The Cannes Film Festival gets off to a strapping start on Wednesday with Russell Crowe's "Robin Hood," though the lineup is leaner than usual, with fewer household names among the actors and directors at the world's most prestigious cinema showcase.
Key names are among the 19 films competing for the Palme d'Or, the festival's coveted top prize, including new movies by "Amores Perros" director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Cannes best film laureates Ken Loach and Abbas Kiarostami, as well as Japan's Takeshi Kitano.
Ahead of the premiere of "Robin Hood," fans were staking out a spot near the festival headquarters in hope of catching a glimpse of Crowe and co-star Cate Blanchett as they walk the newly laid red carpet later Wednesday.
The media blitz around Ridley Scott's adaptation comes at a convenient time for the action-packed film, which will go head-to-head with the reigning blockbuster "Iron Man 2" when it opens in parts of Europe and the U.S. this week.
Like "Robin Hood," many of the other big-name movies in this, the 63rd edition of the prestigious festival are to be shown out of competition.
A-list movies not in contention for awards include Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" — the followup to their 1987 hit "Wall Street" — and Woody Allen's ensemble romance, "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger," starring Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins and Freida Pinto.
Only one U.S. film will be in the running for Cannes' top prize: director Doug Liman's "Fair Game," starring Watts as CIA covert operative Valerie Plame, whose identity was leaked by officials in the Bush administration. In years past, there were as many as five American films in competition at Cannes.
U.S. director Tim Burton heads the jury, which also includes British actress Kate Beckinsale, Puerto Rico's Benicio del Toro and Indian director Shekhar Kapur, who made "Elizabeth."
Early contenders for the Palme d'Or include "Biutiful," by Mexican critical darling Gonzalez Inarritu. Set in Barcelona, "Biutiful" stars Spanish hunk Javier Bardem as a father struggling to protect his children.
With "Certified Copy," top Iranian director Kiarostami leaves his native country, serving up an Italian-set romance starring Juliette Binoche.
British directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, both Cannes laureates, are in the running for a second Palme d'Or — Leigh with his relationship drama "Another Year," and Loach with "Route Irish," which is set in Iraq.
This year's selection also includes a strong Asian contingent, with two films from both South Korean and China, as well as one entry each from Japan and Thailand.
The Cannes film festival runs through May 23.
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