Trailers of the Week: The Tower

Gone Girl

David Fincher’s last effort, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” felt mostly like the director was running in place – a genre exercise to keep him in shape, and not a whole lot else (Rooney Mara’s scathing performance as Lisbeth Salander was unfortunately balanced out by Daniel Craig sleepwalking his way through the entire film). Gillian Flynn’s thriller “Gone Girl” has a little more going for it, thematically: marital strife in hard economic times, ravenous media, dishonesty. The casting is also intriguing, with Ben Affleck continuing his efforts to reinvent and reinvigorate his place as one of Hollywood’s big-name leading men, and Rosamund Pike finally in a high-profile role worthy of her talent. This trailer is as stylish and intriguing as we’ve come to expect from Fincher projects (remember that phenomenal campaign for “The Social Network?”), but am I the only one getting a little bored of the same old shadowy aesthetic? I want to buy Jeff Cronenweth a nice standing lamp.

A Most Wanted Man

This year’s Sundance festival was generally perceived as a little lackluster (witness, no Sundance selection made it to Cannes’ Un Certain Regard this year, breaking with a sort of unofficial tradition of recent years). But one of the few consensus standouts was Anton Corbijn’s adaptation of John le Carré’s “A Most Wanted Man,” and in particular Philip Seymour Hoffman’s lead performance as weary German intelligence agent Günther Bachmann. It is continually sobering to know this will be one of our last chances to see Hoffman on the big screen, but it’s obvious even from this brief look that he will be as phenomenal as he ever was. He’s a perfect fit for a le Carré lead – dedicated, unglamorous, the definition of a slow burn.

Corbijn also seems a good fit for the material, coming off the heels of “The American,” another contemporary spy thriller that suffered only from a bit of a half-baked narrative. That shouldn’t be a problem here with le Carré at hand, and Corbijn’s controlled, precise style is an appropriate way to visualize a world where one false step has dire consequences. This one’s high on my most anticipated titles of the year.

Maps to the Stars

I just…I’m not even sure…what?

The Homesman

As with the above David Cronenberg nut-fest, Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Homesman” will premiere on the Croisette in May. And I’m not the most objective source here, considering my irrational fondness for all things frontier, but I love everything about this trailer. I love the concept. I love Tommy Lee Jones in this role, and even Hilary Swank, who’s been far too fond of baity prestige pieces of late, seems suited to her part. I love the ensemble, with interesting character actors like Tim Blake Nelson, John Lithgow, David Dencik, Jesse Plemons, and let’s not forget Meryl, filling out the cast. I love “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” I love Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” which has a lot of this particular flavor of homestead isolation. I’m all in.

The Rover

And of course, the only thing better than an American frontier Western is a post-apocalyptic future Australian Outback Western! I’m not entirely sure what accent Robert Pattinson thinks he’s doing, but Guy Pearce was terrific in “The Proposition” and he seems to be tapping into that same vein of TERRIFYING here. I’ve never seen David Michod’s “Animal Kingdom,” which was a surprise critical hit back in 2010, earning Jacki Weaver her first Oscar nomination and putting Joel Edgerton on the map. It’s certainly on my priority list to catch up with before “The Rover” debuts out of competition at a midnight screening at Cannes next month.

The Old Familiar Faces

Whoever is making the official Cannes Festival posters is on a roll. Last year’s art-deco-meets-pop-art appropriation of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward was sparkling, woozy, a fairly perfect approximation of the filigreed hype that builds up every year on the Croisette in a one-sheet. If that poster revealed a bit too much by just barely hinting at the emptiness behind the pomp and circumstance, this year’s is everything that Cannes WANTS to be: namely, the coolest, sexiest, most suave dude in the room, and don’t you forget it. It has me thinking I put Marcello Mastroianni a couple rungs too low on this list a few years back.

Even if we didn’t have Marcello undressing us with his eyes from every theater wall and computer screen, this year’s Competition lineup would be another confirmation of Cannes’ particular brand of gentlemen’s club-cool – which is to say, an atmosphere generally populated and promulgated by older European men. At this morning’s announcement of the full 2014 slate, Cannes director Thierry Fremaux claimed that the festival was looking for new, fresh filmmakers, and that 15 female directors were included in the Official Selection. True only to a point – while the Un Certain Regard and Director’s Fortnight sidebars may be a bit more diverse, the official Competition  lineup remains as stodgy and masculine as ever: out of 18 films, only 5 were helmed by directors making their first Competition appearance, and only 2 were directed by women. That is not to say, especially at this early date, that any individual slots were wasted or unjustifiable, or even that Cannes’ preference for regulars is a terrible thing – one just does wish that the most renowned celebration of international cinema in the world could find ways to make diversity a regularity.

