Joaquin Phoenix and Marion Cottilard in James Gray's "The Immigrant."
The Cannes Film Festival is making a statement at this year's gathering: We still really like Americans.
The main competition will feature four directors from the U.S. -- Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”) Joel and Ethan Coen (“Inside Llewyn Davis”), James Gray (“The Immigrant”) and Steven Soderbergh (“Behind the Candelabra”) -- equaling last year's strong total of North American helmers in competition.
In addition, new movies from U.S. filmmakers James Franco, Sofia Coppola, James Toback and J.C. Chandor will play in other sections. Longtime Hollywood director-in-exile Roman Polanski will bring two movies to the festival, including his new picture "Venus in Fur," which will play in competition. And the competition jury will of course be overseen by a preeminent American filmmaker in Steven Spielberg.
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A healthy dose of U.S. and European stars will also walk the red carpet on the Croisette, including Ryan Gosling and Mila Kunis (for their international collaborations with filmmakers Nicolas Winding Refn and Guillaume Canet, respectively), Robert Redford (Chandor’s “All Is Lost”), Franco (“As I Lay Dying”), Carey Mulligan (“Davis” and festival opener “The Great Gatsby”), Marion Cotillard ("The Immigrant" and "Blood Ties"), Justin Timberlake ("Davis") and Matt Damon (“Candelabra”).
Movies from U.S. helmers Woody Allen (“Blue Jasmine”) and Lee Daniels (“The Butler”), which had been speculated about as potential Cannes entries, won’t be making the voyage. Daniels was among the quartet of North American directors with movies at the 2012 edition, joining David Cronenberg, Jeff Nichols and Wes Anderson.
The festival's Thierry Fremaux and Gilles Jacob made the announcement of the 2013 festival titles -- 19 in competition, 14 in Un Certain Regard and a handful of special and out-of-competition screenings -- at a Paris news conference Thursday, releasing them via Twitter one title at a time.
The inclusion of Payne’s “Nebraska,” a father-son road-trip movie that Paramount Pictures will release in the fall, is a surprise; many observers had expected the film, which stars Bruce Dern and Will Forte, to wait for the late-summer festivals. Equally of note is Soderbergh’s “Behind the Candelabra,” starring Damon and Michael Douglas in the movie about flamboyant musician Liberace. It is to air on HBO later this year and was a question mark for a festival berth. If the director is to be believed, the movie could be his last work for a while as he contemplates a retirement from cinema.
The Coens are making their first trip to Cannes since 2007, when "No Country for Old Men" established itself as an Oscar frontrunner on the Croisette en route to a best picture win and U.S. blockbusterdrom. Their new film, which stars Mulligan, Timberlake and Oscar Isaac, has a softer edge -- it follows the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s and is loosely based on the lives of Dave Von Ronk and other music figures of that era.
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The American director Gray, who served on the competition jury in 2009, will come to Cannes with his first movie in five years. “The Immigrant” (nee “Low Life”), a period story acquired by the Weinstein Co. about Ellis Island and vaudeville performers, reunites Gray with longtime star Joaquin Phoenix and will seek to further solidify Phoenix's comeback after his Oscar-nominated turn in “The Master” this year.
Phoenix was last in Cannes with a new movie five years ago when he starred in Gray’s “Two Lovers,” several years before his faux foray into a hip-hop career. Jeremy Renner co-stars in "The Immigrant" with Phoenix and Cotillard.
Gray also wrote and executive produced “Blood Ties,” French actor-director Guillaume Canet’s 1970s Brooklyn-set crime drama featuring Kunis, Clive Owen and Canet's significant other Cottilard; that film will screen out of competition in Cannes.
Meanwhile, Polanski’s adaptation of David Ives’ play “Venus in Fur,” starring wife Emmanuelle Seigner, will play in competition, while his never-released-in-the-U.S. Formula 1 documentary, “Week End of a Champion,” will get a special-screening slot. That film, about the 1970s driver Jackie Stewart, was recently bought by Brett Ratner's documentary company and will finally be given a U.S. release courtesy of Netflix.