Croisette regulars veterans Jean Luc Godard, Ken Loach and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne will compete alongside Competition first-timers Alice Rohrwacher, Xavier Dolan and Damian Szifron at the Cannes Film Festival next month.

Artistic director Thierry Fremaux announced the Official Selection of the 67th edition on Thursday (17) at a packed press conference at the Normandie Cinema on the Champs Elysées in Paris.

“Anyone who makes a film of more than one hour in duration, has the right to submit a film to Cannes… this year we received some 1,800 films in total – all of which were screened,” said Fremaux.

He announced 49 titles in total from 28 countries and hinted a further two or three could be announced ahead of Cannes. [Click here for the full list.]

Fremaux, who tied up the line-up at 1am local time ahead of the announcement, said films were arriving later and later for consideration due to digitisation of filmmaking.

“It used to be that January was late,” he said. “Now we’re receiving films up to the last minute.”

Opening Film

As previously announced Oliver Dahan’s Grace Of Monaco starring Nicole Kidman as the iconic princess will open the festival.

“There has been a lot of press asking which version is going to show. We’re in Cannes and the only version which will show is the director’s version – so Olivier Dahan’s version… but beyond that there never was a second version,” said Fremaux.

Last year Dahan told French newspaper Liberation that he was battling with The Weinstein Company’s Harvey Weinstein to keep his cut of the film.

Competition – habitués and newcomers

The 18-title competition selection includes Palme d’Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Marion Cotillard-starrer Two Days, One Night (pictured) – described by Fremaux as a “Belgian Western” – and Ken Loach’s Ireland-set Jimmy’s Hall, which the veteran director has announced will be his last feature film.

“The Dardennes could perhaps be on the verge of being the first directors to win the Palme d’Or for the third time,” said Fremaux.

Jean-Luc Godard also returns to competition with his 3D feature Goodbye To Language (Adieu au Language). The last time the Swiss director was in competition was in 2001 with In Praise Of Love (Eloge de l’Amour).

“He has promised to be there, which doesn’t mean anything of course,” said Fremaux. “In any case we would be happy to welcome one of the most eminent figures of the New Wave whose singular and personal style of filmmaking we love.”

Godard, 83, was a no-show for the premiere of his Film Socialism in 2010, pulling out at the last minute due, he said, to “problems of the Greek type”, which was taken as meaning financial trouble. Godard has been in competition six times as a director and never won the Palme d’Or.

Japanese director Naomi Kawase, who was on the jury last year, returns to competition for the third time with Still The Water, revolving around a teenager’s discovery of a dead body floating in the sea.

Other returnees include Canada’s Atom Egoyan, for the sixth time, with the psychological drama Captives, about a family dealing with the abduction of their daughter, and fellow Canadian David Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars, which Fremaux described as the director’s equivalent of Robert Altman’s The Player.

Michel Hazanavicius, who began his The Artist Oscar adventure in Cannes in 2011, will also compete with Chechnya-set, English-language drama The Search starring his wife Berenice Bejo as a relief worker who ends up looking after a young Chechen boy.

“It marks a departure for Michel in terms of the films we are used to seeing from him,” said Fremaux. “It’s a war film but a war that we don’t necessarily know much about, the Chechen War.”

Other French directors making it into competition comprise Olivier Assayas with his English-language Sils Maria. It stars Juliette Binoche as a actress who withdraws to a small town in Switzerland with her assistant, played by Kristen Stewart, after a younger actress revives the role which made her famous. It will mark the fifth time Assayas is in competition. The last time was in 2004 with Clean.

Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent, one of two rival depictions of iconic fashion designer Yves Saint to hit screens this year, will also compete, some two years after it was first announced in the Marché.

Fremaux also made space for films from Palme d’Or debutantes Italian Alice Rohrwacher’s Le Meraviglie, Argentine Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales and Xavier Dolan with Mommy. Dolan, 24, reportedly complained when his third film Laurence Anyways premiered in Un Certain Regard rather than Competition in 2012.

Potent, low-key UK-US presence

Alongside Loach, Mike Leigh’s Mr. Turner from the UK has also made it into in competition.

