As the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival begins this Wednesday, May 11th, there are many cinephiliac delights to savor, starting first and foremost with the Festival's typically extensive and multicolored competition lineup.
From Brazil's Kleber Mendonça Filho (Aquarius, starring the superb Sonia Braga) and Romania's Cristian Mungiu (Graduation) to late-addition Iranian master Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman) and Britain's sublime Andrea Arnold (who teased her wild new American Honey during a Tribeca 2016 talk), this year's competition directors represent an appealing range of respected masters (Olivier Assayas, Park Chan-wook, Jim Jarmusch) and potential luminaries-in-the-making (Maren Ade, Jeff Nichols, Nicolas Winding Refn). And they're all heading to Cannes with something to prove.
Can Pedro Almodóvar, one of international cinema's most ambitious and impeccable stylists, push past the arms-crossed critical skepticism over his recent string of "light" films with the solemn mother-daughter drama Julieta? Can Almodóvar's Québécois offspring Xavier Dolan continue his divisive hot streak with his highest-profile effort to date, the Marion Cotillard-led It's Only the End of the World? And will Sean Penn's stars-in-Africa drama The Last Face, surprise audiences waiting to tar and feather the Festival's annual flop or merely ghost itself away from any wider scrutiny.
There's an unshakable and fairly enjoyable Hunger Games element to every Cannes competition, but there's also a lot to be pumped for regardless of the prizes that will be handed out by George Miller's solid nine-member jury, which also includes French auteur Arnaud Desplechin, American national treasure Kirsten Dunst, and Iranian producer Katayoon Shahabi, among others. Other enticing competition highlights include Cannes royalty Isabelle Huppert playing a vengeful rape survivor in a Paul Verhoeven movie of all things, another everyday masterwork from Romania's Cristi Puiu, the latest collaboration between Bruno Dumont and Juliette Binoche, and Alain Guiraudie's bonkers follow-up to 2013's sexually explicit suspense film Strangers by the Lake.
Tribeca's own Robert De Niro, and one-time Cannes Jury President, is at the center of a Festival tribute, which will include the first-ever screening of the real-life boxing drama Hands of Stone, starring Édgar Ramírez as the famed Panamanian brawler Roberto Duràn and De Niro as his greying trainer, Ray Arcel. "I'm excited to be coming back to Cannes especially with this movie...that I'm so proud of," said De Niro. "This movie is uplifting, triumphant, and a good time for audiences, so I'm looking forward to seeing my friends from across the world of cinema in joining us for this fun event."
The late Prince will also be honored as Albert Magnoli's 1984 musical Purple Rain is set to screen as part of Cannes' still-under-wraps tribute to The Purple One, whose unmatched legacy was recently honored in concert by Alicia Keys during Tribeca 2016.
Meanwhile, Jodie Foster continues her interesting creative reinvention as full-time director with the George Clooney/Julia Roberts financial thriller Money Monster, which screens out of competition on Thursday, May 12, before opening stateside the following Friday. Foster recently discussed the film, her biggest-budgeted project to date, and aired out her frustrations with the "woman directors conversation" during a Directors Series talk at Tribeca 2016 that can be watched in full below.
And Woody Allen, more public and talkative than ever these days, provides the Festival with its opening night selection, the bicoastal '40-era comedy Café Society, which features an utterly Allen-ish assortment of actors, from Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart to Parker Posey and Jeannie Berlin. It remains to be seen whether or not Allen's latest will position itself among the flawed but fascinating latter-day Woody keepers like Blue Jasmine and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, or go the forgotten way of past Festival entries like Hollywood Ending and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger.
But that's just the nature of Cannes, in which praise and plaudits aren't promised even to superstars like Allen and Foster. The same goes for Steven Spielberg, who returns to Cannes after a 2013 stint as jury head with Disney's live-action Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG, which could be the toast of the Croisette or fizzle out entirely while critics lose their heads over the new Jim Jarmusch. In this global arena, even cinema's most indisputable living legends have to fight for their name—and, of course, their films.
Want to experience Cannes like a VIP but can't afford the airfare? Be sure to follow our Snapchat (@Tribeca) throughout the Festival for an exclusive, real-time look at Cannes 2016, including moments from the premiere of Hands of Stone.