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05.13.09

Cannes' 8 Sexiest Films

From Heath Ledger’s final (unfinished) role to Quentin Tarantino’s comeback, this year’s Cannes Festival favors big-time Hollywood star power—so big, they’re handing out 3-D glasses.

Welcome back, Pedro Almodovar, Ang Lee, Lars Von Trier! After last year’s emphasis on lesser-known filmmakers, the 62nd Cannes Film Festival is more stacked than ever with tried-and-true talent. In the words of festival director Thierry Fremaux, “It is not a year of discoveries.” We’ve picked eight to look out for, including two star-packed Hollywood gambles, a pair of name-brand Euro horror flicks, and the first-ever Cannes movie to come with 3-D glasses.

Inglourious Basterds

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Two reasons Quentin Tarantino’s latest has raised eyebrows: It’s an irreverent Holocaust movie, and it got stuck with an August release date. Still, plenty of people are holding out hope that the director’s WWII action flick about a special unit out for Nazi revenge (think The Dirty Dozen meets spaghetti western) will put the director back on track after his Grindhouse misfire. Tarantino made a big push to finish it in time for Cannes, where he should have a receptive audience—he won the 1994 Palme d’Or for Pulp Fiction and served as jury president in 2004. Brad Pitt, Diane Kruger, Samuel L. Jackson, Mike Myers, Maggie Cheung, Hostel director Eli Roth, a bunch of actors who are better known in France and Germany, and Rod Taylor (remember him, from The Birds?) make up part of the film’s ginormous ensemble cast.

Broken Embraces

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Penelope Cruz plays no fewer than three characters in Pedro Almodóvar's tale of tragedy and betrayal among a group of film-industry colleagues. Packed with movie references (ranging from Roberto Rossellini’s Voyage to Italy to Almodóvar’s own oeuvre) and heavily indebted to '40s and '50s film noir, this one marks a significant departure for the Spanish Oscar-winner. It’s also his longest and, at $14 million, most expensive film to date.

Up

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Pixar has scored big-time kudos on the Continent this year: a raft of lifetime achievement awards at Venice, and the coveted opening-night spot (usually reserved for a French film) at Cannes—in 3-D, no less. (What’s next, a Légion d’Honneur for Shrek?) Written and directed by Pete Docter, who co-wrote Toy Story and Wall-E, the animated adventure-comedy follows an aging balloon salesman (voiced by Ed Asner) who floats his house over the South American rainforest, accompanied by an eager young explorer.

Thirst

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Best known for revenge thrillers like Oldboy, Park Chan-Wook—along with The Host director Bong Joon-ho, who also has a film at Cannes this year—has been at the forefront of international Korean cinema. No huge surprise, then, that his recent foray into the red-hot vampire genre (a project 10 years in the making) is the first Korean film to get backing from a major Hollywood studio. Song Kang-ho ( Lady Vengeance, The Host) plays a small-town priest who discovers new appetites after receiving an infected blood transfusion.

Taking Woodstock

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Ang Lee’s bouyant chronicle of the era-defining concert is told from the point of view of the small-town motel manager and events organizer (Demetri Martin) who became its unlikely hero. A major breakout opportunity for former Daily Show correspondent Martin, it’s scheduled to hit U.S. theaters this August, Woodstock’s 40th anniversary. Co-starring Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, and Eugene Levy.

Antichrist

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Lars von Trier ( Dogville, Dancer in the Dark) has been called ingenious, infuriating, and often both, but he’s never been called a horror director—until now. With this English-language story of a couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourgh) that withdraws to a cabin in the woods in an attempt to cope with their son’s death, the polarizing Danish filmmaker goes in a gruesome direction he’s never gone before. (Famously travel-averse, he also shot it in Germany.) Featuring hi-def camerawork from Slumdog Millionaire cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle.

The White Ribbon

Having established himself as the modern maestro of highbrow terror, Michael Haneke ( Caché, Funny Games) switched the setting for his latest to a German village just before World War I, where a school is plagued by a series of bizarre accidents. Arthouse elder statesman Jean-Claude Carrière ( The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, Belle de Jour) co-wrote the script, and the fact that two-time Haneke collaborator Isabelle Huppert ( The Piano Teacher) is this year’s jury president can’t hurt the film’s chances for a Palme d’Or.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
Already notorious as Heath Ledger’s final film, Terry Gilliam’s gonzo fantasy arrives amid a swirl of tragedy-tinged buzz. When Ledger died one-third of the way through filming, Gilliam (a veteran of so many troubled productions that he’s often said to be cursed) called on Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell to play his character in unfinished scenes. Early reviews suggest the visuals are impressive and the plot takes some unpacking—to be expected, really, from the guy who made Brazil and 12 Monkeys.

Xtra Insight: View our gallery of classic Cannes highlights through the years.