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10 Movies At The Cannes Film Festival We're Excited About

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We here at LAist didn't manage to snag press passes for this year's Cannes Film Festival, but that doesn't mean we can't get excited about their always deep and varied selection of films screening in and out of competition. If you can't catch any of the films at the festival yourself, hearing reports of what gets received with rapturous applause or a cavalcade of vicious boos is the next best thing.

The most prestigious of all film festivals, Cannes' self-perpetuating mythology is further enhanced by the fact that the screenings are only open to people in the film industry and the press. This has given the festival its mystique and the atmosphere of a star-studded Hollywood premiere, despite the higher-brow nature of the films screened. Nevertheless, Cannes has always been a trendsetter in the cinematic arts, best exemplified with François Truffaut winning the Best Director prize in 1959 for The 400 Blows, ushering in the beginning of the French New Wave. In more recent decades, the 90s American indie scene was brought to international attention when Steven Soderbergh's sex, lies, and videotape won the top prize Palme d'Or in 1989, followed five years later when Pulp Fiction won the Palme and turned Quentin Tarantino and Harvey Weinstein into household names.

And sometimes the festival gets attention for reasons having nothing to do with the films themselves. Most notoriously, Lars von Trier called himself a "Nazi" in 2011 while promoting Melancholia. On a lighter note, Borat crashed the party in 2006, with Sacha Baron Cohen frolicking in the beaches of the French Riviera in his bright-green mankini.

Most of what's good at the festival eventually makes it to the States—although sometimes that can take f-o-r-e-v-e-r (thanks, Harvey). So even though we're going to assume most of you reading this won't be able to catch these movies in France in the next two weeks, just keep them in mind over the next year or so.

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Here's what we're excited about at this year's Cannes Film Festival:

'Maps To The Stars' | Director: David Cronenberg
David Cronenberg seems to have abandoned the grotesqueries of the human body that made up his early films like Videodrome and his remake of The Fly; his latest films have gone a more cerebral route, examining the grotesqueries of the human condition and society. Cronenberg goes Team Edward again, teaming up with Robert Pattinson fresh off a critically-acclaimed performance in Cronenberg's Cosmopolis. Maps To The Stars is a skewering of Hollywood's celebrity culture that also stars Julianne Moore, John Cusack and Mia Wasikowska. It got some buzz last year when Cronenberg lit up the Hollywood Sign for a shoot. The film is set to be released in France on the 21st, literally days after its Cannes premieres. Hopefully a US release isn't far behind.

Watch the NSFW trailer to Maps To The Stars:

'Mr. Turner' | Director: Mike Leigh
British director Mike Leigh has brought us such notable films as Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake and Naked. At Cannes, he debuts his passion piece: Mr. Turner, a biopic on British landscape artist J.M.W Turner. Clocking in at 149 minutes, Leigh examines the last 25 years of the celebrated, yet eccentric artist (played by Timothy Spall). Leigh not only focuses on the art that Turner produced during his prolific career, but also his sexual exploits, how his father's death deeply affected him, and how his work was critically polarizing. This marks Leigh's fifth appearance at Cannes, having won the Palme d'Or in 1996 for Secrets & Lies. — Christine N. Ziemba

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'The Search' | Director: Michel Hazanavicius
Ever since the Oscar-winning, neo-silent The Artist won critical acclaim in 2011, director Michel Hazanavicius has been keeping busy with his latest, The Search. He brings back his wife, actress Bérénice Bejo in the lead role, along with Annette Bening in a remake of Fred Zinneman's 1948 war drama. He is definitely switching gears from the tone of his last film: this one's a drama. Hazanavicius' version follows the story of an NGO worker who bonds with a boy in Chechnya. There is scant info available on this film as Hazanavicius has kept the details close to his chest and even shot the film in secrecy last year. If anything, it just makes us more curious as to what's in store. — Jean Trinh

'Winter Sleep' | Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Ceylan's last film, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, was a beautiful mix of Malick and Tarkovsky about a murder mystery set in the Turkish countryside that snagged the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2011. He returns to the same setting but this time with a three-plus hour domestic drama. Not entirely enticing at face value, but the trailer makes it look like it has the same bucolic beauty of Anatolia. Critic Neil Young has named it his odds-on favorite to take the Palme d'Or.

