The lineup for the Cannes Film Festival, which opens on May 14 with the Grace Kelly biopic, Grace of Monaco, is heavy on movies featuring Hollywood stars, but not quite so on American directors. Women helmers have a strong presence.
The Competition titles include Mike Leigh's Mr. Turner about the classic painter, Ken Loach's Jimmy Hall, Bertrand Bonello's Saint Laurent, Two Days, One Night from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Canadian director Atom Egoyan's The Captive, Japanese director Naomi Kawase's Still the Water and Timbuktu from Abderrahmane Sissako. The living French legend, Jean-Luc Godard, will return with Goodbye to Language.
Some of the stars who will be seen in these competing movies are Meryl Streep, Hilary Swank, Hailee Steinfeld and James Spader (The Homesman), Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Robert Pattinson, John Cusack and Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars), Ryan Reynolds and Rosario Dawson (The Captive), Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening (The Search), Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart (Clouds of Sils Maria), Marion Cotillard (Two Days, One Night) and Lea Seydoux (The Blue Room).
In A Certain Regard section, Ryan Gosling will directorially debut with Lost River.
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Out of competition works include Chinese director Zhang Yimou's Coming Home, starring Gong Li, and DreamWorks Animation's How to Train Your Dragon 2 (which Festival Director Thierry Fremaux said would help celebrate the 20th anniversary of the animation studio in the presence of long-term supporter Jeffrey Katzenberg).
Also of great interest will be the competition between two British cinema giants, Loach and Leigh. Loach had said some weeks ago that his 29th feature, Jimmy's Hall, would be his last. But it now appears that the work will not be the helmer's swan song.
Loach told the media that he had talked about retirement (though only from features, not documentaries) "in the heat of a harrowing preproduction battle for the Irish drama, Jimmy's Hall. I kind of thought I wouldn't get through another one just as we were beginning Jimmy's Hall, because it's a moment of maximum pressure when you haven't shot a thing but you're knackered from all the prep, and you've been away from home for a long time and you still have to get through the shoot."
Loach said: "It's quite a daunting prospect, the effort you've got to find from somewhere and the nervous and emotional energy and all that. But now having come out the other side, while I'm not sure we'll get another of that size away, we'll at least get a little movie together of some sort [with longtime writing partner Paul Laverty] more akin to a documentary scale."
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A known Communist sympathiser, Loach's career began with television before it moved on to the big screen in 1967 with Poor Cow. It was two years later that his Kes attracted international attention.
Jimmy's Hall is a drama set in 1932 and talks about Communist leader James Gralton, who comes to Ireland after a decade in New York, and he tries to reopen a dance place he had built in 1921.
Loach won the top Palm d'Or in 2006 for his extraordinarily poignant Irish historical piece, The Wind That Shakes The Barley. In 2012, his Angel's Share got him the Jury Prize at Cannes.
This May, as Cannes zips by from May 14 to 25, Loach will be pitted against many world greats in Competition, but the battle between him and Leigh, with his biopic, Mr Turner, will be keenly followed by critics and others. And it has been two decades since they first sparred for the prestigious Palm at Cannes - one of the most sought after in the world. They vied in 1993 - when Loach won the Jury Prize for Raining Stones and Leigh got the Best Director's Award for Naked. In 1996, his Secrets and Lies won him the Cannes crown, which he described as a landmark in his career.
Leigh's fifth title at the festival, Mr Turner, traces the life of artist JMW Turner. The auteur averred that Turner "is so complex and there's so much of him to get your head around. Turner was a compulsive artist. Turner had to paint, had to draw, all the time … It was an absolute obsession."
The 67th edition of the festival will close with the restored version of A Fistful of Dollars, made in 1964. This will be to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the birth of the Spaghetti Western in 1964.
A Fistful of Dollars, directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood and Gian Maria Volonté, has been restored by Cineteca di Bologna. The event will be hosted by Quentin Tarantino, a great admirer of Leone.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is now covering the Cannes Film Festival and may be e-mailed at email@example.com)