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The Xavierpop #Cannes2012 Report – @MovieJay Gives The Ultimate Primer for the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival

The 65th edition of the annual Festival de Cannes is upon us and it’s looking to rebound from the Lars Von Trier “I’m a Nazi” debacle from last year. A quick recap: The provocative director’s rambling id was musing about his family history at his press conference for “Melancholia” when he went on to say he “could understand and sympathize with Hitler”. See, the whole theme of last year’s festival was Freedom of Expression, the touchstones being two Iranian films banned in their homeland but smuggled into Cannes. The festival’s omnipresent board defended the quirky director’s freedom the same day however, after a huge public backlash, they awoke the next morning and named Von Trier ‘persona non grata’, banishing him for the remainder of the festival.

That episode took the spotlight from what was arguably the strongest recent lineup at Cannes, with titles including the aforementioned “Melancholia“, Terence Malick‘s Palme D’Or Winner “Tree of Life“, “The Artist“, which eventually won Best Picture at the Oscars, the Ryan Gosling indie sensation “Drive“, Tilda Swinton in the overlooked psychological thriller “We Need to Talk About Kevin“, and some of the best foreign films of the last year in “Footnote“, “Le Havre“, “The Kid With a Bike“, “Polisse” and “Once Upon a Time in Anatolia“.

It appears the festival is ready to move on this year by making “celebration” of its 65th anniversary the optimum word to describe this current edition’s theme, at least from the outset. If there is to be a major controversy this year, it’s that none of the selected films in competition are directed by women, provoking pre-festival critiques and rumblings across the media and from within the industry at large.

In our Cannes follow-ups this week we’ll take a look at the entire field, from the categories of Un Certain Regard to the Out of Competition lineup, as well as other notable titles that show at the Cannes marketplace, (where hundreds of movies look to be bought for distribution).

The opening night film is another hotly-anticipated American comedy in “Moonrise Kingdom“, Wes Anderson‘s (The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited) return to live-action filmmaking after the wonderful animated feature “Fantastic Mr. Fox” from 2009. Good things should follow for the film if it opens as warmly as last year’s opener, Woody Allen‘s “Midnight in Paris“.

There are 22 films in competition for the Palme D’Or and they include a strong pedigree of directing and acting talent. The notables include two Cannes heavyweights in Ken Loach and Michael Haneke who are the early favourites.

Loach is essentially the Meryl Streep of Cannes, with the drama “The Angel’s Share” being his 17th film to show at the festival. He has 4 Cannes awards including the most recent one being the big prize, the Palme D’Or, for “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” from 2006.

The second heavyweight is Michael Haneke, with his tenth film at Cannes in “Amour (Love)“. He would be the Jack Nicholson of the fest over the last decade, picking up the Grand Prix, 2nd place, for “The Piano Teacher” in 2001, the directing prize for 2006′s “Cache“, and then finally winning the big prize for the 2009 WWI drama “The White Ribbon“.

Bubbling just underneath those two would have to be Alain Resnais (Wild Grass) who at 90 years of age makes his tenth appearance at Cannes with “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet“. (The french favorite took home the lifetime achievement award 3 years ago).

Lee Daniels (Precious) premieres his highly-anticipated second feature with the death-row drama “The Paperboy“, starring Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron.

Another one to watch is Jacques Audiard, who took home the Grand Prix to Haneke’s “White Ribbon” in 2009 with his equally impressive crime-drama “A Prophet” and returns this year with the human drama, “Rust and Bone“.

Canada’s own David Cronenberg returns to the lineup for the fourth time with his dark dramedy “Cosmopolis“, starring Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel, Paul Giamatti and Samantha Morton. Cronenberg won the Jury Prize (2nd place at the time) in 1996 for “Crash“. A lot of buzz on this one heading into the festival.

Christian Mungui, the Romanian director who won the Palme D’Or for 2007′s cinema verite-styled drama “4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” is back with another female-centric drama in “Beyond the Hills“.

Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg, Jury Prize Winner for 1998′s “The Celebration” returns in competition again–at last–with the thriller “The Hunt“.

Andrew Dominik (Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James…) makes his first appearance at Cannes this year with his third feature, “Killing Them Softly“. Brad Pitt returns as his leading man once again in this heist picture that also stars James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and Sam Shepard.

Also making his first Cannes appearance is Jeff Nichols, who made one of the best films of 2008 with “Shotgun Stories” and then 2011′s best film, in my humble opinion, in “Take Shelter“. His new one is called “Mud” and his collaboration with Michael Shannon continues for the third straight time here, albeit in a supporting role to Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon in what’s billed as an adventure-drama.

And yet another third-time director making it to Cannes for the first time is Canadian John Hillcoat, who made the wonderful Guy Pearce western “The Proposition” and the dark Viggo Mortensen starring “The Road“. His third is “Lawless“, a Prohibition-era story based on the true story of two bootlegging siblings played by Shia LaBoeuf and Tom Hardy.

Inexplicable Cannes favorite Abbas Kiarostami has his thirteenth film in the festival this year with “Like Someone in Love“. I say ‘inexplicable’ because other than last year’s “Certified Copy“, I can’t think of a director who is able to make as boring a movie as this man does. I can never give myself over to many of his movies because of how detached he seems to be from the entire exercise at times. Why he is the most celebrated Iranian director is beyond me, but I’ll suspend judgment on this new one since Juliette Binoche made his last one remarkable for a change.

Carlos Reygadas is the best Mexican director you’ve never heard of. His “Silent Light” was one of the best films of 2008. This is his fourth Cannes entry with the family drama “Post Tenebras Lux“.

And Matteo Garrone, the Italian director behind 2008′s gritty crime-drama that won the Grand Prix about Italy’s drug trade in “Gomorrah” is back at the helm with the social-critique dramedy “Reality” about a man who tries out for Italy’s version of “Big Brother“.

The 9-member jury this year is headed by Italian director Nanni Moretti, the winner of the Palme D’Or for the 2001 family drama “The Son’s Room“. Is it any coincidence that he only happens to look uncannily like Robert De Niro, last year’s jury president?

The rest include Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass; British director Andrea Arnold of “Fish Tank” fame, starring Michael Fassbender; one of the best young french actresses you haven’t heard of in Emmanuelle Devos (In the Beginning); British actor Ewan McGregor; German actress Diane Kruger; costume designer Jean-Paul Gaultier (famous for Madonna‘s “Blond Ambition” tour as well as the last three Almodovar pics); American director Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants); and Haitian director Raoul Peck (Lumumba).

The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 16-27.