Roland Joffe's $29m (FFr199m) historical epic Vatel, produced by Gaumont and starring Gerard Depardieu, Uma Thurman and Tim Roth, will open this year's Cannes Film Festival on May 10.

As is usual with the opening night film, Vatel will screen out of competition. French actress Virginie Ledoyen, who starred in The Beach alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, will host the opening ceremony.

Three further French period pieces - Olivier Assayas' $10m (FFr70m) Les Destinees Sentimentales, starring Isabelle Huppert, Emmanuelle Beart and Charles Berling; Arnaud Desplechin's $10m (FFr70m) Esther Khan and Benoit Jacquot's $8m (FFr56m) Sade, starring Daniel Auteuil, are also being rumoured as potential Cannes titles.

Meanwhile, three other French productions - Tran Van Hung's A La Verticale De L'ete, Toni Gatlif's Vengo and Barbert Schroeder's La Virgen De Las Sicarios - are also among the buzz films.

The Cannes opening night ceremony will start with a performance by Jose Montalvo's dance company, followed by a "filmed essay" by Jean-Luc Godard, L'Origine Du 21eme Siecle, in which the film-maker reflects on the events of the 20th Century. The 12-minute documentary was backed by Canal Plus, which will air it on the same night.

A two-day seminar focussing on the future of cinema, to be chaired by French film star Isabelle Huppert and attended by film-makers and members of the industry, will be held May 9-10.