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Will Terrence Malick's 'Tree of Life' Compete at Cannes?

The Hollywood Reporter magazine takes a look at how the 64th Festival de Cannes lineup is shaping up.

The following article appears in the upcoming issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine, on newsstands Thursday.

The official lineup for this year’s Festival de Cannes won’t be announced for another month, but already the 64th edition of the world’s pre-eminent film festival is shaping up as a potential battle of Palme d’Or winners.

As festival director Thierry Fremaux goes about making his selections — choices will be unveiled in mid-April for the fest, which kicks off May 11 — likely candidates include an array of such past Cannes victors as the Belgian filmmaking brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Danish provocateur Lars Von Trier, American auteur Gus Van Sant and possibly Italian actor-director Nanni Moretti.

Cannes 2011 is sure to have a whiff of deja vu about it. The one movie that has been announced is the opening-night film, Midnight in Paris, from Woody Allen, who was also tapped for opening-night honors in 2002 with Hollywood Ending. His latest movie, starring Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams and Marion Cotillard, is not only set in the City of Lights, but Allen cast France’s first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, in a supporting role, virtually guaranteeing a presidential presence on the red carpet.

"Midnight in Paris is a wonderful love letter to Paris," Fremaux enthused as he revealed his choice for the festival’s curtain-raiser.

But while Cannes is often star-struck, it’s those name directors who exert the biggest influence over the fest’s organizers. The Dardenne brothers’ rigorously naturalistic films have already won them two Palme d’Ors for 1999’s Rosetta and 2005’s The Child. Their newest feature, The Kid With a Bike, starring Hereafter’s Cecile De France, is considered the closest thing to a lock for this year’s slate.

Von Trier, who took the top prize in 2000 for Dancer in the Dark and then scandalized audiences with his bloody Antichrist two years ago, has a new film titled Melancholia, starring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg as sisters confronting the end of the world. Van Sant, who wowed the crowd with Elephant in 2003, could also return with Restless, starring Mia Wasikowska as a terminally ill teenager.

Other repeat Cannes visitors who will likely be invited, according to several festival-watchers, include Pedro Almodovar, with The Skin I Live In, for which he reteams with Antonio Banderas; Walter Salles, with his screen adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, starring Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart; David Cronenberg, with A Dangerous Method, starring Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung; and Andrea Arnold, with her new version of Wuthering Heights — if the film can be completed in time, that is.

Moretti, who earned the Cannes seal of approval for The Son’s Room in 2001, is also a question mark: He has completed Habemus Papam, the story of a newly elected pope (Michel Piccoli) and his therapist (Moretti), but the film — which sounds like The King’s Speech set in the Vatican — has been scheduled to open in April in Italy, which could knock it out of Cannes contention.

An even bigger question mark surrounds Wong Kar-Wai’s eagerly awaited The Grandmasters, about Chinese martial arts master Ip Man. Although Wild Bunch was busy selling the film in Berlin in February, a source close to the filmmaker suggests that doesn’t mean it will be ready for Cannes. On the other hand, Wong has been known to make a last-minute dash to the Croisette: His 2004 film 2046 arrived dripping wet from the lab.

Cannes has also been waiting patiently to get its hands on Terrence Malick’s new movie, The Tree of Life, a family saga starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It was rumored to appear last year but never materialized. Berlin tried to get it, but Team Cannes officials are said to have reminded the filmmaker that they ate the costs for the hotel rooms they reserved for him last year, so he owed them.

Now, with Tree set to open stateside May 27 courtesy of Fox Searchlight, the stage finally seems set for its splashy Cannes debut.           

Possible Entries in the 64th Festival de Cannes

The Tree of Life
Dir: Terence Malick
Cast: Brad Pitt,  Sean Penn

The Kid With A Bike (Le gamin au velo)
Dir: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Cast: Cecile De France                                    

Habemus Papam (We Have a Pope)          
Dir: Nanni Moretti
Cast: Michel Piccoli, Moretti

Melancholia          
Dir: Lars Von Trier
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg

The Skin I Live In (La piel que habito)           
Dir: Pedro Almodovar          
Cast: Antonio Banderas

On the Road            
Dir: Walter Salles          
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart

Restless          
Dir: Gus Van Sant
Cast: Mia Wasikowska