The 15 Most Exciting Movies At Cannes 2013

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The Cannes Film Festival is one place in the world you’re safe from the latest Scary Movie clusterbomb – outside the Marché, at least – and it kicks off on May 15 with films, fanfare and more glad-handing than a jazz-age version of Fingermouse. Empire will be there, hob-nobbing with cinema’s great and good, lily-padding from yacht to yacht, and generally getting the buzz on the festival’s movies, big and small. Here are 15 we’ll be keeping a particularly beady eye on.

Category: In Competition
Director: Baz Luhrmann

By now you’ll know all about Baz Luhrmann’s breathlessly urgent take on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. What you may not know is that the movie’s arrival in Cannes is a homecoming of sorts for both director and author. Fitzgerald wrote part of his classic novel just up the coast, while Baz – sorry, Le Baz – was given the visiting-hero treatment when he came to Cannes with Strictly Ballroom 21 years ago, and again when Moulin Rouge! opened the show in 2001. Will his cine-lit opus in 3D – after Up, the second ever Cannes opener in three dimensions – make it third time lucky?

Category: In Competition
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

With Ryan Gosling boasting a face like an overcooked ham and his on-screen mum Kristin Scott Thomas playing an criminal overlord (okay, overlady) with a bad dye job, Nicolas Winding Refn’s bruising Thai thriller is set to subvert expectations on the Croisette. Then again, expectations are a sucker’s game when it comes to Refn. Behind the Dane are Pusher, Bronson, Valhalla Rising and Drive, violent and mysterious pieces each, while ahead lies this typically violent, existential revenger. Anyone who’s ever wanted to know what Scott Thomas would look as a hybrid of Lady Macbeth and Donatella Versace doesn’t have long to wait.

Category: In Competition
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Such is their festival cachet, Joel and Ethan Coen would be feted at a film shindig in Pyongyang. Cannes, needless to say, is a cinch for them. The pair will have assembled cineastes eating out of their hands when they debut Inside Llewyn Davis, their latest, on the Med. It’s a period piece set during Greenwich Village’s folk heyday – Oscar Isaac plays the titular folkster – that Cannesgoers will see long before its January 2014 release. On the upside, it gives the rest of us seven months before the folk revival hits.

Category: In Competition
Director: Steven Soderbergh

An HBO telly event in the US this month, Behind The Candelabra’s theatrical release gives Cannes the chance to celebrate Steven Soderbergh’s brilliant and prolific film career with a big-screen farewell. And, as any fule kno, Cannes ain’t a bad place for a celebration. We’re not expecting the indie doyen to arrive in a 200-foot mega-yacht with a diamante mini-sub and gold-plated hot tub, even if it’s what the protagonist of his new film, Liberace, would probably wanted for him.

Category: In Competition
Director: Alexander Payne

All of Alexander Payne’s favourite themes – troubled family relations, knowing wit, road trips, grog-slugging booze-hounds – should come together at the Cannes screening of Nebraska, a project that was simmering away even before Sideways. The story of father and son, Bruce ‘Silent Running’ Dern and Will ‘McGruber’ Forte, who embark on what seems to be a fool’s errand to collect a million dollar lottery prize across the Midwest. It’s home turf for Payne, a native of Omaha, and the cool black-and-white photography should win brownie points with those New Wave loving Frenchies.

Category: In Competition
Directors: François Ozon

François Ozon’s first feature film in, what, a month, leads us to believe that the gifted, prolific and exceedingly well-dressed French director has achieved mastery of time as well as tone and texture. In The House has already had critics swooning and his next, albeit on slightly stickier terrain, is the story of a 17 year-old girl’s sexual discovery through what the Ozon obliquely describes as “four seasons and four songs”. The girl is played by newcomer Marine Vacth, with Charlotte Rampling lending support.

Category: In Competition
Director: Jim Jarmusch

After a week or so of Cannes-dle burning, the assembled press corps takes on a vampiric pallor of its own, so this could be one vampire flick where the audience looks at deathly as the cast. Jim Jarmusch’s vamp-romance boasts new Jarmusch favourite Tilda Swinton, as well as Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt and Tom Hiddleston. The latter plays Adam, an undead troubadour who haunts the musical underground, entwining romantically with, yes, Eve (Swinton), the lover he’s been with for centuries. Then lil sis Wasikowska turns up to ruin things for everyone. Even if the film turns out to be a stinker – and, we stress, there’s no indication it will –Jarmusch’s status as a Cannes favourite is safe in perpetuity.

