Cannes season kicks off this week as the film festival unveils its pick of Hollywood giants and arthouse newcomers to compete for the coveted Palme d'Or at the glitzy event on the French Riviera next month.
Organisers will announce the 20-odd films in the official competition at a press conference in Paris Thursday, ending film buff speculation about who will make the cut for the world's top movie showcase on May 16-27.Cannes' general delegate Thierry Fremaux selects the line-up each year from among some 2,000 productions, from the biggest names in film right down to first-time directors from North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America or Africa.
He was left fuming early this month when a bogus Cannes selection was posted online in an April Fool's prank.
The fake list notably named hotly-awaited films from US directors Terrence Malick and David Cronenberg as well as Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, a 1960s teen love story already announced as Cannes' opening movie.
"There are always rumours about the films at Cannes -- and it always gets on directors' nerves," Gilles Jacob, the festival's 81-year-old current chairman and longtime general delegate, told AFP this week.
"It's pretty easy to take a list of all the great films in production around the world, to look at the great directors, the release dates," he said.
"Of course, in the mix some of the films are bound to be in Cannes. But a selection is more than just that: there are the discoveries, first films, people who have never come before."
This year's jury is headed up by Italian director Nanni Moretti, who scooped a Palme d'Or for La stanza del figlio (The Son's Room) in 2001, and who is the first non-American in the role since 2009.
Moretti told AFP earlier this month he would be "looking for films that are still able to surprise me, not the kind of film I've already seen 5,000 times."Organisers will also announce the line-up for the parallel section for up-and-coming talent, Un Certain Regard, whose jury is to be chaired by the British actor and director Tim Roth.
Despite the promise of surprises, several dozen big-name movies currently in post-production are strongly tipped for a slot at the festival.
According to the buzz in Hollywood, Madagascar 3 is all-but-assured of a screening, though not necessarily in competition.
And US film giant Warner Bros has made it known that its latest Batman movie -- The Dark Knight Rises by Christopher Nolan, starring Marion Cotillard -- is finished, well ahead of its July 19 release date.
On the Road by the Brazilian Walter Salles is seen as a strong contender: based on the Jack Kerouac novel and starring Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen, the film is planned for release in late May.
From Britain, Ken Loach -- who has brought 16 films to Cannes in the past -- could be in for a place with his new film about an ex-offender on the mend, "The Angel's Share".
US director James Gray is tipped for a spot with Low Life", starring Marion Cotillard and Joaquin Phoenix in a tale about an innocent immigrant woman tricked into a life of burlesque.
Michael Haneke -- whose The White Ribbon won the 2009 Palme d'Or -- has a film in post-production called "Amour" (Love) about a woman hit by a stroke, also seen as a likely choice if it is ready in time.South Korea's Park Chan-wook -- who owes his international breakthrough to a slot at Cannes with Oldboy" in 2004 -- is seen as a contender with Stoker, an English-language thriller starring Nicole Kidman.
Film sources told AFP the Argentinian director Pablo Trapero could return to Cannes with Elefante blanco (White Elephant), the story of two priests battling corruption in the suburbs of Buenos Aires.
Woody Allen could also walk the red carpet -- though probably out-of-competition -- with To Rome with Love, whose A-list cast includes Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz and Roberto Benigni.
And according to Le Figaro newspaper, Claude Miller's Therese Desqueyroux, which was in post-production when the French filmmaker died early this month, is likely to be part of the official Cannes selection.