The best, if not the biggest, news in the just announced line-up for this year’s Cannes Film Festival? Paul Verhoeven finally has another real film! The controversial Dutch filmmaker has been stuck in an endless cycle of development hell since 2006’s acclaimed “Black Book,” with only the not-much-loved chain camera film “Tricked,” released in America last year, to show for it. Now his “Elle,” which sounds like a French “Death Wish” only with Isabelle Huppert (or, even more skeezily, Neil Jordan’s misjudged “The Brave One,” starring Jodie Foster), is set to make its splashy, French Riviera debut.
Of course, “Elle” is far from the hottest ticket. Though its most populist titles are naturally out of competition — Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG,” Shane Black’s “The Nice Guys,” Jodie Foster’s star-studded “Money Monster” and opening night film “Cafe Society,” this year’s requisite Woody Allen entry — Cannes 2016 boasts the usual suspects of household name auteurs and ones mostly only known to ascetic cinephiles.
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Jim Jarmusch has “Paterson,” pairing Adam Driver with Iranian star/activist Golshifteh Farahani. “Drive”’s Nicolas Winding Refn looks to atone for the much-despised “Only God Forgives” with the Elle Fanning-starring horror-thriller “The Neon Devil,” whose title sounds like a Refn parody. There are newbies from director Sean Penn (“The Last Face”), Ken Loach (“I, Daniel Blake”) and Jeff Nichols’ “Loving,” which finds the maker of “Take Shelter” and “Midnight Special” shifting to a civil rights docudrama.
Among the Euro-gods are Pedro Almodovar’s “Julieta,” a return to melodramas that will arrives soon after the Spanish legend’s involvement in the Panama Papers kerfuffle. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, maybe the most reliably same-y filmmakers now working, will come bearing “La Fille Inconnue,” which is almost certainly terrific.
Olivier Assayas returns to a fest that crowned his “Clouds of Sils Maria” co-star Kristen Stewart with an acting award. It’s even another KStew product, “Personal Shopper,” which should allow journos yet another chance to be besieged on Twitter by the actress’ rabid fanbase of randos with “Twilight” avatars. (Stewart also stars in the new Woody Allen.) Speaking of “Clouds,” Juliette Binoche reunites with her “Camille Claudel 1915” director Bruno Dumont for the oft-punishing filmmaker’s “Slack Bay.”
Arguably even bigger than a new Verhoeven, to be honest, is the presence of a new Maren Ade, the German director whose last film, the astute relationship saga “Everyone Else,” was a stunner all the way back in 2009. According to the IMDb, her new “Toni Erdmann” follows a father trying to reconnect with his daughter, and the cast includes reliable Romanian intenso Vlad Ivanov, who has been probably most seen as a gun-toting heavy in “Snowpiercer.” Ivanov’s fellow countryman Crisi Puiu (“The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”) also pops up with the doubtlessly austere and funny “Sieranevada.”
South Korea’s Park Chan-wook (“Oldboy,” etc.) is one of the few non-Westerners present, toting his lesbian drama “The Handmaiden.” Filling out the name directors is “American Honey,” from “Wuthering Heights”’ Andrea Arnold, and “It’s Only the End of the World,” in which Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel surrender themselves to Xavier Dolan, who is, again, not even close to being 30 years old. Speaking of names, most of the out-of-comp “Un Certain Regard” section is made of budding talents who are complete strangers, even to fest-regulars. That’s possibly even more exciting than a new Assayas.
Cannes begins on May 11 and you’re almost certainly not going.
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge