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Star-filled line-up sees US 'resurgence' at Cannes

With US films made by non-Americans, a Japanese romance from an Iranian director, a French actress in a South Korean film, and an Australian pop star in a French film, this year's Cannes line-up points to cinema’s increasingly blurred borders.


After rampant rumours, a much-publicised leak, and some grumbling about Cannes Film Festival organisers’ lateness to a Paris press conference Thursday morning, film critics, reporters, and movie buffs can now stop biting their nails: the official competition line-up for the 65th edition of the world’s most prestigious cinema event has landed.

Those rooting for the heavyweights should not be disappointed. Though Cannes director Thierry Frémaux revealed that hotly awaited films from Terrence Malick and Wong Kar-wai were not completed in time, cinephile spirits were lifted by the inclusion of new works from cherished auteurs – and Cannes regulars - David Cronenberg, Michael Haneke, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach, and 89-year old Alain Resnais.

Before reading out the 22 films selected from more than 1,700 submissions, Frémaux also noted that this year’s festival - to take place from May 16-27 on the sun-kissed French Riviera – would see a “resurgence” of American cinema. But not all of those US entries were directed by Americans, he specified.

That stipulation was a nod to what looks like a defining trend of this year’s competition: a film industry without borders, in which a legendary Iranian filmmaker directs a Japanese romance, a leading French actress headlines a South Korean drama, and a Brazilian brings a beloved classic of American literature to the big screen.

American movies made by non-Americans

The latter film, Walter Salles’ “On the Road” (based on Jack Kerouac’s autobiographical Beat Generation novel) is perhaps the highest-profile American entry vying for the Palme d’Or prize. With a cast mixing lesser-known actors like Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley in lead roles and bigger names like Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, and Viggo Mortensen in supporting parts, the movie will likely make for one of the youngest, most photogenic gala screenings.

Another American movie directed by a non-US filmmaker is Australian John Hillcoat’s Prohibition-era drama “Lawless”, with Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf as brothers running a bootlegging business. Jessica Chastain, of last year’s Palme d’Or winner “Tree of Life”, co-stars.

Hillcoat’s Australian compatriot Andrew Dominik will also compete with an American film, the crime drama “Killing Them Softly”. The movie is headlined by Brad Pitt, who, after Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “Babel” (2006), Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” (2009), and Malick’s “Tree of Life” (2011), has become a regular at the festival.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Cronenberg will unveil his adaptation of American author Don DeLillo’s dark Manhattan-set novel “Cosmopolis”. Frémaux informed journalists that Robert Pattinson, who plays the swoon-inducing vampire in the “Twilight” films, appears in nearly every scene of Cronenberg’s new movie - a fact that will surely quicken many a teenage pulse, while raising eyebrows and red flags among critics wary of the English actor’s often wooden performances. In any case, the presence of both Pattinson and his “Twilight” co-star and real-life paramour Kristen Stewart in competition this year may translate into the red-carpet walk with the loudest cheers and most flashing cameras.

Continuing the pattern of border-defying competition films are two Asian entries. After casting his camera upon the Italian countryside in “Certified Copy” two years ago, the Iranian Kiarostami continues his cinematic globetrotting with the Japan-set “Like Someone in Love”. Elsewhere on the continent, Korean Hong Sangsoo puts famous French actress Isabelle Huppert front and centre in his latest, “In Another Country”.

French stars abound, but few French directors

With Huppert also appearing - once again - in a film by Austrian provocateur Haneke (entitled “Amour”), and Juliette Binoche and Mathieu Amalric featured in plum roles in “Cosmopolis”, French actors look to be rather prominent in the international competition. But the slate features surprisingly few French filmmakers. Apart from Resnais, Jacques Audiard is back (after taking home the second-place Grand Prix in 2009 for “A Prophet”) with “Rust and Bone”, with French star Marion Cotillard playing a whale trainer who falls in love with a bare-knuckle boxer. And Leos Carax’s “Holy Rollers” will bring perhaps the most unusual and – as per the spirit of this year’s competition – international cast to the Croisette, with American actress Eva Mendes, 86-year-old French actor Michel Piccoli, and Australian pop star Kylie Minogue in key roles.

Apart from Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom”, which will open the festival and is also in competition, two other US entries are somewhat offbeat choices from relatively new directors. African-American filmmaker Lee Daniels (who made controversial melodrama “Precious”) will present “The Paperboy”, the story of a reporter investigating a case involving a death-row inmate. The film features Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, and Nicole Kidman, whom Frémaux singled out at the press conference for what he described as a striking performance.

The remaining American movie is “Mud”, a thriller from Jeff Nichols (director of last year’s much-lauded “Take Shelter”) about a fugitive who befriends two teenagers in Mississippi. The cast is headlined by Reese Witherspoon, Michael Shannon, and, again, McConaughey, a laid-back heartthrob who has the unlikely honour of appearing in two competition films this year.

Excitement over a typically alluring roster of movies was tempered slightly by two facts. There is only one entry from Africa or the Middle East in the main competition line-up (Egyptian filmmaker Yousry Nasrallah’s “After the Battle”). And while four female directors made the cut last year, no women appear on this year’s list.

- OPENING FILM: "Moonrise Kingdom", Wes Anderson (US)

- "De Rouille et d'Os" (Of Rust and Bone), Jacques Audiard (France)

- "Holy Motors", Leos Carax (France)

- "Cosmopolis", David Cronenberg (Canada)

- "The Paperboy", Lee Daniels (US)

- "Killing Them Softly", Andrew Dominik (Australia)

- "Reality", Matteo Garrone (Italy)

- "Amour", Michael Haneke (Austria)

- "Lawless", John Hillcoat (Australia)

- "In Another Country", HONG Sangsoo (South Korea)

- "Do-Nui-Mat" (Taste of Money), Im Sangsoo (South Korea)

- "Like Someone in love", Abbas Kiarostami (Iran)

- "The Angel's Share", Ken Loach (Britain)

- "Im Nebel" (In the Fog), Sergei Loznitsa (Ukraine)

- "Beyond the Hills", Cristian Mungiu (Romania)

- "Baad El Mawkeaa" (After the Battle), Yousry Nasrallah (Egypt)

- "Mud", Jeff Nichols (US)

- "Vous n'avez encore rien vu" (You Haven't Seen Anything Yet), Alain Resnais (France)

- "Post Tenebras Lux", Carlos Reygadas (Mexico)

- "On the Road", Walter Salles (Brazil)

- "Paradies: Liebe" (Paradise: Love), Ulrich Seidl (Germany)

- "The Hunt", Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)

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