys and their relationship with a charismatic scrap merchant. Expect the unexpected.
"Tip Top" (Serge Bozon)
Bozonâs sophomore feature, La France, was one of the major discoveries of the 2007 Directorsâ Fortnight. Adapted from a novel by British pulp author Bill James, Bozonâs latest stars the indefatigable Isabelle Huppert and Sandrine Kiberlain as rival police inspectors in a film the director has said is secretly inspired by Robert Aldrichâs marvelous female wrestling romp, "All the Marbles." He had me at Huppert.
"A Touch of Sin" (Jia Zhangke)