The Cannes Film Festival on Thursday morning unveiled the lineup for this year's edition, announcing several highly anticipated titles and confirming that a pair of buzz movies won't be there.
"The Tree of Life," Terrence Malick's long-awaited coming-of-age opus starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn, will play in a festival competition slot, capping a year of waiting after the film was not completed in time for last year's festival.
Spanish auteur Pedro Almodovar will bring his third film in six years to Cannes when he unveils "The Skin I Live In," a revenge story about a plastic surgeon. Like "Tree of Life," "Skin" comes into the festival with U.S. distribution.
But several other anticipated movies won't be making the trip to the Croisette: the George Clooney-starring "The Descendants," Alexander Payne's first directorial effort since his Oscar-winning "Sideways" in 2004, won't be at the festival. Nor will the Carl Jung-Sigmund Freud drama "A Dangerous Method" from Canadian auteur David Cronenberg.
"The Beaver," the Jodie Foster-directed drama starring Mel Gibson as a mentally unstable man, will play an out-of-competition slot after previously world-premiering at SXSW. The film had been scheduled to open in limited release in the U.S. on May 6, which is before the festival begins; it remains to be seen whether that date holds. Also occupying out-of-competition slots are the animated sequel "Kung-Fu Panda 2" and the live-action sequel "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
Cannes typically offers one or more slots to high-profile Hollywood films; in recent years "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" and "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" each premiered at the festival. This year's festival will offer an unusually consolidated schedule for some of its higher-profile English-language films -- "Pirates," "Tree" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" all open within two weeks of their Cannes debuts.
Rounding out the lineup, Lars von Trier, who created one of the noisiest controversies in years with the premiere of his explicit "Antichrist" two years ago, comes back with "Melancholia," a sci-fi-infused drama starring Kirsten Dunst and Kiefer Sutherland. Lynn Ramsay brings her family drama "We Need To Talk About Kevin," based on the bestselling book, to the festival in a competition slot.
And the Dardenne brothers, the Belgian filmmaking duo who have already won the Palme d'Or twice, will return to the festival for the first time in three years with their drama "The Kid With the Bike." (For the full listing of titles, please visit the official Cannes website, which will be updated throughout the day.)
A large contingent of female directors will represent at the festival: In addition to Foster and Ramsay, Julia Leigh ("Sleeping Beauty"), Jennifer Yuh ("Panda") and Nadine Labaki ("Where Do We Go Now?") all have films at Cannes.
Festival chief Thierry Fremaux announced the selections at a news conference in Paris. The Cannes Film Festival will hold its 64th annual gathering beginning on May 12. Several (likely smaller) films could still be added to the lineup.
As has become de rigeur in recent years, a wide range of celebrities will come to the French Riviera during the festival. Pitt is likely to turn up for the premiere of "Tree of Life," partner Angelina Jolie could come to promote "Panda," indie darlings Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan are expected to attend on behalf of competition film "Drive," and "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" could result in Cannes appearances for Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. Sean Penn, who has two films there (the other is Paolo Sorrentino's "This Must Be the Place"), remains a wild card, as he often is at Cannes.
This year's lineup is slightly heavier on American fare than other recent years: Allen's "Paris" opens the festival, and Malick will of course play in competition. Gus Van Sant, who is the last American to win a Palme for a scripted film ("Elephant" in 2003) will bring a new movie, the relationship drama "Restless," to the festival's Un Certain Regard section, as will American Sean Durkin, who takes his Sundance sensation "Martha Marcy May Marlene" to the Croisette. Meanwhile, American actor and filmmaker Robert De Niro will head up the main competition jury.
A Cannes slot can often set a film on the path to critical and awards acclaim. Last year, Oscar winner "Inside Job" and Oscar nominees "Biutiful" and "Another Year" both world-premiered on the Croisette. The festival's most prestigious prize, the Palme d'Or, was given to the impressionistic Thai film "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives."
-- Steven Zeitchik
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Photo: Sean Penn in "The Tree of Life." Credit: Fox Searchlight