Cannes’ Day of Judgment Nears: What Will Make the Cut?

The field of movie stars and art-house auteurs hoping to hit the Croisette is huge and varied

The 70th Cannes Film Festival may be a showcase for movie stars, from Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst to Jake Gyllenhaal, Joaquin Phoenix and Brad Pitt.

Or it might be dominated by international auteurs: Michael Haneke, Takashi Miike, Hong Sang-Soo, Sergei Loznitsa, Yorgos Lanthimos, Arnaud Desplechin, Naomi Kawase and Evgeny Zvyagintsev.

Or, in typical Cannes fashion, it might be a few from Column A and a few from Column B, a mixture of the art-house fare that dominates the competition lineup and the more commercial films that screen out of competition and get a blast of international publicity in the bargain.

The official lineup will be announced on Thursday morning in Paris, which is to say in the wee hours in the U.S. The parallel sections, Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week, will follow in a week or two. And the 12-day shindig will kick off on May 17 in the South of France.

The lineup probably won’t be finalized until late Wednesday night — Cannes programmers are notoriously painstaking, and known to change things up to the last minute. (“Toni Erdmann,” the sensation of last year’s Cannes with everybody except the jury, was reportedly not added to the main competition lineup until the night before the announcement.)

And it will no doubt include a handful of high-profile films looking for that Cannes dazzle. Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled,” with Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell, is probably the likeliest bet and the best fit. Ridley Scott’s “Alien: Covenant” opens too soon in France to make sense for Cannes, while Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk” almost certainly won’t be done in time; ditto on George Clooney’s “Suburbicon” and Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing,” which will likely be working through the summer to finish its complicated visual effects.

Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” and the new “Pirates of the Caribbean” aren’t outside the realm of possibility, while an episode or two of David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks” could bring the Palme d’Or winning director back to the Croisette if he felt like debuting his show in a cinema before it goes to TV, and if Cannes could accept the idea of giving a TV show a splashy sendoff. (That last one is a very big if.)

The heart of the festival, though, will be the competition titles, which tend not to be mainstream films. To figure out which 20 or so films might make the cut, it always pays to start with the directors who’ve been at the festival in the past. Among this year’s potential filmmakers are several past Palme d’Or winners: Michael Haneke, who won for “The White Ribbon” and “Amour” and will probably be back with “Happy End,” starring Jean-Louis Trintignant and the ubiquitous Isabelle Huppert; Albellatif Kechiche, who won for “Blue Is the Warmest Color” and could return with “Mektoub Is Mektoub,” though he recently told a French interviewer that the film will not be ready in time; and the late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who won for “Taste of Cherry” in 1997 and could be represented by his final film, “24 Frames,” a compilation of shorts.

Other possibilities from directors who’ve been to the festival before include “Ismael’s Ghosts” from French director Arnaud Desplechin, whose films virtually always make the festival; Hong Sang-Soo’s “Claire’s Camera,” which also stars Huppert; Sergei Loznitsa’s drama “A Gentle Creature,” which was inspired by a Dostoyevsky story; Fatih Akin’s “In the Face,” with Diane Kruger; “Dogtooth” director Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”; “Mustang” director Denis Gamze Erguven’s “Kings,” which stars Halle Berry and Daniel Craig and is set in Los Angeles just before the Rodney King riots; Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless,” the followup to his Oscar-nominated “Leviathan”; Ruben Ostlund’s “The Square,” a satire starring Elisabeth Moss and set in the art world from the director of “Force Majeure”; and “Mary Shelley” from Haifaa al-Mansour, who made waves with the Saudi-set “Wadjda” and now turns to a romantic period piece starring Elle Fanning and Maisie Williams; and Naomi Kawase’s “A Radiance” (“Hikari”), the latest film from a director who seems to get into Cannes every time she releases a film.

It’s worth noting that Kawase, al-Mansour and Erguven (as well as Coppola) would all help ease the annual complaint that Cannes doesn’t have enough films from female directors; the festival had three in competition last year, and it’s likely that it wouldn’t want to dip below that this year.

Of the American directors who could get competition slots, Todd Haynes is probably at the top of the list with his Julianne Moore/Michelle Williams drama “Wonderstruck.” Trey Edward Shults landed in Critics’ Week with his last film, “Krisha,” and could move up with the Riley Keough/Joel Edgerton drama “It Comes at Night.” John Cameron Mitchell was on the Croisette with “Shortbus,” and could return with “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” starring a couple of actresses with multiple Cannes possibilities, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning.  And Sean Baker (“Tangerine”) could get a booking for  “The Florida Project,” if that last film is finished in time.

And while almost all of Cannes’ bookings are usually world premieres, the festival typically takes one or two movies from Sundance. Last year it was “Captain Fantastic”; this year it could be Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River,” though Geremy Jasper’s “Patti Cake$” is also thought to have a good shot at going to France.

Australian director David Michod, who made “Animal Kingdom” and then went to Cannes with his dystopian Guy Pearce/Robert Pattinson drama “The Rover,” has an intriguing prospect in “War Machine,” a Netflix film in which Brad Pitt plays a fictionalized version of former U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal.

And French director Michel Hazanavicius, who debuted “The Artist” in Cannes before it went on to win the Oscar, is a contender with “Redoutable,” a film that sounds fascinating but could be a tricky offering for Cannes. The film stars Louis Garrel as director Jean-Luc Godard, and deals with Godard’s courtship of a teenage actress he would go on to marry. But not only is Godard revered in Cannes, he’s also still active, with a new film, “Image et Parole,” due out later this year. The film by Godard and the film about Godard would make a combustible Cannes double feature, but “Image et Parole” is likely not ready.

There are plenty of other films in the mix, including Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel,” and no doubt plenty of surprises to come when the lineup is announced on Thursday. All we know for sure is that there will be lots of movie stars, and there will be lots more art-house auteurs.