Cannes 2015 Preview: The Competition Hopefuls

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Our guest film correspondent Séamas McSwiney will be sending us special reports from the Cannes 2015 film festival over the coming weeks, starting with a preview of this year's Festival. 

Cannes is a leveller where new talent gets an upgrade. As the stardust sprinkles down, less known filmmakers get to profit from the enormous media presence that has mostly come to cover the celebrity glam. At the Oscars, the surprises, if any, are planned, predicted and marketed. In Cannes the surprises are real and its savvy juxtaposition of styles, themes and exoticism make the seaside town the capital of World Cinema for 12 days in May.

Of the thousand or so films screening in Cannes, about 100 are selected and invited and, of these, about 20 are in competition.

Irish eyes will be on two competition films with County Kerry connections. Michael Fassbender hails from Killarney and will star in a new film of Macbeth, alongside French actress Marion Cotillard who plays his dark lady wife, directed by Australian Justin Kurzel. Interestingly the same trio are the prime players of another 2015 movie called Assassin's Creed, a title that echoes Macbeth.

The Lobster (pictured top) is a Greek-Irish-UK-French-Dutch co-production where an unrecognisably ordinary Colin Farrell plays alongside a large eye-watering cast that includes Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Olivia Colman & John C Reilly. Yorgos Lanthimos is the Greek director of this absurdist dystopian drama portraying a world where being single is not allowed. If a mate cannot be found in 45 days, one is transformed into an animal of their choosing or released into the woods ...all very tantalisingly Grimm.

The opening film, Standing Tall, by French cineaste Emmanuelle Bercot is a social tale of a boy's troubled childhood and the endeavours of a concerned judge, played by la grande dame of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve, to save him. Bercot is also an actor and plays a woman recovering from a passionate love affair in Mon Roi, by previous prize-winner Maiwenn.

Favourites returning to Le Festival this year include Todd Haynes with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol, a lesbian intrigue set in 1950s New York.

The semi-autobiographical tragi-comic My Mother by Nanni Moretti is one of three Italian films in contention this year. The other two are also by previous prize-winners, The Tale of Tales by Matteo Garrone and Youth by Paolo Sorrentino and are both in English.

The only first film in competition this year is Son of Saul by Laszlo Nemes from Hungary. It has the particularity of bucking digital trends by being made entirely on 35mm film, from shooting through editing. It is the story of a prisoner's attempt to save a boy through adoption in Auschwitz in 1944.

The Sea of Trees by Gus Van Sant stars Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe, whilst the always sharp and insightful Canadian Denis Villeneuve presents Sicario set amid the Mexican drug trade, featuring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin. Norwegian newcomer Joachim Trier brings Louder Than Bombs with Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne.

At first glance the menu is appetising. Cannes is a firmament of promises. Which will shine and deliver this year? Which will fizzle and fade? Watch the space...

Séamas McSwiney has decades of experience in film journalism, and work published in top international publications. Read more of his posts here.

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