Written by Sarah

I just had an email throw down with my brother over Adrien Brody and Ryan Gosling at Cannes 2010. If you don’t remember, this was that doucheface Brody at Cannes last year, and this was The Gos. I mean really, why are we even discussing this? But that’s Cannes for you. It’s an inexplicable mix of relevant and irrelevant, class and trash, the awesome and the unspeakable. Traditionally Cannes is a big spender’s dream of deal making with the largest film market in the world (the Marche), and even if a movie isn’t screening as part of the festival, stars still turn out to support the selling efforts in the Marche.

The last few years have been a bit rough with the economic downturn, but like Sundance earlier this year, the Marche is already seeing an uptick in business. Sales will be fast and competitive this year and there are a number of anticipated movies screening footage and/or finished films on that side. I’ll be following the activity in the Marche closely, but for now, here’s a rundown of what’s happening on the festival side. A few of these movies are going to have Oscar implications next year, and some are going to be summer blockbusters, and some are already flops. Ah Cannes, there’s nothing else like you.

I open at the close

The opening night film is Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. Cannes seems to be stuck in a time warp where it’s still 1981 and Woody Allen is still making good movies. Rachel McAdams has already arrived in France for the premiere, but I’m not sure who else will be attending. The cast is huge. Allen will be there, of course, with his child-wife, and I’m assuming leading man/Allen proxy Owen Wilson will be there, too. I’m hoping Michael Sheen shows as well, since the other half of McGosling is also at Cannes, and here’s one way to end whatever McGoslingtons still remain—McAdams and Sheen loved up on the Croisette while The Gos does his footloose and fancy-free thing with whatever tail he’s pulling that night.

The closing night film is from French director Christophe Honore, Les Bien-Aimes (The Beloved). I don’t know much about this title except that Honore is bringing his star, legendary French actress and beauty Catherine Deneuve, along with him. As Lainey has mentioned, last year’s festival was a bit skint on glamour. The presence of Deneuve goes a long way to adding plenty of glamour for 2011. And Honore is one of France’s top directors so you know there will be a big fete come closing night.

You’ve been served

Competition at Cannes is always tight but this year it’s insanely so. Any time you have Lars von Trier, Terrence Malick, Lynne Ramsey, the Dardenne brothers and Pedro Almodovar throwing down in the *same year*, along with up-and-comers like Nicolas Winding Refn, you’re in for some tough judging. The movie I’m most excited for in this category is Refn’s Drive, starring Ryan Gosling, mainly because it’s bringing The Gos back to Cannes (and maybe also Carey Mulligan, who co-stars). It has slim chances of winning the Palme d’Or, but damn if it doesn’t look cool. Looking decidedly weird is Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty, which is not a fairytale but is a psycho-sexual drama about a student (Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning) who becomes a prostitute that specializes in a fetish—she is drugged and then men do weird sh*t to her while she’s unconscious. Sounds um, delightful. But like we’re not all seeing this out of macabre fascination.

Festival favorites Pedro Almodovar and Lynne Ramsey are back with La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) and We Need to Talk About Kevin respectively. In a shocking turn of events, Almodovar’s muse and frequent collaborator, Penelope Cruz, is not in Piel. But Antonio Banderas is, so I’m sure this isn’t any kind of weak-ish entry from Almodovar because Tony Flags ALWAYS makes SUCH quality films (he’s still on my sh*t list for Original Sin, among others). As for Ramsey, she has a long and successful history with winning at Cannes and Kevin should be a real contender for her. There’s no way I see this film, though. I just can’t. I remember Columbine too clearly. But for fans of the book about a high school shooting, Ramsey is a great director so the movie should be really good.

Lately I’ve been into the historical dramas coming out of Asia, so Takashi Miike’s Ichimei (Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai) is on my “interested” list. Especially since it’s about samurais and revenge. I have no idea what kind of competitor this film is, but it sounds really cool (a man trying to commit ritual suicide turns out to be enacting a revenge plot, and everyone is a samurai). Not interesting to me is Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, mostly because it stars Kirsten Dunst and I cannot stand Dunst. At least we can look forward to her wearing something completely bizarre on the red carpet, though. And finally, the big one, the one Cannes has waited two years for—Tree of Life from Terrence “I’ll f*cking fiddle with this film as long as I damn well please” Malick. The Brange, Sean Penn and about-to-be-everywhere Jessica Chastain will be out in support, along with Malick who will probably pee on the Croisette or something, just to complete the way he’s totally been dicking with Cannes recently. I don’t know that it wins anything here, but if Tree of Life is even half as good as its hype, it will be around for the Oscars next year.

We regard those that are beautiful

It seems like every year a Sundance breakout is selected for Cannes and this year that slot goes to Martha Marcy May Marlene from Sean Durkin, as part of the “Un Certain Regard” program of the festival. The Littlest Olsen (Elizabeth) and recent Oscar nominee John Hawkes star along with Sarah Paulson and Hugh Dancy—I hope he brings Claire Danes with him just so we can see him towing her out of the after party when she gets falling down drunk (allegedly). The story revolves around a young woman (Olsen) who has fled a cult and has a hard time settling into “normal” life in the wake of the mind-f*ck the cult leader (Hawkes) perpetrated on her. Sounds tense. Also featured in this program is Gus Van Sant’s Restless, a depressing-looking tale about terminally ill young people, but it stars the so watchable Mia Wasikowska and Dennis Hopper’s son Henry.

The world’s thy jail

If you haven’t heard, two Iranian filmmakers were arrested and sentenced to seven-year jail terms for “making propaganda”, and their sentences also carry twenty-year bans on making any more films. Cannes is featuring new work from both Jafar Panahi, In Film Nist (This Is Not a Film) in collaboration with Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, and Mohammad Rasoulof, Be Omid E Didar (Goodbye). Panahi’s film is a documentary about an attempt to appeal his sentencing, and Rasoulof’s movie is about a female lawyer trying to emigrate out of Iran. Hopefully these movies can help bring more attention to the plight of political prisoners in Iran, but um, I’m not holding my breath for real results.

All the world’s a stage

Cannes is always good for a few splashy, Hollywood-style premieres amidst all the other festival goings-on and this year is no different. Johnny Depp & Co. will be out in force for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides—Pene didn’t need Almodovar after all—and Jodie Foster is bringing her already-a-flop Mel Gibson contrition vehicle The Beaver as well. I’m really interested to see how The Beaver and Gibson are received at Cannes, given that the movie is already failing. I often wonder how awkward it must be to promote a movie that’s already tanked, yet you have to keep smiling and talking about it.

Cannes is the most prestigious film festival in the world. Its name is synonymous with the glitz of the French Riviera, the glamour of movie stars and the back-room deals that fuel the business of show. But last year was a disappointment for the festival as it produced nary an Oscar nominee or a box office winner. This year Thierry Fremaux, the festival’s managing director, is determined that Cannes WILL be present at the Oscars and on the earnings charts. This year WILL be a success, everything WILL be perfect, and not even Terrence Malick pissing on the carpet can ruin it.