David Cronenberg deconstructs Hollywood, Tommy Lee Jones goes Western, and reclusive New Wave legend Jean-Luc Godard returns in 3-D in films competing for top honors at next month's Cannes Film Festival.
Organizers of the ritzy Riviera festival famed for its red-carpet glamour announced the much-heralded lineup Thursday for the May 14-25 event, including 18 films vying for the top prize — the Palme d'Or.
Cannes organizers insist the films are chosen based on the art. But some themes in this year's crop are unmistakable: based-on-real-life stories of Olympic wrestlers, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and British painter J.M.W. Turner; themes of solitude, or the Old West; daily life in northern Mali under jihadist control or in today's Russia.
Aside from Godard and Cronenberg, several other Cannes veterans are back, including Mike Leigh and Ken Loach of Britain, and Belgium's Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne — who will be angling for their third Palme d'Or. Michel Hazanavicius, the French director of the Oscar-winning silent film "The Artist," also returns.
Films by two women — Naomi Kawase of Japan and Alice Rohrwacher of Italy — are also in the running. Event organizers have faced recent criticism for not selecting more films by female directors.
But Cannes is about far more than just competition for the top award. Some 49 feature-length films from 28 countries — including 15 by female directors — and many short films will be shown at the 11-day cinema extravaganza.
"It is important for us that the Cannes selection is a voyage through cinema and the world," Director-General Thierry Fremaux said. "You can find in the official selection a lot of ... big names, but also young, new directors."
He noted that while some films have funny moments, no full-blown comedies are in the competition.
Director Jane Campion, the only woman to win the Palme d'Or, is leading this year's festival jury, which opens with Nicole Kidman starring in director Olivier Dahan's out-of-competition biopic "Grace of Monaco."
In the Palme d'Or chase, Cronenberg's "Maps to the Stars" takes aim at today's media-crazed society, while Jones directs and acts in "The Homesman" alongside Hilary Swank, about a man charged with escorting people through the Old West.
Famed Swiss director Godard, who has never won a Palme d'Or and last competed for it in 2001, will present "Adieu Au Language" ("Goodbye to Language") — whether on hand himself or not — a film described only cryptically by Cannes organizers.
"I'm not going to tell you much, but it's a film that's impossible to summarize. It's an act of cinema, it's a poem, it's a cry or it's a sigh," Fremaux told France-Info radio. "It is in relief, it's in 3-D. Jean-Luc Godard doesn't stop being modern."
Canadian actor Ryan Gosling makes his directorial debut among 19 films competing for the "Un Certain Regard" prize, presented a day before the Palme d'Or to honor up-and-coming or innovative filmmakers.
Gosling's "Lost River" stars Christina Hendricks and will be up against films from Italy's Asia Argento, France's Mathieu Amalric and "Paris, Texas" director Wim Wenders of Germany.
Adding to the international tilt, Chinese actress Gong Li returns to the Cannes red carpet in Zhang Yimou's "Coming Home," screening out of competition.
This year's Cannes poster features a black-and-white photo of the late Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni, a conscious choice of a male after criticism that past posters featuring women had unfairly objectified them, Fremaux said.
Last year, in a first, the Palme d'Or was shared by two actresses for "Blue is the Warmest Color" along with its director.