The list is by no means definitive, and is of course influenced most heavily by Western films (and English languages ones even more heavily), which I hope is forgiveable by the fact that they are most likely to hit our screens.
So here they are in no particular order:
10. The Tree
Director: Julie Bertuccelli
Starring: Marton Csokas, Morgana Davies, Charlotte Gainsbourg
Synopsis: After the sudden loss of her father, 8-year-old Simone shares a secret with her mother Dawn: her father whispers to her through the leaves of the magnificient tree by their house. Simone is convinced that he’s come back to protect her family. Soon, Simone’s three brothers and Dawn also take comfort in the reassuring tree. But the new bond between mother and daughter is threatened when Dawn starts dating George. Simone moves into the treehouse and refuses to come down. With branches infiltrating the house and roots destroying the foundations, the tree seems to be siding with Simone. Dawn refuses to let the tree take control of her family.
Why So Special? I love the high-concept/humanist mix of the plot, and the idea of a film that balances the themes of love and death with such an intriguing motif of an effectively possessed tree. This is also further opportunity for Charlotte Gainsbrough to furrow her brow and swim through the adversities of life and the excruciating burden of living, which is undoubtedly the best place for her to be in terms of acting. My excitement comes from the fact that it is adapted from the novel ‘Our Father Who Art in the Tree’ by Judy Pascoe, which I was recommended by a close friend who had read it wile grieving the loss of her own father. It is a profoudly touching book, and if the film achieves the same, it will be wonderful.
9. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Naomi Watts, Anthony Hopkins, Freida Pinto.
Synopsis: A little romance, some sex, some treachery and apart from that, a few laughs. The lives of a group of people whose passions, ambitions and anxieties force them all into assorted troubles that run the gamut from ludicrous to dangerous.
Why So Special? This one speaks for itself. It’s Woody Allen after all, and he remains one of the bet auteurs in modern film-making: okay, so he is always heavily invested in the minutiae of love and life, and with replaying the same themes over and over in slightly different forms, but his releases still register on my excitement radar. And typically of an Allen, the cast is irresistible.
8. Another Year
Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton.
Synopsis: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Family and friendship.
Love and warmth. Joy and sadness. Hope and despair.
Companionship. Loneliness. A birth. A death. Time passes…
Why So Special? It’s all about Mike Leigh. His improvisation method should be astounding (and not viewed as a gimmick as I have unfortunately read occasionally) and it creates relationships among actors on screen that traditional methods seem more pressed to recreate. There is an inevitably impenetrable level of secrecy around the plot (hence the poetic, but totally unhelpful synopsis above), but the movie will no doubt be a painfully inticate portrait of how people live and love together in adversity.
7. Fair Game
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Sean Penn, Naomi Watts.
Synopsis: As a covert officer in the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division, Valerie leads an investigation into the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Valerie’s husband, diplomat Joe Wilson, is drawn into the investigation to substantiate an alleged sale of enriched uranium from Niger. But when the administration ignores his findings and uses the issue to support the call to war, Joe writes a New York Times editorial outlining his conclusions and igniting a firestorm of controversy.
Soon after, Valerie’s covert status is reported by a high-profile Washington journalist. With her cover blown and her overseas contacts placed in mortal danger, Valerie is pushed to the breaking point as her career and private life collapse. After years serving the government, Valerie -a mother, a wife and a field officer with an impeccable record-now struggles to save her reputation, her career and her family.
Why So Special? Doug Liman is largely responsible for one of the most copied cinematic styles in recent times thanks to his direction work on The Bourne Identity, and Fair Game will give him the opportunity to show that he is more than just a steady cam and full throttle action, with the plot hinting at a far more claustrophobic element than Bourne’s high octane thrills. Anything with awards heavy-weight Sean Penn attached is bound to be a grand draw (simply by virtue of his attachment), and there is yet to be a definitive commentary on the WMD crisis that has got me as excited as this. My admiration for Liman extends further thanks to his involvement in the excellent 30ninjas.com.
6. Robin Hood
Director: Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, Oscar Isaacs, Mark Strong.
Synopsis: Robin Hood chronicles the life of an expert archer, previously interested only in self-preservation, from his service in King Richard I’s army against the French. Upon Richard’s death, Robin travels to Nottingham, a town suffering from the corruption of a despotic sheriff and crippling taxation, where he falls for the spirited widow Lady Marion, a woman skeptical of the identity and motivations of this crusader from the forest. Hoping to earn the hand of Maid Marion and salvage the village, Robin assembles a gang whose lethal mercenary skills are matched only by its appetite for life.
With their country weakened from decades of war, embattled from the ineffective rule of the new king and vulnerable to insurgencies from within and threats from afar, Robin and his men heed a call to ever greater adventure. This unlikeliest of heroes and his allies set off to protect their country from slipping into bloody civil war and return glory to England once more.
Why So Special? You dont really need me to spell this one out either. Not only is it the return of Ridley Scott, but its also the reteaming of the Geordie auteur and Russell Crowe (who seems to do his best work for Scott). The most intriguing promise of the pre-release fanfare is that Robin Hood will offer a new aspect of the familiar legend, which could work either way in the wake of retellings like the awful King Arthur of recent years. If I were a betting man, Id suggest that Robin Hood will go down well. And that open ending will be further furnished by a coming sequel on the back of a good box office.
5. Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Shia LaBeouf, Carey Mulligan.
