Since its inception in 1947, the Cannes Film Festival has been the ne plus ultra of international cinema, but rarely has the festival featured quite so many American filmmakers and Hollywood movie stars. The 2012 Cannes festival gets underway on Wednesday with the opening film, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, and over the course of the subsequent 11 days, the festival will premiere films starring (deep breath) Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Kristen Stewart, Zac Efron, Shia LaBeouf, Robert Pattinson, Kirsten Dunst, Tom Hardy, Amy Adams, Viggo Mortensen, and Matthew McConaughey (in two movies!), with filmmakers like Anderson, Lee Daniels, and John Hillcoat screening their films in competition for the first time. Meanwhile, DreamWorks Animation’s Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and the HBO TV movie Hemingway & Gellhorn are both premiering out of competition.
EW’s Owen Gleiberman will be detailing all his thoughts on the great and not so great at Cannes, but here’s a quick primer on what’s likely to light up the famed Croisette, in chronological order of their big premieres inside the cavernous Grand Théâtre Lumière.
New films from Palme d’Or winners Michael Haneke (Love) and Cristian Mungiu (Beyond the Hills), and Cannes mainstays Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone), Abbas Kiarostiami (Like Someone in Love), Ken Loach (The Angels’ Share), and Alain Resnais (You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet) made the cut this year to compete for the Palme d’Or. The Cannes jury is headed by director Nanni Moretti (The Son’s Room), and includes filmmaker Alexander Payne, actors Ewan McGregor and Diane Kruger, and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.
Directed by Wes Anderson
Amazingly, Wes Anderson’s seventh feature film is his first to screen in competition at Cannes. It chronicles two 12-year-olds whose decision to run away together mobilizes their small New England town into action. Starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Jason Schwartzman.
Directed by John Hillcoat
Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, and Jason Clarke star as the real-life Bondurant brothers, famed Virginia bootleggers during Prohibition. Musician Nick Cave adapted Matt Bondurant’s based-in-fact novel The Wettest County in the World for director John Hillcoat (The Proposition, The Road). Costarring Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce, Gary Oldman, and Mia Wasikowska.
Killing Them Softly
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Brad Pitt re-teams with the director of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford for this contemporary tale of an enforcer (Pitt) charged with hunting down the thieves who robbed a mobbed-up poker game. Costars Richard Jenkins, Ray Liotta, James Gandolfini, and Sam Shepard.
On the Road
Directed by Walter Salles
Jack Kerouac’s seminal semi-autobiographical novel — which presaged the rise of the Beat Generation — finally gets a big screen adaptation some 60 years after Kerouac famously typed out his novel on a single 120-foot roll of paper. Stack onto that cultural significance the fact that star Kristen Stewart and her Twilight compatriot and Cosmopolis star Robert Pattinson will be in Cannes practically at the same time, and the cognitive dissonance is staggering. Costarring Sam Riley (as the Kerouac stand-in Sal Paradise), Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss, and Viggo Mortensen.