CANNES, France: Cannes will be getting a little help from Hollywood to light up its line-up this year with Quentin Tarantino's return, big name film stars in tow, setting the tone for a festival looking to retain its crown as the world's premier cinema showcase.
The last-gasp inclusion of Tarantino's new film, following a movie-worthy cliffhanger as the Pulp Fiction director raced to finish editing on time, completes an assembly of heavy-hitting Cannes veterans pitted against a clutch of young newcomers.
After a notable scarcity of US movies last year at Cannes, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, Tarantino's tribute to the film industry starring Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio, will add a dose of glamour to the red carpet roll-outs on the French Riviera over the next fortnight.
"(Tarantino) is one of the biggest directors of his generation," festival director Thierry Fremaux told a news conference on May 13, before film screenings kick off on May 14.
"The presence he brings in terms of impact and artistry is a key element of a selection like this year's."
Other highlights include Jim Jarmusch's zombie extravaganza The Dead Don't Die, with an eye-popping cast ranging from Bill Murray and Tilda Swinton to singers Iggy Pop, Selena Gomez and Tom Waits.
Cannes has been striving to find its place in a rapidly shifting cinema universe increasingly dominated by film streaming giants like Netflix and as competition heightens with other big festivals such as Venice in Italy.
While priding itself on showcasing less commercial films and shining a light on newcomers, Cannes is also under pressure to stay relevant.
"This year they've really upped their game," Hollywood Reporter critic Scott Roxborough told Reuters. "The opening night will be a legendary indie filmmaker, with Jarmusch, and Tarantino's film has just been finished and everyone is desperate to see it. It will give Cannes a real boost."
The premiere of Elton John biopic Rocketman, starring Taron Egerton, will also bring pizzazz, Roxborough said.
The Crocodile Rock hitmaker is expected to perform when the film, shown outside the competition for the top Palme D'Or award, is unveiled on May 16.
Other top Cannes returnees include Britain's Ken Loach, US director Terrence Mallick and Spaniard Pedro Almodovar, who will be up against several newcomers in the main selection.
Frenchman Ladj Ly will present his first ever film, Les Miserables, set in the Paris suburbs, while Austrian director Jessica Hausner's Little Joe, about a plant that takes on a life of its own, is showcasing her first outing in English.
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Netflix movies will once again be notably absent from Cannes, while Venice for instance embraced Roma, the Alfonso Cuaron film it produced and which went on to earn an Oscar for best director, at its cinema showcase last autumn.
But a row about competition rules - Cannes dictates that movies cannot be streamed for three years after a cinema release - is expected to dominate discussions behind the scenes.
Cannes is also adapting to a new era of scrutiny over the lack of women in film. The festival's jury – besides president Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the Mexican film director – is made up of four women and four men for the first time.
Four female directors are competing for the top award, out of 21 films. That was still too small a weighting versus some other festivals, according to Roxborough, though Fremaux said it was a step in the right direction, after Cannes signed a pledge to work towards more equality last year.
"There was never a question that the film selection had to reach parity because we signed this charter," Fremaux said. "But there are more and more female directors in the world... and there are even more in film schools."
(Additional reporting by Johnny Cotton; Editing by Toby Chopra)