May 29, 2012
Nicole Kidman in 'The Paperboy.'
Nicole Kidman in 'The Paperboy.'

With Lars von Trier off cooking up his next controversy, the 65th Cannes Film Festival was comparatively mellow to last year, when the Danish rabble-rouser revealed his fondness for Nazis (tongue firmly in cheek, of course) to the collectively shocked worldwide press. Not even Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron in Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy could top the infamous Melancholia press conference, where von Trier made his star Kirsten Dunst all red in her normally pasty face. So what did the lack of controversy mean for the crown jewel of film festivals? Well, it was all about the movies. What a thought!

The uncharacteristically well-received opening night film, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom (which we also liked!), kicked Cannes off right, and what followed (for the most part) were more hits than misses. Going into Sunday’s awards ceremony, Michael Haneke’s Amour was a lock for the festival’s top prize, the Palme D’or, which it eventually won. But along with praise (and some derision), many of the competition entries also found homes with American distributors, meaning you’ll have the chance to someday actually see these films. To sufficiently whet your appetite, below are five movies we’re dying to see for a whack of reasons. And yes, Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron is one of them.

 Amour
Austrian master Michael Haneke cemented his status as one of the world’s preeminent movie masters by bagging his second Palme d’Or for this uncharacteristic tearjerker. (His first came in 2009 with The White Ribbon.) Here, Haneke reunites with the incomparable Isabelle Huppert for a third time (they collaborated together on Time of the Wolf and The Piano Teacher). But the legendary French actress is relegated to the sidelines to provide a supporting turn in a story centered on an elderly woman’s gradual demise and her husband’s increasing struggles to cope with it. Nihilistic movies like Funny Games and Cache mean  Haneke doesn’t do cozy sentimentality, but according to critics, Amour is his most heartfelt film yet. What that means, we can’t wait to find out.

Holy Motors
If the buzz is to believed, there was no film nuttier than Leos Carax’ gonzo odyssey, which proved the director hasn’t lost his edge, despite a prolonged absence from the game (his last film, Pola X, came out in 1999). The official synopsis reads like this: “From dawn to dusk, a few hours in the life of Monsieur Oscar, a shadowy character who journeys from one life to the next. He is, in turn, captain of industry, assassin, beggar, monster, family man… He seems to be playing roles, plunging headlong into each part – but where are the cameras?” The cameras? What cameras?! Did we mention that Eva Mendes plays a model who gets kidnapped by a homeless sewer dweller, and that Kylie Minogue shows up for a supporting turn? Critics for the most part found Holy Motors to be mystifying, but also completely beguiling, drawing comparisons to David Lynch’s similarly fascinating and audacious Mulholland Drive.

On the Road
Kristen Stewart finally makes good on the promise she showed as a sexually charged free spirit in Sean Penn’s Into the Wild, and delivers her strongest (and most revealing) turn yet, in Walter Salles’ anticipated take on Jack Kerouac’s beat classic. In the Twilight franchise, Stewart has been forced to don an acting chastity belt and play coy: chew bottom lip, gaze longingly. But that nasty little acting habit isn’t the only thing Stewart sheds as uninhibited teenager Marylou in On the Road. Per Vulture, she “takes part in a ménage à trois, initiates road head, and jerks off both Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley while all three are naked in a moving car. She’s so horny and curious that when another couple excuses themselves to have sex, a nosy Stewart follows them into the doorway and asks, ‘Can I watch you guys screw?’”

The Paperboy
Any film that can be deemed “a haggard old dog of a movie” by one critic  and a “gripping, scary and queasily funny picture” by another, is going to get noticed. Throw some Nicole Kidman as oversexed southern tramp into the mix, a vacant Zac Efron, and that peeing scene, and you have Lee Daniels’ follow-up to Precious. If early reports are to believed, Daniels made a career U-turn with this one, returning to the exploitative and grungy thrills of his directorial debut, the underrated Shadowboxer. Paperboy stars a perpetually sweaty Efron as a man drafted in to help his journalist brother (Matthew McConaughey) investigate the possible wrongful conviction of a death row inmate (John Cusack). Kidman plays a crazed woman who has the hots for the prisoner, despite the fact that she’s never met him. When she sees him for the first time, rumor has it that Kidman tears at her pantyhose and experiences an earth shattering orgasm (hands-free!), all the while flanked in the room by Efron, McConaughey and co-star David Oyelowo.

Reality
Haneke wasn’t the only filmmaker who doubled up on Cannes hardware. Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone won the Grand Prize (runner-up prize to the Palme d’Or) in 2008 for his acclaimed modern-day crime epic, Gomorrah, and this year he returned with the reality show-skewering Reality, which also went on to capture second place. Inspired by Italy’s massively popular reality TV show Grande Fratello (their answer to Big Brother), Reality centers on a fish merchant who auditions for the program, only to become delusional when he gets a whiff of fame. So Italy and America, not so different.

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