Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s "The Skin That I Inhabit" and US director Terrence Malick’s "Tree of Life" are among 19 films competing at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, organizers said Thursday.
Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier’s "Melancholia" was also selected from a total 1,715 films considered, Thierry Fremaux, who heads the festival’s selection panel, told journalists alongside festival president Gilles Jacob.
"We have a special thought for Japan this year, but also for Tunisia and Egypt," Jacob said, adding that Egypt would be the festival’s special guest at its 64th edition which begins on the French Riviera on May 11.
Fourteen of the films in competition come from European directors, including one from Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan, plus two from Japan and one each from Australian, Israeli and US directors.
The list also features a number of Cannes regulars, such as the Dardenne brothers from Belgium — Palme d’Or winners in 1999 with "Rosetta" and in 2005 with "L’Enfant" —who are competing with "Le Gamin au Velo" (Boy with a Bike).
Four women directors are in the running, the highest number ever, Fremaux said, including 1997 Camera d’Or winner Naomi Kawase who is showing "Hanezu no Tsuki", and Australia’s Julia Leigh with "Sleeping Beauty".
Scottish director Lynne Ramsey’s retelling of the best-selling Lionel Shriver novel "We Need to Talk About Kevin" is in the running as well.
"Sleeping Beauty" is one of two first-time films in competition, the other being "Micheal" by Austrian director Markus Schleinzer, who served as casting director on the 2009 Palme d’Or winner "The White Ribbon".
Steering the Palme d’Or jury this year is US actor and director Robert de Niro, while South Korean director Boon Joon-Ho will chair the panel that picks the winner of the Camera d’Or prize for best first film.
Last year Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul took the Palme d’Or with a surreal and hypnotic reincarnation tale set in the jungle, titled "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives".
This year film directors sent in feature films via the internet for the first time as filmmakers tried to finish their works by the deadline for selection, Fremaux said.
The selection represents two groups, he said: established filmmakers and young directors showing at Cannes for the first time.
All of the films being shown, in and out of competition, represent "geographical, generational and stylistic diversity," Fremaux said.
A film likely to stir controversy, to be shown out of competition on May 18, is "The Conquest" about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s rise to power, by Xavier Durringer.
There was "no pressure to show or not to show" the film, the first at Cannes about a serving French head of state, Fremeaux said.
Woody Allen’s latest comedy "Midnight in Paris" — in which French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy has a bit part — will open the festival, and Gus Van Sant’s teen drama "Restless" will kick off the Un Certain Regard screenings.
Fremaux said French director Christian Rouaud had promised there would be sheep on the red carpet when he shows his "Tous au Larzac", out of competition.
Italian cinema legend Bernardo Bertolucci, whose silver screen classics include "Last Tango in Paris" and "The Last Emperor," will meanwhile be given an honorary Palme d’Or for his life work.