Synopsis: Emerging from a lengthy prison stint, the financial icon Gordon Gekko finds himself on the outside of a world he once dominated. He now has to play catch-up and redefine himself in a different era. Gekko has to become relevant again. But a young, idealistic investment banker, Jacob Moore, learns the hard way that Gekko is still a master manipulator – and if there’s one place where you can redefine yourself, one place where your relevance is a deal away, it’s Wall Street.
Why So Special? Two fold. The biggest draw is the return of one of the most compelling and brilliant characters to ever command movie-lovers’ attentions: the one and only Gordon Gekko. The second is the opportunity for Oliver Stone to prove that he can still spin a good, gripping yarn that doesnt rely too much on self-indulgence or overt political commentary (though there will no doubt be some barbed commentary relating to the financial situation of the last few years). Tent-pole releases like this are what the Special Screenings at Cannes were made for, and the pre-festival buzz about Money Never Sleeps is tangible.
Director: Takeshi Kitano
Starring: Beat Takeshi, Ryo Kase, Jun Kinimura, Tomokazu Miura, Kippei Shiina
Synopsis: In a ruthless battle for power, several yakuza clans vie for the favor of their head family in the Japanese underworld. The rival bosses seek to rise through the ranks by scheming and making allegiances sworn over saké. Long-time yakuza Otomo has seen his kind go from elaborate body tattoos and severed fingertips to becoming important players on the stock market. Theirs is a never-ending struggle to end up on top, or at least survive, in a corrupt world where there are no heroes but constant betrayal and vengeance…
Why So Special? Following a brief, though wholly unwelcome (in my opinion) move into more left-field move making, Outrage represents Takeshi Kitano’s return to the gangster genre that made his name. The trailer looks excellent, even in the unsubtitled form I viewed, and the central performance by Beat Takeshi (Kitano by another name) looks incredibly brooding. Potentially, this could well challenge Sonatine as Kitano’s definitive on-genre offering.
Director: Gregg Araki
Starring: Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple, Chris Zylka.
Synopsis: Smith’s everyday life in the dorms – hanging out with his arty, sarcastic best friend Stella, hooking up with a beautiful free spirit named London, lusting for his gorgeous but dim surfer roommate Thor – all gets turned upside-down after one fateful, terrifying night. Tripping on some hallucinogenic cookies he ate at a party, Smith is convinced he’s witnessed the gruesome murder of an enigmatic Red Haired Girl who has been haunting his dreams. What he discovers as he tries to find out the truth leads him deeper and deeper into a mystery that will forever change not only the course of his young life but the destiny of the entire world.
Why So Special? I approach every new Gregg Araki project with the positive mind-set that this will be the moment that the indie-darling director hits it big. The truth is that erratic form, and sporadic output have always stood against Araki, even despite the critical success of Joseph Gordon-Levitt led Mysterious Skin, but one thing is always certain: when the plot involves drugs, sexual relationships and slightlyoff-beat characters, Araki is at his very best. The midnight screening slot is also on of my favourite aspects of the festival, and will reinforce (whether positively or negatively) the director’s embrace of his liminality.
2. Tamara Drewe
Director: Stephen Frears
Starring: Gemma Arterton, Dominic Cooper, Roger Allam, Tamsin Greig.
Synopsis: This is the contemporary tale of a Londoner returning home to the country – and to her past. Tamara, once a shy, ugly teenager, has reinvented herself as a smouldering femme fatale. When she returns to her old village to sell her late mother’s house, she is barely recognisable to the locals – or to her old flame Andy – and she kick-starts a trail of envy, lust, scandal and gossip wherever she goes. But has she really forgotten who she is – and who she loved?
Tamara is the ultimate modern girl; but for all her independence, ambition and sex appeal it’s actually the vulnerable, shy fish-out-of-water underneath that make her story funny, moving and very human.
Why So Special? Gemma Arterton deserves to be a proper leading lady. She has spent the last year or so proving her dexterity and her bankability in huge summer blockbusters Prince of Persia and Clash of the Titans (though in diminished roles in both) and the excellent looking The Disappearace of Alice Creed and after Tamara Drewe, with the aid of Stephen Frears guiding influence, she should spend the next choosing the right leading roles to cement her position as a leading light in Britains acting industry. Hopefully, this will be the first step.
Director: Hideo Nakata
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Matthew Beard, Daniel Kaluuya, Hannah Murray, Imogen Poots.
Synopsis: When five teenagers meet online, innocent friendships are forged. But soon one dysfunctional member of the group, increasingly drawn to the darker side of the online world, singles out the most vulnerable in the group and seizes the chance to erase his own past. A chance to manipulate, to make a statement: a chance to lead someone down the path of no return. Set in both online and offline worlds, this smart psychological thriller has a poignant relevancy, exposing the chilling reality of what happens when the lines between reality and cyberspace become blurred…
Why So Special? I believe that in Aaron Johnson, we have an unbelievable talent. He was phenomenal in both Nowhere Boy and Kick-Ass, and this appearance under original Ringu helmer Nakata continues his trend of choosing hip alternatives to the R-Patz school for celebrity. The director deserves a huge no too- after the attrocity of The Ring 2 (US), Nakata will no doubt be looking for the opportunity to redeem himself and recapture the atmospheric heights of Ringu and the original Far Eastern version of Dark Water. Again, the trailer holds a lot of promise, and Im gripped to see how Johnson plays the villain.