At first glance, this year's Cannes Competition has a lopsided look. It comprises a handful of US films from well-known film-makers (almost all of which are already pre-sold everywhere) and some vintage European arthouse fare, on most of which all territories are available.

'The films that are interesting commercially are already gone, which puts the stress on pre-buys for us,' says Alexandra Rossi, vice-president of European/Latin American acquisitions and co-productions at New Line.

There are some foreign-language titles in official selection that buyers will be keen to check out, for instance Fatih Akin's German-language The Edge Of Heaven. 'But in general,' says Rossi, 'a lot of our attention is going to be on the market.'

Buyers will want to avoid a repeat of last year's Southland Tales, in which Richard Kelly's hugely anticipated follow-up to Donnie Darko arrived unseen on the Croisette but crashed spectacularly under the weight of expectation.

There does not seem to be any equivalents to incendiary Competition films that have sent buyers into lathers of excitement in the past - titles such as Denys Arcand's The Barbarian Invasions or Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, even though both directors have new films at this year's festival. This is likely to mean the real business will be done on the Rue d'Antibes, not in the Grand Palais.

The buzz films are likely to be those screening in the market. No-one has forgotten the excitement generated last year in the Cannes market by German Stasi thriller The Lives Of Others, which had been passed over for Competition in both Cannes and Berlin.

The Competition looks like it will yield rich pickings for specialist arthouse distributors looking for strong niche titles that garner critical support. Even so, some distributors are striking an equivocal note.

'If we discount the Hollywood stuff, what's left is quite a lot of interesting movies, but certainly not anything that on the face of it is going to make anyone any money. No-one is going to get rich on Sokurov or Breillat or Kawase,' suggests Robert Beeson of London-based Artificial Eye.