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Curtains Go up as Cannes Film Festival Turns 60
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Cannes Film Festival opens on Wednesday with a mix of arthouse movie making and raw star power fitting for cinema's greatest showcase, which turns 60 this year.

Chinese director Wong Kar Wai, best known in the West for In The Mood For Love, brings My Blueberry Nights to the palm-lined Riviera resort, an English language film starring singer Norah Jones in her screen debut alongside Jude Law.

The opening movie kicks off 11 hectic days of networking, deal making, and partying among thousands of people from across the industry who descend on Cannes each year.

It is one of 22 competition films, but hundreds more, including major Hollywood productions, are screened and touted, luring the likes of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, and Sharon Stone to France's southern coast.

Selectors chose no less than five US productions in the main competition, although two have already been released in their home country to a cool reception.

Quentin Tarantino, adored by the Cannes faithful for his subversive style, presents Death Proof, part of a double bill that flopped at the box office.

And David Fincher was included for Zodiac, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. in a drama based on a real-life serial killer.

"Often there is that disconnect between what American critics like and what European critics like, so it could be that the Europeans think it (Death Proof) is the bees' knees," said Jay Weissberg, movie critic at trade publication Variety.

Previous winners

Like Tarantino, the Coen Brothers and Gus Van Sant are US directors who have won the coveted Palme d'Or before and are in contention to repeat that success.

They are likely to face stiff competition from two highly regarded Russian film makers -- Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Banishment) and Alexander Sokurov, whose "Alexandra" is set in Chechnya.

Portraits of life in Iran, Romania, Ukraine, Austria, Mexico, Turkey, and Israel also feature in what critics expect to be a vintage lineup.

As ever, out-of-competition films threaten to steal the limelight, with Hollywood sequel Ocean's 13, starring Clooney and Pitt, premiering in Cannes, and Jolie promoting A Mighty Heart based on the story of slain reporter Daniel Pearl.

But there are no genuine blockbusters launching at the festival this year, unlike 2005's Star Wars sequel and 2006's The Da Vinci Code, which went on to gross $758 million at the worldwide box office despite a critical mauling in Cannes.

There are also fewer political films, although Michael Moore's documentary SiCKO about the U.S. healthcare system is likely to cause a stir, just as his anti-Bush polemic Fahrenheit 9/11 did when it won the 2004 Palme d'Or.

Heartthrob DiCaprio is in town with 11th Hour, an environmental documentary that is the latest product of Hollywood's growing concern over global warming.

And although no British films appear in the main competition this year, some of its biggest music acts are set to light up the silver screen.

"Control" looks at the life and premature death of Joy Division star Ian Curtis while The Future is Unwritten examines the Clash's Joe Strummer.

(Agencies via CRI.cn May 16, 2007)

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