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Cannes Must-See Films: David Rooney Shares What Not to Miss

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The 77th Cannes Film Festival is poised to serve up a feast for film lovers, including new movies from celebrated directors such as Yorgos Lanthimos and Paolo Sorrentino, as well as living legends like Francis Ford Coppola, David Cronenberg and George Miller.

Lanthimos will bring Poor Things follow-up Kinds of Kindness to the Cannes competition. The Greek auteur’s latest, featuring the Oscar-winning Poor Things star Emma Stone, alongside Jesse Plemons and Willem Dafoe, will be high on every Cannes attendee’s must-see list. Sorrentino’s Parthenope, the Italian director’s 10th feature, will also premiere in competition on the Croisette.

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Meanwhile, Coppola will unveil the highly anticipated Megalopolis, starring Adam Driver, Shia LaBeouf, and Aubrey Plaza, in the competition lineup, while Canada’s Cronenberg returns with The Shrouds, a horror thriller with Vincent Cassel, Diane Kruger and Guy Pearce.

And among the Hollywood highlights at Cannes this year is Miller’s Max Max: Fury Road prequel Furiosa, starring Anya Taylor-Joy, which is screening out of competition.

But there is plenty more in the Cannes 2024 lineup to excite film buffs. Here is a look at some of the must-see titles at the festival.

Anora

Sean Baker made a splash in the Directors Fortnight in 2017 with The Florida Project before graduating to the main Cannes competition four years later with Red Rocket. He’s a Palme d’Or contender again with this comedy about a young Brooklyn sex worker, played by Mikey Madison, who impulsively marries an oligarch’s son and finds her Cinderella story in trouble once the news gets back to Russia.

The Apprentice

Iranian-Danish Holy Spider director Ali Abbasi, demonstrated his skills working in English on two killer episodes of The Last of Us. He takes the next step with what promises to be a juicy probe into the Faustian pact that fueled an American dynasty. It stars Sebastian Stan as Donald Trump, Jeremy Strong as infamous lawyer and political fixer Roy Cohn, Maria Bakalova as Trump’s first wife, Ivana, and Martin Donovan as his father, Fred Trump, the real estate developer known for his discriminatory rental policies.

Bird

Andrea Arnold’s Bird Atsushi Nishijima

After dipping into documentary (Cow), television (Transparent, Big Little Lies) and U.S. youth subculture (American Honey), Andrea Arnold’s new feature appears to be a return to the Brit kitchen-sink realism of her breakout works Red Road and Fish Tank. The film stars Barry Keoghan as Bug, a father raising a son and daughter in a squat in Northern Kent. One of the children goes looking for adventure, which is presumably where the title character played by Franz Rogowski comes in.

Caught by the Tides

Jia Zhangke’s sixth Cannes competition entry surveys China’s 21st-century transformation via the fragile love story of a couple spanning two decades, reportedly mixing dramatic realism with documentary techniques. Once again starring Jia’s wife and brilliant muse, Zhao Tao — most recently seen in a memorable turn as a gangster’s tough girlfriend in 2018’s Ash Is Purest White — the new feature, which started shooting in 2001, traverses not only time and space but also Jia’s entire filmography.

Emilia Perez

Jacques Audiard, director of A ProphetRust and Bone and Palme d’Or winner Dheepan, ventured into English-language features in 2018 with the Jake Gyllenhaal Western, The Sisters Brothers. He continues his international reach with this Mexico-set musical crime comedy starring Selena Gomez, Zoe Saldaña and Édgar Ramírez, about a woman helping an escaped cartel leader undergo gender-affirming surgery, in part to evade the authorities. Originally conceived as a four-act opera, the film features original songs by French chansonnière Camille.

Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

George Miller‘s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga

Taking its place in the pantheon of all-time great action movies, George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road kicked up the dust in Cannes 2015 and then blazed a trail to the Oscars the following year, landing 10 nominations and winning six. This prequel to the postapocalyptic survival thriller looks back to the younger years of the renegade warrior played by Charlize Theron in the earlier film, before her encounter with Max. Behind the wheel this time as Furiosa is Anya Taylor-Joy, co-starring with Chris Hemsworth.

Kinds of Kindness

In her third collaboration with always-original Greek maverick Yorgos Lanthimos, following The Favourite and Poor Things, Emma Stone stars with Jesse Plemons, Willem Dafoe, Hong Chau and Margaret Qualley in this triptych spinning stories of a man seeking to take control of his life, a policeman whose missing wife seems a different person upon her return and a woman on a quest to find someone destined to become a great spiritual leader.

Megalopolis

Much ink has been spent on Francis Ford Coppola‘s $120 million production, the eminent director’s first feature in 13 years. Adam Driver, Giancarlo Esposito, Aubrey Plaza and Shia LaBeouf are among the stars of what’s described as a Roman epic fable set in modern-day America, in which idealistically opposed leaders fight for the future of a divided city, and perhaps for humanity itself. The Cannes competition premiere will reveal whether Coppola’s self-funded project — and the massive marketing push he has envisioned for it — is a work of genius or folly.

Motel Destino

Brazilian filmmaker Karim Aïnouz’s English-language debut, the historical drama Firebrand with Alicia Vikander and Jude Law, drew a mixed response in the 2023 Cannes competition. He’s back a year later with a return to home turf — and what seems like material closer to the beguiling sensuality of his earlier works — with this erotic thriller, a tropical noir about the love between a young man with a target on his back and a woman chafing against the controlling brutality of her abusive husband.

The Substance

French writer-director Coralie Fargeat debuted in 2017 with the grindhouse rape payback thriller Revenge, a subversive feminist response to I Spit on Your Grave, drenched in grisly carnage. Her second feature assembles a higher-profile cast — Demi Moore, Margaret Qualley and Dennis Quaid — in an explosive dose of body horror that seems to promise more blood and guts.

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