The 10 Most Exciting Movies At Cannes 2014

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Between May 14 and 25, the Cannes International Film Festival will play host to some of the most gifted and glamorous faces in movieland. Empire, whose face likes to think it combines both qualities into one geeky visage, will be there covering every gala, screening and soirée worth physically breaking into. But which movies will hoover up the most attention in the Midi? Our very own Damo-on-the-spot, Damon Wise, has picked his ten to keep an eye out for.

Category: In Competition
Director: David Cronenberg

Cronenberg has been a frequent visitor to the Croisette since Crash made the competition in 1996. Maps To The Stars – written by Bruce Wagner, screenwriter and author of the eccentric Oliver Stone-producer mini-series Wild Palms – promises to be the kind of fractured genre riff that has characterised the director's recent work (notably A History Of Violence), dealing with a dysfunctional Hollywood family. Evan Bird, playing a troubled former child star, heads up an impressive cast that includes Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska and Robert Pattinson.

The Search

Category: In Competition
Director: Michel Hazanavicius

It's been a quick turnaround for this war drama, which Bérénice Bejo had yet to start shooting when we caught up with her in Cannes last year. It's also a change of pace for her director husband after a triple whammy of three broad comedies (most notably The Artist). Updating Fred Zinnemann's 1948 post-WW2 film of the same name to contemporary Chechnya, The Search could bring early awards buzz for Bejo as an aid worker who befriends a boy struck dumb by the horrors of war.

Category: In Competition
Director: Tommy Lee Jones

It's been a while since Mr Congeniality took his debut, Three Burials, to Cannes in 2005, but the fact it has been ushered straight into the competition suggests this is a worthy successor. A story once eyed by Paul Newman, The Homesman is based on the 1988 novel by Glendon Swarthout. He also wrote The Shootist, filmed as John Wayne's final role. Rather like Quentin Tarantino's ongoing Hateful Eight project, it's a Western-slash-road movie, which finds a claim jumper and a pioneer woman teaming up to escort three insane women from Nebraska to Iowa.

Category: In Competition
Director: Bennett Miller

Bennett Miller's follow up to Moneyball was expected on the festival circuit last year, so its delayed arrival in Cannes suggests careful thought and a deliberate strategy. Although it stars Steve Carell and Channing Tatum, this isn't a bit of comic relief to balance a pretty heavy competition but a serious drama that tackles the true story of John du Pont (Carell), a paranoid schizophrenic who shot and killed Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) in 1996. Produced by Megan Ellison, this takes the US slot that many hoped would be earmarked for Paul Thomas Anderson's Inherent Vice, which, sadly, wasn't ready.

Category: Out of Competition
Director: Zhang Yimou

Zhang's terrific pair of back-to-back wuxias – Hero and House Of Flying Daggers – ten years ago perhaps misrepresented the rest of his output. His latest, screening out of competition, is based on a novel by Geling Yan, whose work inspired the director's last film, The Flowers Of War with Christian Bale. Perhaps going back to his roots, this story of a man who is forced into marriage and flees to the US reunites him with Gong Li, star of his acclaimed 1987 debut Red Sorghum.

Eleanor Rigby

Category: Un Certain Regard
Director: Ned Benson

An oddity, this one, and not just because it seems to have taken a slot expected to be taken by Sundance hit Whiplash. Benson's film, then called The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby, screened in two versions when it premiered in Toronto last year – one from the male character's perspective, the other from the girl's. Slimmed in length and title, it stars James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain as a couple whose relationship has hit the skids. From the success of Blue Valentine there, we know how much Cannes audiences like a good break-up story.

Ryan Gosling's Lost River

Category: Un Certain Regard
Director: Ryan Gosling

The star of Drive's directing debut was always expected to turn up in the selection. The only surprise is that it arrives under a new and much boring title than How To Catch A Monster, the one it was shot under. Nothing is known about it other than it is a self-penned neo-noir fantasy about a single mother (Christina Hendricks) and her son. But with an eclectic cast including Matt Smith, Eva Mendes and Barbara Steele (but not Gosling himself), it could be a Night Of the Hunter-style cult classic in the making.

Snow In Paradise

C*ategory: Un Certain Regard Director*: Andrew Hulme

While everyone was banging on about the Ken Loach / Mike Leigh face-off in the main competition, this first feature by Brit Andrew Hulme slipped into Un Certain Regard under the radar. If Hulme's editing experience is anything to go by – two films, Control and The American, for Anton Corbijn, plus Bart Layton's terrific doc The Imposter – this should be very impressive. It's a gritty east London-set true crime story that has been compared (admittedly by its backers) to Jacques Audiard's recent Cannes hit A Prophet.

Category: Midnight Screening
Director: David Michôd

David Michôd, who made a big splash with his debut, Animal Kingdom, has been tucked away in the Midnight Screening strand, which suggests that his latest film, ostensibly another crime drama, might not quite be what it seems. Though you wouldn't know it from the trailer, The Rover is actually sci-fi variant set in a post-apocalyptic world, this time starring Guy Pearce as the title character, who teams up with Robert Pattinson to track down the gang that stole from him.

The Salvation

Category: Midnight Screening
Director: Kristian Levring

Nobody does skewed genre quite like the Danes, and this American-set Western from man-mountain Kristian Levring should be one of the highlights of the selection. It comes with more echoes of The Hunt than any John Wayne vehicle, since it stars that film's Mads Mikkelsen, aka TV's Hannibal, and concerns a man who incurs the wrath of a local gang when he settles a score with the man who killed his family. Eva Green and Eric Cantona round out a very interesting cast...