Only one American film -- "Fair Game" from Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity") -- numbers among the 16 entries in the official competition of this year's Cannes Film Festival. This politically charged biopic about real-life diplomat Joe Wilson and his spy wife Valerie Plame stars two-time Oscar champ Sean Penn ("Mystic River," "Milk") and Naomi Watts who earned an Oscar nod opposite Penn in "21 Grams."
The director of that 2003 film was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who went on to win the best director award at Cannes for the Palme d'Or-nominated "Babel" in 2006. Prior to that he had picked up two critics prizes in 2000 for "Amores Perres," and he returns to the Croisette with his first Spanish-language film since then, the crime drama "Biutiful" starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem ("No Country for Old Men").
Mike Leigh -- who won the top prize at Cannes in 1996 for "Secrets and Lies" as well as the directing award for "Naked" in 1993 -- contends once more with "Another Year," which features Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent ("Iris") and Imelda Staunton, who was a lead actress Oscar nominee in 2004 for Leigh's "Vera Drake."
Last year, 20 films competed at Cannes, and there is talk that this year's smaller field may well expand. Two possible additions are "The Tree of Life" from Terrence Malick, who won the director prize here for his second film "Days of Heaven" in 1979, and "Inception" by Christopher Nolan ("The Dark Knight").
The jury -- headed by American Tim Burton, who now makes his home in London -- also includes Oscar-winning actor Benicio del Toro ("Traffic") and Kate Beckinsale, who starred in "Nothing but the Truth," a 2008 fictionalized version of the Wilson-Plame imbroglio.
The festival is book-ended by two big-budget films screening out of competition. Ridley Scott's version of "Robin Hood" with Oscar-winners Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") and Cate Blanchett ("The Aviator") as the bandit and his maiden love screens on May 12, while Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" sequel -- subtitled "Money Never Sleeps" -- with Michael Douglas reprising his 1987 Oscar-winning role unspools on May 23.
Also screening out of competition are "You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger," the fourth film from Woody Allen set in London, which co-stars Watts, and "Tamara Drewe," a live-action adaptation of the comic strip by two-time Palme d'Or nominee Stephen Frear ("Prick Up Your Ears," "The Van").
Last year, "Inglorious Basterds" debuted at Cannes with Christoph Waltz winning the first of many awards culminating in the Oscar. Also premiering at last year's festival were the animated-feature Oscar champ "Up" as well as awards hopefuls "Broken Embraces" -- which reunited Penelope Cruz with her "Volver" director Pedro Almodovar -- and "Bright Star" from 1993 Palme d'Or champ Jane Campion ("The Piano").
Photo: Cannes Film Festival logo. Credit: Cannes Film Festival