April 22, 2014 6:53 pm

Cannes Film Festival 2014 – preview

The 67th edition promises a heady blend of familiar faces and hopeful first-timers
Nicole Kidman during the filming of 'Grace of Monaco'

Nicole Kidman during the filming of 'Grace of Monaco'

The impossibly suave Marcello Mastroianni peering roguishly over his Prada sunglasses is the image that will greet visitors to the 67th Cannes Film Festival when it opens its many doors on May 14. And mimicking him on the Croisette below will be the usual gaggle of film industry players and hangers-on wheeling, dealing, boozing and schmoozing at the Côte D’Azur’s annual feast of film.

As often in past years, the 18-strong main competition is full of familiar faces vying for the coveted Palme d’Or. Last year’s joint winner (for Blue is the Warmest Colour) Léa Seydoux returns in Saint Laurent, the second film in two years about the French designer, with Gaspard Ulliel taking the title role this time. Those Cannes darlings, Belgium’s Dardenne brothers, who came close to becoming the first filmmakers to bag a third Palme d’Or last year, will try again with the Marion Cotillard-starring Two Days, One Night.

Age is clearly not a factor for selection: French-Canadian wunderkind Xavier Dolan, who only recently turned 25, presents his fifth feature, Mommy, while that 83-year-old enfant terrible Jean-Luc Godard chalks up his 39th with Goodbye to Language, shot in 3D.

Canada makes a strong showing this year. Going up against Dolan, David Cronenberg has teamed up again with Robert Pattinson for the Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars, which also stars Julianne Moore and Mia Wasikowska, while another Canuck, Atom Egoyan, makes his umpteenth appearance in the competition with the Ryan Reynolds-starring thriller The Captive.

Cannes’ two favourite Brits, Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, have both fashioned period pieces. Leigh, a previous Best Director winner, has given JMW Turner the biopic treatment, with Timothy Spall in the title role, while Ken Loach, who triumphed in 2006 with The Wind that Shakes the Barley, returns to Cannes (and an Irish setting) with purportedly his last film, Jimmy’s Hall.

Other returning alumni include Michel Hazanavicius, still aglow after the success of The Artist. His Chechnya-set drama The Search again stars his wife Bérénice Bejo, this time opposite Annette Bening. And Tommy Lee Jones looks to revive the flagging Western genre once more with The Homesman, in which he also stars alongside Hilary Swank. And Turkish director and festival perennial Nuri Bilge Ceylan brings his latest, the 196-minute Winter Sleep.

But there are debutants too. Auteur on the rise Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) helms the truth-based Foxcatcher. Channing Tatum stars as American Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz, whose brother and fellow Olympian Dave (Mark Ruffalo) was murdered. And perhaps the least known contender is Argentine director Damián Szifrón who presents the comedy Wild Tales, starring Ricardo Darín.

Olivier Assayas graduates to the main competition with Clouds of Sils Maria, with the unlikely pairing of Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, as does Alice Rohrwacher with the Monica Bellucci-starring La meraviglie. And Mauritanian-born director Abderrahmane Sissako, whose Waiting for Happiness was a festival favourite in 2002, moves up to the big league with Timbuktu.

Cannes is no stranger to political posturing, and the best bet this year may be the sole Russian entry, Leviathan, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev (The Return), which the producer says “deals with some of the most important social issues of contemporary Russia while never becoming an artist’s sermon or a public statement”. Could it be a case of protesting too much?

Away from the main competition, the hottest ticket in the Un Certain Regard strand is likely to be Ryan Gosling’s directorial debut Lost River, a fantasy-tinged affair set in Detroit and boasting the talents of Christina Hendricks, Matt Smith, Saoirse Ronan and Eva Mendes. In the same capacious category, first-time filmmaker Ned Benson has crafted the sprawling two-parter Eleanor Rigby, which stars Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy, recovering nymphomaniac Charlotte Gainsbourg appears in Asia Argento’s Misunderstood, and Jessica Hausner dramatises the life of German writer Heinrich von Kleist in Mad Love. And Wim Wenders has teamed up with Juliano Ribeiro Salgado for The Salt of the Earth.

Star wattage will be boosted by the presence (out of competition) of local tale Grace of Monaco from Olivier Dahan (La vie en rose), with Nicole Kidman taking on the role of the beautiful and tragic heroine. Some creative casting has Tim Roth as an unlikely Prince Rainier, Paz Vega as Maria Callas and Robert Lindsay as Aristotle Onassis.

After last year’s rain-sodden edition, organisers will be hoping for a more sun-kissed affair, but if the rains return they can also pass it off as a tribute to The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which walked off with the top prize 50 years ago.

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