So off-beat, upcoming and female talents like Asia Argento, Ryan Gosling, Jessica Hausner and Ned Benson will try to make their impressions in Un Certain Regard. Hausner’s exclusion perhaps stings the most, considering her last film, “Lourdes,” was a critical smash at Venice a few years ago and seemed to prime the Austrian director for the next step up. For Gosling, the slot is actually fairly generous, considering we have little but his association with Nicolas Winding Refn to go on for what his behind-the-camera style might be – we’ll see how he fares with “Lost River” (formerly “How to Catch a Monster”). Meanwhile, the Competition slate will again show off new works by established heavyweights like Olivier Assayas, Mike Leigh, the Dardenne brothers and…

…good god, is that Jean-Luc Godard’s music??!

Indeed it is! The New Wave legend, unfazed by the passing of one of his last comrades-in-arms, Alain Resnais, a few months ago (or, you know, being 83) is back with something called “Goodbye to Language” – filmed, I kid you not, in 3D. As not that big a fan of Obtuse Godard, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit. As for the fact that Irish director Ken Loach is back for the 12th time (and reportedly the last) in Competition, my favorite tweet of the day generally sums up my reaction on the matter:

Those Dardennes, of course, have to be considered threats, once again, to pick up the Palme d’Or, considering they’ve taken home at least one prize from the jury each of the five times they’ve gone in Competition. They have a much starrier effort than usual, with Marion Cotillard headlining an economic-crisis drama, “Two Days, One Night,” that has been described as a “Belgian Western.” Though I’ll tell you, I wrote my senior thesis on Westerns and I still have no idea what the hell that means.

Sight-unseen a lot of people are calling it for Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Winter Sleep,” as the director’s last film, “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia,” took a good shot at the prize three years ago. Personally, I’m keeping my eye on “Leviafan,” the fourth film by the Russian Andrei Zvyagintsev. He’s one of those 5 new-comers to the Competition, but Zvyagintsev is, in my opinion, the best thing to happen in twenty years of post-Soviet cinema, and “Elena” could’ve duked it out with “Tree of Life,” “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia” and “The Kid with a Bike” if it had been in the main event in 2011.

Elsewhere, American audiences will be more familiar with names like David Cronenberg (back with another bizarro Robert Pattinson collaboration, “Maps to the Stars”) or Bennett Miller, whose “Foxcatcher” wisely sat out the 2013 awards season and was rewarded with this prestigious slot. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo will bring some of the Hollywood buzz to this otherwise continental affair; as will Chloë Moretz and Kristen Stewart, featuring in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria,” which stars Juliette Binoche as an actress pushed into isolation when a younger actress (Moretz) takes over her signature role. Some empathy there, I’d imagine. Finally, Tommy Lee Jones continues his attempts to keep the prestige Western alive with “The Homesman” (following his directorial debut in 2005, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” which also earned a Competition berth).

There’s plenty more to talk about, including Mike Leigh’s Timothy Spall-starring biopic of J.M.W. Turner (a passion project of his for years), Michel Hazanavicius’ first film since “The Artist,” and let’s not forget Naomi Kawase and Alice Rohrwacher, the two women who did make it. But take a look at the full Competition lineup for yourselves – what are you most eager to see?

67th Cannes Film Festival – In Competition

  • “Clouds of Sils Maria,” Olivier Assayas (Germany, France, Switzerland)
  • “Saint Laurent,” Bertrand Bonello (France)
  • “Winter Sleep,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey, Germany, France)
  • “Maps to the Stars,” David Cronenberg (Canada, U.S.)
  • “Two Days, One Night,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Belgium, Italy, France)
  • “Mommy,” Xavier Dolan (Canada)
  • “The Captive,” Atom Egoyan (Canada)
  • “Goodbye to Language,” Jean-Luc Godard (Switzerland)
  • “The Search,” Michel Hazanavicius (France)
  • “The Homesman,” Tommy Lee Jones (U.S.)
  • “Still the Water,” Naomi Kawase (Japan)
  • “Mr. Turner,” Mike Leigh (U.K.)
  • “Jimmy’s Hall,” Ken Loach (U.K., Ireland, France)
  • “Foxcatcher,” Bennett Miller (U.S.)
  • “The Miracle,” Alice Rohrwacher (Italy)
  • “Timbuktu,” Abderrahmane Sissako (France)
  • “Wild Tales,” Damián Szifrón (Argentina)
  • “Leviafan,” Andrei Zvyagintsev (Russia)