Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux sent out mixed messages in his -- very long, as usual -- preamble to announcing this year's Cannes Film Festival lineup. First he mentioned a focus on newer, fresher filmmakers, but mentioned elsewhere that "Cannes is an event for the regulars." Predictably enough, the latter statement turned out to be closer to the truth: of the 18 films competing for this year's Palme d'Or, 13 have been to the dance before. (And of the Competition virgins, Bennett Miller and Xavier Dolan are hardly unknowns.)
Early on, meanwhile, Fremaux made the initially bold statement that 15 women were in the Official Selection, promising a bounty of female directors for jury president Jane Campion to consider. It turned out to be a slight manipulation of the truth: several of those women are involved in portmanteau films, while only two of them -- Naomi Kawase and surprise inclusion Alice Rohrwacher -- are in the Competition. (Hey, it's twice as many as last year.)
So, as ever, Cannes giveth and Cannes taketh away. But for fans of A-list auteurism and Hollywood royalty alike, this year's lineup is a rich and generous one. Star-watchers will line the red carpet to see the likes of Channing Tatum ("Foxcatcher"), Kristen Stewart ("Clouds of Sils Maria") and -- twice -- Robert Pattinson ("The Rover" and "Maps to the Stars") strut their stuff, with Cannes regular Ryan Gosling returning to present his directorial debut "Lost River" (formerly "How to Catch a Monster").
Meanwhile, arthouse acolytes will be salivating over new works from Mike Leigh, Jean-Luc Godard, the Dardenne Brothers, Olivier Assayas, Nuri Bilge Ceylan and many more. At first glance, it may not be the most adventurous selection Cannes has ever assembled, but it's a sparkly one all the same.
Anyway, Cannes has long left the job of identifying and rearing new talent to other festivals, picking up on their discoveries when they're a little more seasoned. It says a lot that a director like Austria's well-regarded Jessica Hausner scored a critical smash with "Lourdes" in the Venice competition five years ago, but is here deemed ready only for an Un Certain Regard slot. Meanwhile, 77-year-old British social realist Ken Loach returns to Competition for the 12th time with his period political drama "Jimmy's Hall." The Cannes hierarchy is not easily shaken.
Loach is one of three former Palme d'Or champions returning for more; another is his fellow British elder statesman Mike Leigh, whose long-cherished passion project "Mr. Turner" -- his highest-budgeted film to date -- brings him back to the fold four years after "Another Year." Two-time Palme winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne came very close to winning a third in 2011 in "The Kid With a Bike"; they're returning with "Two Days, One Night," their starriest effort to date. The Marion Cotillard-led economic-crisis drama was described by Fremaux as a "Belgian western," though that could mean pretty much anything.
Certain things may have been lost in translation, but Fremaux's own descriptions of the films were often amusingly offhand or cryptically dismissive. Lisandro Alonso's Un Certain Regard entry "Jauja" was helpfully sold to us as "very strange," while he listed the running time of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's latest Anatolian epic -- and sight-unseen Palme d'Or favorite -- "Winter Sleep" as 196 minutes, before adding, "We'll put it near the start of the festival, so you can recover." Sold.