The apocalyptic title of James Gray's latest might initially put you in mind of a sequel to his previous feature, "Ad Astra." But after that cosmic science-fiction drama and the superb, equally weighty "The Lost City of Z," "Armageddon Time" sounds like something of a return to basics, or at least familiar territory: Starring Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong, it's a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama inspired by Gray's '70s Queens, New York, upbringing. Gray, by the way, is one of a few Cannes veterans this year chasing their first Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize. (The others include Arnaud Desplechin, Park Chan-wook and David Cronenberg.)
And then there's Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda, who won the Palme in 2018 for his quietly heartbreaking drama "Shoplifters." His latest, "Broker," concerns the business of "baby boxes," spaces where parents can anonymously leave their infants to be cared for by others. The story is set in South Korea and features that country's most acclaimed actor, Song Kang-ho (star of the Palme-winning "Parasite"); if that sounds like a departure, its subject matter — abandoned children, unconventional families — feels like thematic home turf for the director of "Like Father, Like Son" and "Nobody Knows."
3. "Brother and Sister"
Nobody does fractious French family dramas quite like Arnaud Desplechin, and the narrative thrust of this one — a brother and sister who've been estranged for years, only to find themselves brought together by tragedy — reminds me of a key subplot from his 2008 triumph, "A Christmas Tale." That would excite me enough even if the movie didn't boast two leads as redoubtable as Marion Cotillard and Melvil Poupaud.
4. "Crimes of the Future"
It's hard to believe that it's been eight years since David Cronenberg's last movie, "Maps to the Stars," screened at Cannes in 2014. His latest, the much-hyped "Crimes of the Future," stars frequent collaborator Viggo Mortensen, plus Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, in a surgery-centric story that would seem to push even Cronenberg's peerless reputation as a body-horror specialist to macabre new extremes. After last year's Palme d'Or victory for the grisly vehicular thriller "Titane" — a movie clearly and knowingly inspired by "Crash," Cronenberg's 1996 Cannes controversy-stirring classic — it'll be fascinating to see what this year's Vincent Lindon-led competition jury makes of the genuine article.
5. "Decision to Leave"
I've gone up and down with South Korean director Park Chan-wook over the years and have no particular love for the violent shocks on display in his previous Cannes prize-winners, "Oldboy" and "Thirst." But 2016's twisty, teasing "The Handmaiden" made me a believer again, and this latest competition entry, a murder mystery set in a remote mountainscape, sounds tantalizing indeed.
6. "God's Creatures"