"Looking forward" is the phrase we use most often when discussing the Cannes Film Festival, given that it showcases many of the year's most anticipated specialty films -- many of which stoke that anticipation by taking their sweet time to land in theaters. But looking backward is also a significant part of the festival... or it has been, at least, since the Cannes Classics strand was introduced to the Official Selection in 2004.

It's an increasingly popular notion that major film festivals shouldn't only foster the classics of the future, but preserve those of the past too. To that end, Cannes Classics features a diverse range of cinematic restorations, ranging from polished-up Hollywood favorites to more exhaustively reconstructed obscurities from all corners of world cinema. Many of them go on to show their new, improved selves in theatrical re-releases or shiny new DVDs and Blu-rays, so even cinephiles who haven't a small fortune spare to splash out on a Riviera trip can reap the benefits of the programme.

This year's selection is a particularly catholic one. Among the star attractions is a restoration of "Vertigo," almost exactly 55 years to the day after its release -- it seems apt that Hitchcock's spiralling psychological thriller is getting a facelift just months after being voted the greatest film of all time in Sight & Sound's decennial critics' poll. Kim Novak will be attending the screening as the festival's Guest of Honor.

The strand isn't exclusively devoted to films with such glowing legacies, however. Also at the festival will be Fox's 4K restoration of their infamous historical epic "Cleopatra," which bankrupted the studio and was pilloried by critics -- though it nabbed four Oscars and a Best Picture nomination. The film celebrates its golden anniversary this year, and ox clearly feels the time is right for a reappraisal; children of stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton will be in attendance.

That's not the only Oscar-grabber in the mix. The 1987 Best Picture champ, Bernardo Bertolucci's lavish Chinese royalty biopic "The Last Emperor," will also be shown in a very new light -- in 3D. This stately film, which won nine statuettes overall, isn't exactly typical of this kind of mainstream fare usually subjected to 3D conversions, but Bertolucci's unprecedented, already eye-popping location work in Beijing's Forbidden City should gain further dazzle in the third dimension.

Sticking with the Oscar connection, audiences who only got to know recent Best Actress runner-up (or so we assume) Emmanuelle Riva as the 85-year-old star of "Amour" may be interested to see her more youthful visage in a restoration -- from the original negative -- of Alain Resnais's seminal 1959 film "Hiroshima, Mon Amour." Only last year, Resnais had a new film in Competition at Cannes; Cannes Classics can also serve as a reminder of how active certain legends still are. The film is set for a re-release in France in July -- here's hoping it travels.

Other French canon titles in the lineup include Jean Cocteau's "Beauty and the Beast," Rene Clement's "Plein Soleil" and Jacques Demy's "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" -- the only former Palme d'Or winner getting the Cannes Classics treatment this year. A more modern proposed classic comes in the shape of Patrice Chereau's visceral historical biopic "Queen Margot," which took the Jury Prize and Best Actress at Cannes in 1994. Co-star (and current jury member) Daniel Auteuil will be among those cheering the restoration on.    

There's plenty of more esoteric fare in the lineup, much of it tantalising -- including a restoration of the rarely seen portmanteau film "Visions of Eight," dedicated to the 1972 Munich Olympics, and featuring contributions from Milos Forman and Arthur Penn, among others. The abundance of classic titles is countered, meanwhile, by two new film-focused documentaries, looking back at the role of women and children in film, respectively. Check out the full list of Cannes Classics titles on the next page.

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