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Mondays with Schobie: The spirit of Cannes

Of cinema’s biggest events—the Oscars, Sundance, Telluride, TIFF—perhaps only Cannes retains its mythic grandeur. From this side of the pond, it is difficult to fathom just what it must feel like to experience this orgy of cinema, hype, and insanity. And thank goodness for that. It’s nice to still feel wistful about an annual event, and Cannes' spirit of discovery is as strong as ever before.

Cannes 2012 is well underway, and soon, we’ll know the winners and losers. [UPDATED, 5/29: The awards were announced on May 27. Here they are.]

On the surface, 2012 looks a bit less interesting than 2011, when Terrence Malick debuted Tree of Life and Lars Von Trier got himself into big, big trouble. Much of the initial talk was about who was missing: female directors (in competition, anyway), Terrence Malick, Wong Kar-Wai, P. T. Anderson, Park Chan-Wook.

But a closer look reveals some truly thrilling selections, especially new works from past Palme d’Or winner Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days), A Prophet director Jacques Audiard, The Proposition and The Road helmsman John Hillcoat, the great Abbas Kiarostami, the polarizing Leos Carax (with the sure-to-be surreal Holy Motors), and Wes Anderson, whose Moonrise Kingdom thankfully opens Stateside in just a few weeks. There is even the long-awaited debut of Walter Salles’s Kerouac adaptation, On the Road.

Here are the five films I’m most excited to read about after their debut screenings, and, of course, eventually have a chance to see myself:

• Cosmopolis

As any occasional reader knows (see here and here), David Cronenberg is one of my favorite filmmakers, an artist of great complexity and vast importance, and and the idea of him taking on Dom DeLillio—with Twilight star Robert Pattinson in the lead, no less—is utterly fascinating. Cosmopolis is a strange, in some ways distant novel, yet attuned to the Cronenberg behind eXistenZ or Dead Ringers. The story, of a young media tycoon stuck in endless traffic in his limo while en route to a haircut, is relatively simple, but world and sexual politics play an important role, and now, more than ever, Cosmopolis seems an important story.

But the response could go either way. DeLillo's style, plus the oft-chastised (though, I think, underrated) Pattinson? We shall see.

Here, DeLillo talks about his response to the film, and what Cronenberg has pulled off:.

Amour (Love)

Years after its release, I still often find myself thinking about Michael Haneke's pre-war Austrian nightmare The White Ribbon, the deserved winner of 2009's Palme d'Or. The trailer for this, his new film, epitomizes his style: slow, deliberate, unsettling, full of sudden starts and stops. Its story, of an elderly couple and their daughter, is still hard to discern, but suffice to say, it is expected to be emotional and harrowing.

Amour has now screened, so the response has already begun to leak ... and the it seems to be across-the-board praise.

• Killing Them Softly

In the annals of Bad Title Changes, it's hard to think of one worse than Andrew Dominik's Killing Them Softly (although Woody Allen's To Rome With Love, originally titled Nero Fiddled, comes close). Still, even saddled with that awful moniker, it's easy to get excited about this one. An adaptation of George V. Higgins's Cogan's Trade, the crime drama stars Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Richard Jenkins, and Ray Liotta. A great, gritty cast in a film from the man behind The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.

• Mud

Jeff Nichols is two for two following 2007's dark family tale Shotgun Stories and last year's stunning Take Shelter, both starring Michael Shannon. The actor returns in Nichols's latest, Mud, which features his most high-profile cast yet: Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Sam Shepard. Believe it or not, there is already awards buzz for the Shirtless One's performance.

• Io E Te (Me and You)

One of the most thrilling Cannes 2012 debuts screens out of competition, and seems to be suffering from an odd lack of hype: Bernard Bertolucci's Io E Te. I felt the Last Tango in Paris and Conformist master's last film, The Dreamers, was quite underrated, and this, his first film following some health difficulties, seems ideal Bertolucci material.

Here are some lovely images from the film.


Cosmopolis still courtesy of Alfama Films/cosmopolisthefilm.com.

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