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Cannes 2013: 15 Movies to Watch For

Festival will premiere new movies by Gosling, Franco, Coppola, Phoenix and the Coens, as well as international favorites

Cannes

You shouldn't think of the Cannes Film Festival as esoteric or foreign. Sure, Cannes is often considered the most globally-minded of all film festivals, bringing filmmakers, journalists, distributors and hookers from all over the world to party on the French Riviera. But this year's festival has a distinctly American feel. Steven Spielberg heads the jury. The lavish new Hollywood adaptation of classic American novel The Great Gatsby is the opening night feature. The official festival poster is an ancient still of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward kissing. And many of the most anticipated movies are the works of familiar American directors or stars.

The festival, running May 15th to 26th, will include the premieres of a number of films that, by the end of this year, may well find their way to your local multiplex or arthouse, or even to the Oscar podium. Here are 15 of this year's Cannes movies to keep an eye on.

By Gary Susman

cannes film festival Inside Llewyn Davis

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

Joel and Ethan Coen's long-awaited follow-up to True Grit is a drama set in the New York folk music scene of the early Sixties, the milieu of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Ramblin' Jack Elliott and Dave Van Ronk (whose memoir, The Mayor of MacDougal Street, is the screenplay's primary source). Oscar Isaac stars as the title character, a folkie who arrives in Manhattan in 1961 and tries to navigate the treacherous waters of the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene. Along for the ride are Isaac's Drive co-star Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, On the Road's Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake. The film may have a tongue-in-cheek view of the era's personalities, but it will take the music itself seriously. T Bone Burnett, who curated the landmark roots-music soundtrack for the Coens' O Brother, Where Art Thou?, pulls the same duty here, with the help of Timberlake and Mumford & Sons' Marcus Mumford (who is also Mulligan's real-life husband). The movie will be released in the U.S. in December.

cannes film festival le dernier des injustes

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Le Dernier des Injustes’

Claude Lanzmann's Shoah, with its hours upon hours of testimony, seemed to be the Holocaust documentary to end all Holocaust documentaries. But the 87-year-old filmmaker has at least one more left in him about the Nazi genocide. This one is taken from interviews with Benjamin Murmelstein, the Jewish leader with the unenviable task of overseeing his own people in Theresienstadt, a concentration camp that the Nazis transformed into a Potemkin village to fool human rights inspectors into thinking that Jews in Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia were being well-treated. For many Jews, Theresienstadt was a way station before deportation to Auschwitz and the gas chambers, but Murmelstein claimed to have saved 121,000 lives through his week-to-week negotiations with Adolf Eichmann throughout the war. Lanzmann's film portrays Murmelstein as a hero, though it's still not likely to end the controversy over whether the Jewish Councils in ghettos like Theresienstadt were effective in buying time for their people or just in buying time for themselves.

cannes film festival like father like son

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Like Father, Like Son’

Hirokazu Koreeda, Japan's master of wistful, understated family drama (After Life, Nobody Knows), returns with this nature-vs.-nurture fable. Two families, one privileged, one struggling, learn that the hospital accidentally switched their sons at birth. But six years have passed, and the families must decide if the boys should stay in the only homes they've ever known or if they belong with their biological parents. It sounds like a classic, tearjerking melodrama, but Koreeda is likely to handle the premise with his usual restraint and delicacy.

cannes film festival muhammad alis greatest fight

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight’

The brutal battle referred to in the title of this docudrama is the one Ali fought against the U.S. government. Having declared himself a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War, Ali was arrested in 1967 for refusing to be drafted, stripped of his heavyweight championship and banned from boxing. He fought his conviction all the way to the Supreme Court, which overturned it in 1971. Curiously, the film is shot not from the boxer's perspective but from that of the Supreme Court justices deciding his fate. Christopher Plummer, Danny Glover, Frank Langella and Ed Begley Jr. are among those playing the justices. Stephen Frears (The Queen) directs.

cannes film festival nebraska

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Nebraska’

After detours to California wine country (Sideways) and Hawaii (The Descendants), two-time Oscar-winner Alexander Payne returns to his home state for another About Schmidt-like road trip involving a cranky patriarch. Here, it's Bruce Dern (the iconic Sixties and Seventies character actor, due for a comeback), playing a senior trying to collect his sweepstakes jackpot he believes he's won. Along for the ride is his son, played by Will Forte, in a dramatic departure for the Saturday Night Live alumnus. Payne shot the movie in soft black-and-white and has said it will be released that way in theaters this fall, though there is also a color version that may ultimately pop up on TV.

cannes film festival only god forgives

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Only God Forgives’

Following up 2011's Drive, Ryan Gosling and director Nicolas Winding Refn reteam for another sleek crime drama, this one set in Bangkok. Gosling plays a Yank who runs a boxing club as a front for the family narcotics business. His scary, vengeful mom is Kristin Scott Thomas, who pushes him to hunt down his brother's killer. Hey, if Winding Refn can make a badass out of Albert Brooks, he can do the same for the English Patient actress.

cannes film festival only lovers left alive

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

Since his debut 30 years ago with Stranger Than Paradise, Jim Jarmusch has been making deadpan movies about affectless characters, so it's about time he went all the way and made a vampire movie. The otherworldly Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston (Marvel villain Loki) play a pair of bloodless, centuries-old lovers named Adam and Eve. But their union is threatened by the disruptive presence of her seductive younger sister (Alice in Wonderland's Mia Wasikowska). If vampire movie fans see in Swinton's performance an homage to lookalike David Bowie's turn in The Hunger, well, that's probably cool with Jarmusch.

cannes film festival the past

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘The Past’

Asghar Farhadi stunned the world a couple years ago with A Separation, the first Iranian film to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Feature. His follow-up is also about a divorce, but it's set in Paris. The Artist's Berenice Bejo plays a French woman married to an Iranian man who decides to leave her and go home to Tehran. Returning to France to finalize the divorce, he finds her living with another man. As with A Separation, viewers should expect a thoughtful, even-handed look at a seemingly intractable situation, one that touches on larger cultural and religious issues.

cannes film festival shield of straw

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Shield of Straw’

Japan's Takashi Miike has developed a cult following in the States for his ultra-violent dramas (Audition, Ichi the Killer). This one is about Kiyomaru, a convict who's being extradited by police to Tokyo from a remote town. But the billionaire who blames Kiyomaru for his granddaughter's death has put a hefty price on his head. Which means Kiyomaru and his police escort have to run a gauntlet of spec assassins hundreds of miles long.

cannes film festival venus in fur

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Venus in Fur’

At 80, Roman Polanski is not going to convince anyone he's outgrown his perviness if he keeps making movies like this one. Adapted from David Ives' Broadway play, it's about a director (Mathieu Amalric, of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) seeking an actress to star in his sadomasochistic drama. Fitting the bill is an unexpected auditioner (Emmanuelle Seignier, a.k.a. Mrs. Polanski), who gives the director more than he bargained for. Games of power and sex, in a claustrophobic space: that's what you go to a Polanski film for, isn't it?

cannes film festival zulu

Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

‘Zulu’

Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom play a pair of mismatched cops trying to solve a murder. The twist is the setting, which is post-apartheid South Africa. France's Jerome Salle directed the movie, which is the festival's closing-night selection.