With titles yet to be announced (up to three for Competition) Thierry Fremaux has presented an artistic selection which feels fresh and new, even though it’s anchored by exciting auteur ‘names’ – Audiard, Haynes, Villeneuve, Sorrentino, Van Sant.

In recent years, the Cannes Competition line-up has seemed weighted down with the past; Cannes 68 seems looser in Competition, and Un Certain Regard is certainly wide open for discoveries.

There are established, Cannes prize-winning directors who are returning to the Palais, including the vital Jia Zhangke (Mountains May Depart), Matteo Garrone (The Tale of Tales), Paolo Sorrentino (Youth) and Jacques Audiard (Dheepan). Two previous Palme D’Or winners Nanni Moretti (Mia Madre) and Gus Van Sant (The Sea of Trees) will put their films in the fray for the Palme d’Or again this year, but there will also be exciting new names walking up the red carpet at the Palais. These include Australia’s Justin Kurzel with Macbeth, France’s Valérie Donzelli with Marguerite and Julien, Norway’s Joachim Trier (Louder Than Bombs), Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos (Lobster), and Hungary’s Laszlo Nemes with Son of Saul. Even established directors such as Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) or Stephane Brize (A Simple Man) haven’t competed yet for the coveted top prize in world independent cinema.

They join other experienced Competition hands such as Maiwenn (Mon Roi), Todd Haynes (Carol), Hirkazu Kore-eda (Our Little Sister) and Hou Hsiao-Hsien (The Assassin), but none of these directors are Cannes ‘veterans’ for whom a seat at the top table is always reserved.

There are, as usual, some names which haven’t appeared – as yet – for reasons unknown.  “We don’t want to give them negative vibrations because they weren’t chosen, but we had to leave behind some films that we liked,” said Fremaux (1,854 films were submitted).

Cannes 68 Official Selection thus far features no films from Russia  - not even Alexander Sokurov’s Francofonia, Le Louvre Under German Occupation, and paltry Spanish-language representation (a solitary Mexican title in Un Certain Regard, Las Eligidas, by David Pablos).

Films from Gaspar Noe (Love),  Arnold Desplechin (My Golden Years, which opens in France during Cannes and is now revealed to be screening at Director’s Fortnight), Hong Sang-soo (Right Now, Wrong Then), the UK’s Terence Davies (Sunset Song), Ben Wheatley (High Rise) and Stephen Frears (Icon) have failed tappear in Competition(although it has been a good year for Britain’s Film4, with four supported titles in Competition: Carol, The Lobster, Macbeth, and Youth – a full quarter of Fremaux’s line-up announcement).

Fremaux, who has revealed 44 of the 50-55 (roughly) titles in Offical Selection, talked about the expectations surrounding the line-up: “For Cannes it’s the opposite of the model of other festivals which present tonnes of films – each country has their say through one film, it’s the nation that’s represented there.”

In that case he pointed to Macbeth as flying the flag for Britain in Competition, while Asif Kapadia’s Amy Winehouse documentary, Amy, screens Out of Competition (“we don’t see that many British films in selection,” admitted Fremaux, before adding, consolingly, “but they’re good films”).

So far, it isn’t quite as egalitarian as he has made out, with some countries having their say through more than one film - host nation France, of course, as always, but Italy with three, two of which are English-language: Garrone’s The Tale of Tales and Sorrentino’s Youth, and one of which opened yesterday in Italy, Nanni Moretti’s Mia Madre.

While Hungary is represented by newcomer Lazlo Nemes (Bela Tarr’s former assistant) with Son of Saul, the rest of Eastern Europe hasn’t had a shot (Germany too, but none of the bigger names in German cinema was ready with a title). You could go on: no African film in Competiton (yet), no Austalian film (although Macbeth director Justin Kurzel is Australian, and Jia Zhangke shot the final third of his Mountains May Depart there).

But it’s always more interesting to focus on what is ahead than what might have been and Cannes 68 holds out much promise, something different from the masters of the unusual. Stately Taiwanese auteur Hou Hsiao-Hsien is arriving with a twist, a martial arts epic called The Assassin (it’s worth remembering that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, was at Cannes). Jacques Audiard’s Dheepan is about a Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger working in Paris; Trier’s film Louder Than Bombs is in English with Isabelle Huppert starring; Canadian director Dennis Villeneuve’s Sicario is set on the Mexican border andGus Van Sant’s drama is set in Mount Fuji. Expect the unexpected indeed.

Fionnuala Halligan is Chief Film Critic for Screen International. She will be writing a blog on the Competition titles at Cannes.