Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Field Guide to Cannes 2016 Part 1: Main Comp Films A-L

It's that time again! The Cannes Film Festival starts May 11. Here's our annual look at the films in competition.

Aquarius (Kleber Mendonca Filho)  Critic-turned-director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s follow-up to 2012’s “Neighboring Sounds,” one of the most talked-up Brazilian debuts of this decade, stars Sonia Braga (“Kiss of the Spider Woman”) as a retired, widowed music writer, who also time travels.

American Honey (Andrea Arnold, U.K.). The British director, who was invited to serve on the Cannes jury in 2012, has earned her fair share of honors from the festival, claiming jury prizes for both “Red Road” and “Fish Tank” in official competition. Her latest — and her first-ever American film — follows a group of young people who travel the country selling magazine subscriptions and making trouble, starring Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf and Riley Keough. A24 plans to release later this year.

Elle (Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands). The “Black Book” director’s first film to land in official competition since 1992’s “Basic Instinct,” this thriller finds Verhoeven working in French for the first time. Former Cannes jury president Isabelle Huppert plays a top exec for a video-game company who turns the tables after being violated in a home invasion.

From the Land of the Moon (Nicole Garcia, France). Adapted from Milena Agus’ Italian novella about a young woman’s romances, both real and imagined, from 1943 until the mid-’60s, this entry — which stars Marion Cotillard and looks to be one of the lineup’s more crowd-pleasing entries — marks the third time the French actress-turned-helmer (“Charlie Says”) has directed a feature in competition.

Graduation (Cristian Mungiu, Romania). A Palme d’Or winner for “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days,” Mungiu reportedly scaled back after “Beyond the Hills” (a Cannes screenplay winner), discreetly shooting his latest last summer in Romania. Following films about abortion and forbidden lesbian love, Mungiu’s new project is remarkable in that it centers around a male protagonist, a small-town doctor played by Adrian Titian.

The Handmaiden (Park Chan-wook, S. Korea). This latest from the director of “Old Boy” — back in Cannes after 2009’s “Thirst” — marks a return to Korean-language filmmaking after “Stoker,” although it takes its inspiration from British novelist Sarah Waters’ “Fingersmith” (previously adapted for the BBC), in which a female pickpocket aligns with a con man to seduce and scam a wealthy Japanese heiress. Amazon Studios has U.S. rights.

I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach, U.K.). Britain’s celebrated social realist has been a Cannes mainstay, screening 16 films in the fest (a dozen of them in competition) since the 1970 premiere of “Kes” in Critics’ Week. His latest collaboration with screenwriter Paul Laverty (who wrote Loach’s Palme d’Or winner, “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”) centers on an injured carpenter and single mother struggling to get by on welfare.

It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan, Canada). After serving on the jury of last year’s festival, the young Canadian director — who split the jury prize with Jean-Luc Godard for his last feature, “Mommy” — returns with this French-language drama, which stars Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel. Inspired by Jean-Luc Lagarce’s play “Juste la fin du monde,” the film follows a writer who returns home to announce his imminent death to his immediate family.

Julieta (Pedro Almodovar, Spain). Taking inspiration from a trio of stories by Pulitzer winner Alice Munro included in her book “Runaway,” the Spanish director’s latest celebration of a strong female protagonist stars Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez, who split the title role over the span of more than 30 years. This is the “All About My Mother” director’s fourth film in competition. As usual, Sony Pictures Classics will release in the U.S.

The Last Face  (Sean Penn, U.S.). The controversial actor-director’s new drama stars Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem as aid workers who fall in love against the backdrop of war-torn Liberia. The film marks a return to Cannes for Penn after his helming debut, “The Indian Runner” (1991, Directors’ Fortnight), and “The Pledge” (2001, competition). Penn served as president of the official Cannes jury in 2008.

Loving (Jeff Nichols, U.S.). Mere months after “Midnight Special” premiered at Berlin, Nichols will unveil this civil rights drama starring Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga as an interracial couple in 1958 Virginia. Set to open theatrically Nov. 4 through Focus Features, the film would mark a return to Cannes for Nichols after “Take Shelter” (2011, Critics’ Week) and “Mud” (2012, competition).

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