Category: Un Certain Regard
Directors: Sofia Coppola

Le Ring Bling, as it won’t be called in France, is Sofia Coppola’s latest Cannes treat. It’s a true-life telling of the Hollywood Hills Burglar Bunch, a posse of housebreaking sorts who target LA’s rich and famous and relieve them of their most sparkly belongings. Katie Chang plays the posse’s ringleader Rebecca, a kind of Daniella Ocean figure whose light fingers sparked the Vanity Fair piece that should parlay into a typically smart, measured critique of celebrity culture from Coppola. It’s not competing for the big prize – Coppola was nominated for the Palme with Marie Antoinette in 2006 – but looks very backable in Un Certain Regard.

Category: Un Certain Regard
Directors: Claire Denis

It’s surprising that Claire Denis, one of the most provocative French filmmakers of the past 25 years, hasn’t been embraced a little more warmly by Cannes. Chocolat, her debut, not the Johnny Depp one, scored a Palme d’Or nod, but The Bastards (‘Les Salauds’ in French) represents only her second visit. Alongside Sofia Coppola, Denis is the heavyweight candidate in Un Certain Regard, and her latest The Bastards offers an intriguing departure from post-colonial musings and into a world of revenge and manipulation. Denis’ eleventh feature, The Bastards (‘The Basterds’ at Quentin Tarantino’s house) was shot and cut in nine months.

Category: Un Certain Regard
Director: Ryan Coogler

Unlike those little warnings you see at the foot of stockbroker ads, Sundance’s Grand Jury prize is a pretty decent indicator of future performance. With that in mind, we’d expect this year’s winner, Fruitvale Station, to follow in Winter’s Bone, Precious and Beasts Of The Southern Wild’s footsteps to break out, starting with a Certain Regard slot at Cannes. It’s the debut flick of 26 year-old Californian Ryan Coogler who describes it as a “love letter to San Francisco’s Bay Area”, albeit a love letter that tackles the tough story of an unarmed man shot and killed by an Oakland police officer in 2009.

Category: Out Of Competition
Director: J.C. Chandor

A handy bridge between Sundance and Cannes – not literally: that’d be 9,000 miles long – J.C. Chandor and Robert Redford arrive as a pair to show off their gruelling sea odyssey, All Is Lost. Chandor’s debut drama, the criminally underseen Margin Call, got a big boost from Redford’s high-altitude filmfest and led directly to this dialogue-free one-hander in which Redford’s yachtsman battles ocean swells and the worst the elements can throw at him. If the path from Wall Street to the Croisette wasn’t too well travelled before, it is now.

Category: Directors’ Fortnight
Director: Sebastián Silva

This neat psychological nerve-fryer played well at Sundance and looks set to win more critical kudos for its star Juno Temple in Cannes. Heading to Chile from sunny California, her character gradually unravels on a trip into the wilds in a perfectly modulated performance that stretches from subtle fraying to full-on cray cray. The backdrops, photographed by the great Christopher Doyle, are bound to be spectacular, but all eyeballs in Cannes are likely to be focused firmly on its fast-blossoming lead.

Category: Directors’ Fortnight
Director: Clio Barnard

With The Arbor justly feted as one of the best and most original films of 2010, Clio Barnard’s debut on the Croisette will be as eagerly anticipated by hardened film-lovers as patriotic Brits. A loose adaption of Oscar Wilde’s short story of the same name, the director terms it “a retelling of a fairy tale based on fact” in which two teenage boys encounter a wizened scrapman (Sean Gilder). Expect tragedy, heartache and coming-of-age thrills as the trio fall in together. A little like Mud, then, only with fewer venomous snakes and more hedgehogs.

Category: Directors’ Fortnight
Directors: Alejandro Jodorowsky

If El Topo is anything to go by, the great and mysterious Alejandro Jodorowsky will arrive on the Croisette on horseback with a posse of dwarves in tow, like a seriously avant-garde promotional stunt for The Hobbit. It’s unlikely – the Chilean mind-warper is 84 these days – but count nothing out with Jodorowsky. He’s already claimed that he wants his new film, a surrealist take on his own 2001 memoirs set in Chile, loses money. This isn’t his first trip to the South of France – they've only just finished clearing the debris after the riot at Holy Mountain's Cannes premiere – but with this and Frank Pavich’s doc Jodorowsky's Dune, he’ll be the talk of the town.

Category: Directors’ Fortnight
Directors: Ari Folman

Ari Folman’s majestic Waltz With Bashir made waves at Cannes in 2008 and, judging by the early word, his second English-language film will repeat the trick. It mixes animation and live action to bring Stanislaw Lem’s novel The Futurological Congress to life, a scarily brainiac proposition on paper but one that the talented Folman should make more than palatable on screen. He’s gathered Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Harvey Keitel and Jon Hamm together to help with that task. Malthusian satire with Don Draper? Sign here please.