Cannes rolls out the red carpet this year for its 60th anniversary festival May 16-27 with Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's first English-language movie My Blueberry Nights having been given the honours of opening world's leading movie fest on Wednesday.
Three years ago the 48-year-old Wong caused something of a sensation in Cannes when his movie 2046, which was also scheduled to launch the festival, failed to make it to Cannes in time and had to be screened one day later.
Set in New York, Memphis, Las Vegas and Nevada and starring Jude Law and Norah Jones, My Blueberry Nights is about a young woman's journey across America in search of answers about her life and love.
In opening the festival, My Blueberry Nights launches the 12-day competition with 22 films from Asia, Europe, Latin America and of course Hollywood in the running for Cannes' coveted 'Palm d'Or' or 'Golden Palm'.
<b1>Apart from four movies from Asia, this includes a large contingent of films from Russia and Central Europe, which underscore the renaissance underway in film making across Eastern Europe about 17 years after the implosion of communism.
But after a rather uneasy relationship with the world's most prestigious film festival in recent years, Hollywood really has a cause to celebrate this year with five movies having been selected for the main competition.
The line-up from the US includes the Ethan and Joel Coen's No Country for Old Men -- a thriller about a hunter who discovers a collection of dead bodies and a stash of more than a couple of million dollars.
American director Gus Van Sant is also returning to Cannes with Paranoid Park - a grim coming-of-age tale about a skateboard rider. Both the Coen Brothers and Van Sant are previous Palme d'Or winners.
Quentin Tarantino is to bring to Cannes a special cut of his thriller Death Proof while David Fincher's Zodiac starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr about a serial killer who terrorized San Francisco has also been selected for the main competition line up.
As well, Hollywood is also sending as non-competition entries Ocean's Thirteen - the latest in Steven Soderbergh's series on a slick group of crooks, and Michael Moore's new documentary, Sicko - about the horrors of the US health service to Cannes.
Of the 1,600 movies considered for this year's festival, 64 feature films are to be screened across the festival's main sections. British director Stephen Frears is to head up the festival's nine-head jury.
About 30,000 movie industry professionals and 4,000 journalists including a big quota paparazzi are expected to turn up at this year's festival.
Cannes might be a celebration of the mixing of movie-making with business, but it has also become a major fashion event with designers around the world having been frantically administering the final touches on their creations for a showing on Cannes' famous red carpet.
It is little wonder than almost everyone in the world of cinema - from Gary Cooper, Alfred Hitchcock, Sophia Loren through to Jean Cocteau and of course Brigitte Bardot - has at one point found the lure of Cannes irresistible.
A cache of stars is also heading to the Cote d'Azur town and its famous beachfront for promotional launches of their latest movies.
But while there is no final list of stars coming this year, Hollywood is once again expected to supply much of the glamour for Cannes with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Catherine Zeta Jones, Matt Damon and Al Pacino all expected to turn up for gala screenings of their films.
Other movies in the race for the festival's top honours include Bosnian-born Emir Kusturica for his somewhat offbeat Promise Me - about a Serbian man in search of a wife. A Palme d'Or this year for Belgrade-based Kusturica would make him a third-time winner at Cannes.
<b3>A black and white animated coming of age film set in post-revolutionary Iran and Tehilim about a Jewish family in Jerusalem coming to terms with the father's mysterious disappearance are also vying for the top prize.
Films from two leading South Korean directors - Lee Chang-Dong's Secret Sunshine and Kim Ki-duk's Breath are carrying the flag for Asia in the festival's main competition along with Japan's Naomi Kawase's Mogari no Mori.
Set in an ancient Japanese capital of Nara, The Forest of Mogari tells the story of a relationship between 70-year-old Shigeki, who suffers from memory loss and a 27-year-old caretaker Machiko.
But Eastern European filmmakers are also likely to find themselves in the spotlight at Cannes this year with two Russian films competing and Hungary making its first appearance in the festival's main competition for almost two decades with Bela Tarr's "The Man From London".
Just months after Romania joined the European Union, Bucharest-based Cristian Mungiu will be representing his country in the main competition with his 4 Luni, 3 Saptamini si 2 Zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days), which is set during Nicolae Ceaucescu's reign.