From Salma Hayek’s lustful heart-eating to Michael Fassbender’s portrayal of Macbeth, here’s a look at some of the most eagerly anticipated – and potentially prize-winning – performances from this year’s Cannes competition.
Salma in ‘The Tale of Tales’
Few Salma Hayek fans could have pictured the dazzling Mexican actress devouring a monster’s heart with gusto, her face smeared in blood. Italy’s Matteo Garrone clearly has, and his fantastically dark fable will serve you just that. Loosely based on a seventeenth-century Neapolitan fairy tale collection, “The Tale of Tales” is the first English-language effort by the director of “Gomorrah” and “Reality” – and by far his most ambitious project to date. This is reflected in a star-studded cast that includes Vincent Cassel, John C. Reilly and Toby Jones.
Marguerite and Julien
The host country can’t seem to get enough of Anaïs Demoustier these days, and her presence in at least one of the five French entries in this year’s main competition was surely mandatory. French cinema’s bubbly new icon stars in Valérie Donzelli’s “Marguerite and Julien”, alongside co-writer Jérémie Elkaïm. The tale of forbidden love between siblings is based on an unproduced screenplay written for François Truffaut.
Three years ago, British actor Tim Roth chaired the Un Certain Regard jury that awarded its top prize to Michel Franco’s “After Lucia” (2012). Roth was so impressed with the film that he asked the Mexican director to make another one for him. The result is “Chronic”, Franco’s first English-language drama and the sole Latin American entry in this year’s competition. Roth stars as a troubled nurse who assists terminally ill patients and tries to reconnect with the family he abandoned. One of cinema’s great chameleons, he should have no difficulty adapting to Franco’s austere, restrained style.
The Measure of a Man
Ken Loach isn’t coming this year, but Cannes will see the return of the French actor Loach must surely call upon if he ever makes a film on this side of the Channel. Vincent Lindon has long been a fixture of French social dramas and Stéphane Brizé’s “The Measure of a man” seems tailor-made for him. Lindon stars as an unemployed 50-year-old who lands a job as a supermarket security guard, but soon faces a moral dilemma.
Cate Blanchett is already being touted as a possible Oscar winner for her role in “Carol”, Todd Haynes’s adaptation of the Patricia Highsmith novel about a clandestine lesbian love affair in 1950s New York. The Australian has already won two Academy Awards but is yet to earn any silverware at Cannes. She may encounter stiff competition from her partner in the film, New York native Rooney Mara – unless, of course, they pick up a joint award.
Over the years, revered Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien has cast his favourite actress as an epileptic pop singer in modern-day Taipei, an exquisitely dressed pool hall waitress in 1960s rural Taiwan, and a refined courtesan in an early 20th century Chinese brothel. Five years in the making, his latest work sees the gorgeous Shu Qi take on martial arts as a deadly assassin in Tang-era China. The $15 million production also marks Shu Qi’s reunion with Chang Chen, her partner in Hou’s spellbinding “Three Times” (2005).
Australian helmer Justin Kurzel’s dark and bloody take on the bleakest of Shakespearean tragedies is one of the most buzzed-about entries. Marion Cotillard reportedly spent weeks with a voice coach trying to grasp Lady Macbeth’s Scottish accent, but ultimately gave up. Then again, there’s nothing like a French-sounding femme fatale to persuade her indecisive husband (Michael Fassbender) to spill royal blood.
Greek auteur Yorgos Lanthimos has developed something of a cult following since his bizarre and brilliant “Dogtooth” won the Un Certain Regard prize in 2009. His first English-language film, in which single people are turned into animals should they fail to find a mate, sounds of a piece with his previous surrealist movies. It comes with a star-studded crew including a mustachioed Colin Farrell alongside Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw. Festival director Thierry Frémaux has warned that “The Lobster” is “the kind of film one doesn’t fully understand” – presumably implying we’ll grasp precious little of it.
If you haven’t heard of Emmanuelle Bercot yet, this year’s festival is about to change that. “Standing Tall”, her latest directorial effort, has been selected to open the festival – a rarity for a French movie with weighty themes (in this case juvenile delinquency). She will be back on the red carpet later on, alongside the ubiquitous Vincent Cassel, for their role in “My King” by French helmer Maïwenn, whose “Polisse” won the Jury Prize in 2011.
A darling of the Coen brothers, who head the Cannes jury this year, John Turturro stars as a brash and boastful American actor in “My Mother”, the latest effort by Italy’s 2001 Palme d’Or winner Nanni Moretti. With his hideous Italian and outrageous dance moves, Turturro is set to give a comic edge to an otherwise delicate and sentimental film about a filmmaker struggling to cope with a collapsing set and her mother’s fatal illness.
Valley of Love
A year after the unofficial screening of Abel Ferrara’s shocker “Welcome to New York”, featuring Gérard Depardieu as a sexaholic Dominique Strauss-Kahn, France’s biggest film star will be back on the red carpet for Guillaume Nicloux’s California-set “Valley of Love”, which also stars Cannes veteran Isabelle Huppert. It’s been 41 years since the two giants of French cinema first met on the set of Bertrand Blier’s “Going Places”. This time they play two famous actors who reunite in Death Valley after the death of their son. Both are former award winners on the Croisette and inevitable contenders for another prize.
Two years after falling short with his enthralling “The Great Beauty”, Paolo Sorrentino is back with a new film about old people called “Youth”. Starring the likes of Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Jane Fonda and Rachel Weisz, “Youth” is the story of a retired orchestra conductor vacationing in an Alpine resort who receives an invitation to perform for a very special audience. This is the Italian director’s second English-language picture, after “This Must Be the Place” (2011), arguably his least successful work. We will soon find out whether Caine can match the cultivated melancholy so perfectly expressed by Sorrentino’s Italian fixture Toni Servillo.
Louder than Bombs
Jesse Eisenberg will be suiting up as the evil Lex Luthor in upcoming superhero juggernaut “Batman vs Superman” next year. Before that, the hyper-articulate US actor frontlines the new, eagerly-awaited feature by Norwegian prodigy Joachim Trier (“Oslo, August 31”). “Louder than bombs”, also starring Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne, has been described as a “Rashomon”-like drama revolving around a deceased war photographer whose husband and two sons discover a secret about her past as a retrospective of her work is being put together.
Sea of Trees
It’s been three years since Matthew McConaughey’s last Cannes showing, for his parts in “Mud” and Lee Daniels’ hugely underrated “The Paperboy”. This year he teams up with Naomi Watts and Ken Watanabe in the latest entry by the 2003 Palme d’Or winner, Gus Van Sant. “Sea Of Trees” is the tale of a suicidal American who befriends a Japanese man in a mysterious forest at the base of Mount Fuji where people go to contemplate life and death.
There’s no Tex-Mex dope story without Benicio Del Toro and sure enough the veteran Puerto Rican will star in “Sicario”, the latest thriller by Québécois director Denis Villeneuve. A 2008 Cannes laureate for his role as Che Guevara, Del Toro plays a sicario – Latino slang for hitman – in Villeneuve’s $32 million action-packed drama that also features Emily Blunt and Josh Brolin as US agents battling a drug lord on the mean streets of Ciudad Juarez, the world’s crime capital.