D. Atom Egoyan (Canada)
With his sixth Cannes film, Atom Egoyan becomes the Canadian director with the most entries in the history of the world’s most prestigious film festival. The Captive, a genre thriller co-written by David Fraser that’s set in Niagara Falls, stars Ryan Reynolds as a father whose young daughter is kidnapped from his truck. Mireille Enos (World War Z) plays the girl’s mother, and Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman are police investigators. Eight years later, the parents and police discover evidence on the Internet that the girl may be still alive. Egoyan’s no stranger to stories of lost children, or the way technology aggravates grief, and this promises to deliver an unconventional approach to a topical theme.
Clouds of Sils Maria
D. Olivier Assayas (France)
The genre-hopping French auteur Olivier Assayas (Irma Vepp, Carlos) dips into backstage drama set in the Swiss town of the title in this English-language film starring Juliette Binoche and two young Americans, Kirsten Stewart and Chloe Moretz. Binoche stars as Maria Enders, an actress who is invited to do a new production of a drama that first made her famous as a conniving ingenue who drove an older woman to suicide. Only this time, Maria is cast as the older woman, with Stewart playing the actress’s assistant and Moretz as her young rival.
D. Bennett Miller (USA)
Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) has been working for seven years to make Foxcatcher, based on Olympic-gold-medalist Mark Schultz’s autobiography. The film focuses on the murder of Schultz’s brother and fellow Olympian Dave Schultz, by John du Pont, heir to the DuPont chemical fortune. In an intriguing bit of counter type-casting, Steve Carell plays du Pont, who established a wrestling training facility on his Foxcatcher farm. Channing Tatum stars as Mark Schultz with Mark Ruffalo as Dave.
D. Lisandro Alonso (Argentina)
Lisandro Alonso, a radical minimalist of Argentinian cinema (La Libertad, Liverpool), brings us his sixth feature, Jauja, named after the mountain town that was once the Spanish capital of Peru. According to the director, it begins in contemporary Denmark, then jumps to the 19th-century Argentinian desert, where Viggo Mortensen appears as a father travelling with his 14-year-old daughter. Taking place over 24 hours, at some point the film enters what the director calls an imaginary zone, corresponding to the father’s unconscious. Really, what are film festivals for if not time-jumping Argentinian-Danish single-day movies that enter imaginary zones?
Maps to the Stars
D. David Cronenberg (Canada)
Novelist Bruce Wagner, author of novels of Hollywood pathology (I’m Losing You, Force Majeure), wrote the screenplay for David Cronenberg’s movie about a Hollywood family with more craziness than the House of Atreus. John Cusack plays the self-help guru with a star patient (Julianne Moore), a wife (Olivia Williams) who doubles as manager to their child star (Evan Bird), and an estranged daughter (Mia Wasikowska) who’s seeing a screenwriting chauffeur (Robert Pattinson). The elements are here for a vibrant clash of razor-wire dialogue, operatic crises and a clinical directorial gaze
D. Xavier Dolan (Canada)
Xavier Dolan, at 25, is the youngest director in the competition, taking his fifth film (his fourth, Tom at the Farm, opens in Canada on May 23). Anne Dorval, the star of Dolan’s debut film I Killed My Mother, again plays a single mother of a troubled teenaged boy (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) with Suzanne Clement (Laurence Anyways) as a mysterious female neighbour who inserts herself into the family. Dolan, who branched out into lush romantic fare with his second and third films, returns to the themes of his first and most emotionally potent film.
D. Mike Leigh (U.K.)
Mike Leigh’s use of improvisation-created bittersweet dramas have often focused on working-class characters. But his most notable departure, the 1999 Gilbert and Sullivan biographical musical Topsy-Turvey, remains one of his most engaging efforts. Mr. Turner is another historical film, focusing on English Romantic painter J.M.W. Turner, starring Timothy Spall as the eccentric artist who raised the status of landscape painting as an art form.
D. Frederick Wiseman (U.S.)
The 84-year-old Frederick Wiseman, whose more than 40 documentaries have explored institutions from psychiatric hospitals to boxing gyms, is regarded internationally as one of America’s greatest living filmmakers – as the inclusion of his film in this year’s Directors Fortnight program indicates. Following fast on last year’s superb study of university life, At Berkeley, Wiseman took his camera to England for this to look at the day-to-day life of the 180-year-old art gallery, home of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, Hans Holbein’s The Ambassadors and hundreds of other treasures of Western art history.
Two Days, One Night
D. Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne (Belgium)
The Belgian sibling directors, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, best-known for their naturalistic dramas of working-class lives (La Promesse, Rosetta) on the fringes of society have been regular Cannes contenders for almost two decades now, joining an exclusive club of two-time Palme d’Or winners. Their latest, Two Days, One Night, departs from the pattern by featuring a major international star, Marion Cotillard, but otherwise appears to be on familiar ground. Cotillard plays a woman who has one weekend to try to convince her colleagues to renounce their annual bonuses so she can keep her job.
D. Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey)
The director of previous Cannes contenders such as Three Monkeys (2008) and the superb police procedural Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) is an old-fashioned art director whose meditations on alienation and moral culpability run deep and unfashionably long. His current offering, Winter Sleep, which clocks in at three hours and 16 minutes, follows a former actor who manages a hotel with his ex-wife and recently divorced sister. Ceylan, who has previous won Cannes prizes for best director, may be ready for his Palme d’Or.
Follow Liam Lacey on Twitter: @liamlacey