The annual Hollywood invasion of the south of France begins Wednesday
when the Cannes Film Festival kicks off with the European premiere of "The Great Gatsby," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, then continues for about
two weeks with five American movies among the 20 in competition for the Palme
It's an unusually large presence for the United States, especially in the highly coveted competition spot. Joel and Ethan Coen will screen their 1960s folk music homage, "Inside Llewyn Davis," starring Justin Timberlake and Mulligan; longtime Cannes favorite James Gray will present "The Immigrant," with Jeremy Renner, Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cotillard; Alexander Payne will debut his road-trip drama "Nebraska," with Will Forte and Bruce Dern; Jim Jarmusch will bring some bite with "Only Lovers Left Alive," a vampire tale starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. And in one of the juiciest premieres, Steven Soderbergh will screen his Liberace tale, "Behind the Candlelabra," starring Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as the showman and his lover.
The competition always includes a few controversial titles, or at least controversial artists. In what's sure to be a hyper-violent experience, Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn ("Drive") teams up again with Hollywood heartthrob Ryan Gosling in the drug-revenge drama "Only God Forgives." Japan's Takashi Miike will be Refn's top rival in the mastery of violence, with his blood-soaked thriller "Shield of Straw."
And what would Cannes be without a bit of scandal? Roman Polanski, who's still a fugitive from the U.S. after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with an American minor, will screen his latest, "Venus in Fur," about a young actress who's determined to prove to a director that she's perfect for an upcoming movie. Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric star.
Being selected for competition for the Palme d'Or is the most prestigious honor that Cannes bestows when announcing the lineup. And it's difficult to discuss Cannes without providing a few basics about the many levels of status -- something that the French have honed for many decades. In his 1987 memoir "Two Weeks in the Midday Sun," the late critic Roger Ebert described Cannes as being "Dantean" as he explained the "levels of the inferno." That may sound a bit melodramatic, but Ebert had a point.
In addition to the 20 films in competition, the festival selects other high-profile movies for special screenings. That's where "The Great Gatsby" falls, as does J.C. Chandor's "All Is Lost," a tale of one man's fight to survive a disaster at sea. (The man, in this case, is played by Robert Redford.) James Toback's documentary "Seduced and Abandoned" also gets one of these screenings, and it's a good example of the French fondness for looking at itself in the mirror. It follows Alec Baldwin and Toback as they try to raise money for a film while at Cannes. One of France's favorite Americans, Jerry Lewis, also will get a tribute screening that features his new movie, "Max Rose," directed by Daniel Noah.
"Zulu" -- a police thriller shot in South Africa with Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom -- will close the festival but is not competing for the Palme d'Or.
Most Popular Stories
- 2014 World Cup Official Noisemakers Quieter than Vuvuzelas
- Saab Gets Back into the Game; U.S. Auto Sales Soar
- Authorities Close to Deal with JPMorgan Chase over Madoff Response
- Apple Activates Customer-Tracking iBeacon
- It's No Yolk: Food-tech Startups Take Aim at Replacing Eggs
- 2013 Tech Gift Guide: iPad Mini Still Hot; Chromecast a Great Low-Cost Option
- Dell Offers Undisclosed Number of Employee Buyouts
- A Biography of Jonathan Ive, Apple's Creative Chief
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers