As Cannes gears up for its 58th Film Festival, Germany is breathing a sigh of relief that after years banished to the celluloid wilderness, its film industry is well-represented for the second year running.
Last year, Germany was represented by "The Edukators"
The German film industry must be hoping that the "curse of Cannes" has been broken once and for all. In 2004, Hans Weingartner's "The Edukators" was the first German movie entered in the competition since 1993, when Wim Wenders presented "Faraway, So Close," his sequel to "Wings of Desire." This year, Wenders -- who won the Palme d'Or in 1984 with Sam Shepard and their picture "Paris, Texas" -- has teamed up with the US actor again for "Don't Come Knocking," about an aging star of cowboy films.
Also rubbing shoulders with the Hollywood glitterati will be Fatih Akin (photo) of "Head-On" fame, in town to promote "Crossing the Bridge - The Sound of Istanbul." Although not in competition, the documentary about Istanbul's fledgling modern music scene is set to be screened on the beach at the weekend.
He'll be representing Germany along with two newcomers featured in the "Un certain regard" section -- Christoph Hochhäusler with "Low Profile" and Benjamin Heisenberg with "Sleeper" -- while homegrown acting talent including Daniel Brühl, Benno Führmann and Diane Kruger (photo)are set to grace the red carpet as well as the screen for the showing of the French-German co-production "Merry Christmas," directed by Christian Carrion.
A vintage year
This year's event, starting Wednesday, will see Wim Wenders battle it out with other masters of the craft including David Cronenberg, Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant and Robert Rodriguez for the coveted Palme d'Or top prize.
Workers were bustling up and down the two-kilometer stretch of beach known as La Croisette, putting up huge film posters and decking out white tents to host the parties the 12-day event is famed for.
Last year's winner: Michael Moore
After an uneven festival in 2004 when Hollywood money machines like a "Shrek" sequel shared the limelight with the eventual winner -- Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" (photo) -- organizers promise a vintage year.
"The great filmmakers have taken the reins again," artistic director Thierry Fremaux told French weekly Journal du Dimanche, ahead of the event. "They show the state of creativity today."
Highlight of the cinema calendar
Some 250,000 on-lookers and fans, 4,000 journalists and 35,000 film industry types are on hand for the festival, which crowns the European cinema calendar each May.
George Lucas (photo) will unveil his "Star Wars III: The Revenge of the Sith" in the official selection, three decades after he signed his first contract in Cannes.
And "Sin City", a slick thriller starring Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke, will see its launch on the world market.
Five Asian films are also in the running for the top prize, including "Shanghai Dreams" by Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai, one of the prominent figures of what has been dubbed China's "Sixth Generation."
Other contenders include Japan's Masahiro Kobayashi with "Bashing", Taiwan's Hou Hsiao-Hsien with "The Best of Our Times" and a last-minute entry by South Korean director Hong Sangsoo with his "A Tale of the Cinema."
The opening film is "Lemming", a surreal family drama by German-born French director Dominik Moll starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Charlotte Rampling.
King-of-the-creepy David Cronenberg will show "A History of Violence" starring Viggo Mortesen, Ed Harris and William Hurt, while Van Sant will unspool a Seattle-based drama about a musician resembling the late grunge hero Kurt Cobain.
Lars von Trier
Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier (photo) has swapped Nicole Kidman for Bryce Dallas Howard -- the daughter of director Ron -- for the second chapter of his American trilogy on the United States, "Manderlay."
The galaxy of stars expected in Cannes is always countless, but autograph hunters can already sharpen their pencils for Sharon Stone, appearing in Jarmusch's "Broken Flowers," Natalie Portman in "The Revenge of the Sith," Scarlett Johansson in Woody Allen's "Match Point" and Tommy Lee Jones, presenting his film directorial debut.
The nine-member jury is nearly as star-studded as the films, including US Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, Spanish actor Javier Bardem, Mexican actress Salma Hayek and Hong Kong director John Woo, and led by the Sarajevo-born director Emir Kusturica as president.
Other highlights this year will include a celebration of 100 years of Chinese cinema as well as African film's 50th birthday party.
And the "All the Cinemas of the World" section will showcase undiscovered gems of international cinema with new features from countries including Morocco, South Africa, Mexico, Austria, Peru, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.