Cannes 2013: Palme d’Or dark horses

In competition at the 66th Cannes Film Festival, French director Arnaud des Pallières’ Michael Kohlhaas is a 16th century revenge drama featuring a strong European cast including the likes of Bruno Ganz (Downfall) and Denis Lavant – star of Leos Carax’s refreshingly bonkers 2012 Palme d’Or contender Holy Motors. However, it’s Danish man of the moment Mads Mikkelsen who will no doubt be the main attraction here. Last seen at Cannes with Thomas Vintenberg’s Jagten (The Hunt, 2012) and currently starring in the NBC TV drama Hannibal as everyone’s favourite cannibal, Doctor Lecter, Mikkelsen has repeatedly proved himself both a versatile actor and a powerful screen presence.

Michael Kohlhaas
The aforementioned Mikkelsen plays the title role of horse-dealer Kohlhaas who, when wronged by a local lord, raises an army and seeks his revenge, spreading violence and fire across the land. The film is part-scripted and directed by Frenchman des Pallières, whose last feature, the intriguing but ultimately disappointing and flimsy Parc,  showed up at the Venice Film Festival back in 2008. However, with a quality high-powered cast, a more traditional yarn (with shades of Braveheart in the premise) and a larger sweep than his earlier claustrophobic efforts, Michael Kohlhaas could turn out to be one of the breakout films of Cannes 2013.

Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)
Acclaimed French director Arnaud Desplechin (Kings and Queen) returns to the Croisette with US-based period drama Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian), starring Benicio Del Toro as the title character and Desplechin regular Mathieu Amalric as Dr. Georges Devereaux. The apparently true story concerns Jimmy Picard (Del Toro) who, on returning from the Second World War, is misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. Enter Amalric, an analyst from whom Picard seeks a second opinion. Through regular therapy sessions, the two become close friends. The opportunity of seeing two actors of the calibre of Del Toro and Amalric sharing screen time together could be one to savour. A potential Palme d’Or contender.

Venus in Fur
Based on the award-winning stage play by David Ives, Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur stars Mathieu Amalric as Thomas, a director searching for the right actress to play the lead in his adaptation of the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs. Enter Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), an actress who, despite fulfilling all of Thomas’ worst criticisms, slowly turns the tables on the director. Polanski’s experiments in this kind of minimalist drama – Carnage was also based on a play – seem partly born of necessity, given his continued ambiguous legal position. A lot will depend on the performances he is able to inspire from his two leads, but the subject of masochistic sexual power games is ripe Polanski territory.

The 66th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 15-27 May, 2013. For more of our Cannes 2013 coverage, simply follow this link. 

John Bleasdale