Watch the French-subtitled trailer to Winter Sleep:

'Jimmy's Hall' | Director: Ken Loach
Jimmy's Hall is acclaimed British director Ken Loach's final film in a longstanding career, marking this his 12th entry in the Cannes competition. The 77-year-old filmmaker, who snagged the Palme d’Or in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes The Barley, brings the same passion for the working class, politics and sense of history in his latest. Jimmy's Hall focuses on the true story of James Gralton, a social activist in 1930s Ireland who opened a dance hall where local folk could be entertained and inspired. However, his hopes to empower the disenfranchised locals only upsets the Church, bringing in a slew of problems for him. The script was also penned by Loach's longtime scribe Paul Laverty. — Jean Trinh

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Watch the trailer for Jimmy's Hall:

'Lost River' | Director: Ryan Gosling
Hey girl, we'd be remiss if we failed to mention that our favorite Internet meme makes his writing-directorial debut at Cannes with Lost River. Go big or go home, right? This fantasy-thriller about a single mother entering a dark underworld—while her teenage son discovers a road that leads to a secret underwater town—stars some pretty heavy hitters: Christina Hendricks, Iain De Caestecker, Saoirse Ronan, Matt Smith, Eva Mendes and Ben Mendelsohn. One face you won't see onscreen, though, is Gosling's. Too bad. Lost River screens as a part of Un Certain Regard, a section of the Cannes programming dedicated to smaller, more original works. — Christine N. Ziemba

'Leviathan' | Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Another favorite for the Palme d'Or, this Russian drama is a follow-up to the Zvyagintsev's critically acclaimed Elena which won the Special Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard three years ago. Leviathan is a modern retelling of the Book of Job, set in far Northern Russia along the coast where a man puts up a struggle against the local mayor. It is loaded with plenty of social commentary about contemporary Russia where, if you haven't heard, a lot of crazy shit has been going on.

'Jauja' | Director: Lisandro Alonso
The Argentine director's first feature since 2008's Liverpool, Jauja is an existential period piece starring Viggo Mortensen about a father who travels with his daughter from Denmark to an uncharted desert in South America. The images from the set make it look breathtaking, and its poster is definitely the best out of all of the Cannes lineup. Jauja screens as a part of Un Certain Regard.

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'Saint Laurent' | Director: Bertrand Bonello
Per Wikipedia, Yves Saint Laurent has already been the subject of four previous films, including a biopic that opened in France at the beginning of this year. What makes this one more intriguing than its predecessors is that Bertrand Bonello's last film, 2011's House Of Tolerance (trailer NSFW) is one of the strangest, lushest, and best films of this decade so far. It'll be interesting to see what he does with the life of one of the most important fashion icons of the last century. Gaspard Ulliel stars in the title role (and looks great on the poster) alongside Jérémie Renier as YSL's partner Pierre Bergé and Léa Seydoux as Loulou de la Falaise.

'The Homesman' | Director: Tommy Lee Jones
Tommy Lee Jones returns to the Western genre in his second feature film as director. His cast is an impressive one with Hilary Swank, Meryl Streep and James Spader in tow. Based on a 1988 novel with the same title by Glendon Swarthout, the story follows Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank), a pioneer woman who saves George Briggs' (Jones) life on the condition that he bring three women who have gone insane across the Nebraska frontier to Iowa—but their journey isn't an easy one. Jones' directorial debut, The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada, was well-received at Cannes in 2005 and snagged some awards; it'll be interesting to see what he brings to the table this time around. — Jean Trinh

Watch the trailer for The Homesman:

See the rest of the lineup here on the festival's website.