“Mike Leigh is a cineaste and belongs to a generation of directors, including Stephen Frears, Loach, John Boorman, which emerged in the 1960s and 70s,” said Fremaux.

The US presence included Tommy Lee Jones’s western The Homesman starring Hilary Swank, Hailee Steinfeld and Meryl Streep. The film is an adaptation of a novel by late Westerns writer Glendon Fred Swarthout, whose works Where The Boys Are and The Shootist also ended up on the big screen. 

“Steven Spielberg mentioned Tommy Lee Jones when he was president of the jury last year. We were almost too scared too look at it in case we didn’t like it, but it lived up to Spielberg’s expectations,” said Fremaux.

Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, based on the true story of the murder of Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler David Schultz by a wealthy, mentally ill friend, was also selected.

Ceylan’s three-hour-16-minute film

Whether he wins the Palme d’Or or not, the prize for the longest film at Cannes this year will go to Turkish Nuri Bilge Ceylan for his Winter Sleep, shot against the backdrop of the striking volcano-peaked plateau of Cappadocia.

“It’s an example of how the cinema d’auteur, in the purist sense of the term, continues to exist,” said Fremaux, referring to the 2007 anthology film made to mark the 60th anniversary of Cannes.

Remaining contenders include Audrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, revolving around a garage owner who decides to challenge corrupt officials, and Abderrahmane Sissako’s Timbuktu, capturing life in contemporary Mali.

Cannes no-shows

Hotly tipped films that did not make it into selection, at least in Thursday’s announcement, include Abel Ferrara’s Welcome To New York, inspired by the downfall of French former IMF chief Dominique Strauss Kahn, and Turkish-German director Fatih Akin’s The Cut.

“I know precisely what happened but you have to ask him,” Fremaux told a Turkish journalist who quizzed him about the absence of Akin, who reportedly withdrew his film on Wednesday. “For our part, there is nothing personal or political… basically the film isn’t quite ready.”  

He would not comment on Ferrara’s film and noted he had also been in touch with Terrence Malick but that his next as yet untitled film was not ready.  

Un Certain Regard

The 18 titles in Un Certain Regard include Italian Asia Argento’s semi-autobiographical Incompresa starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and Gabriel Garko; Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou, capturing the German Romantic movement through the life and suicide of writer Heinrich von Kleist; and Pascale Ferran’s Bird People, starring American actor Josh Charles as a computer engineer who takes a life-changing decision while transiting through Paris en route to Dubai.

From the UK, Andrew Hulme will premiere Snow In Paradise, based on the true story of a white man from London’s tough East End who becomes a Muslim after he inadvertently gets his best friend killed.

“England has seen the emergence of a new generation of cineastes who perhaps aren’t known in their own countries,” said Fremaux.

From the US, Ned Benson’s Eleanor Rigby (which debuted in Toronto as two films, His and Her) and Ryan Gosling’s Lost River (formerly known as How To Catch A Monster) will premiere in the selection.

Out of Competition

Chinese Zhang Yimou’s Coming Home, reuniting the director with Gong Li, will screen out of competition. Thierry said that Zhang audaciously portrayed the impact of the Cultural Revolution on China.

It takes inspiration from Chinese writer Yan Geling’s The Criminal Lu Yanshi, revolving around the tumultuous life of a Chinese dissident from the 1920s to the 1990s. See earlier Screen story here.

Dean Deblois’ How To Train Your Dragon 2 will also screen out of competition to mark the 20th anniversary of DreamWorks Animation this year as well as recognise the support CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg has given to Cannes over the years.  

“It’s a way of thanking Jeffrey Katzenberg for bringing his films here and continuing to support the festival,” said Fremaux.

Special Screenings

The festival’s Special Screenings programme focuses on real-life events around the world through directors’ eyes.

The line-up includes the portmanteau film The Bridges Of Sarajevo featuring the work of Aida Begic, Sergei Loznitsa and Cristi Puiu, looking at the history of the long-contested city.

Exiled Syrian Mohammed Ossama’s Silver Waters will also get a special screening. A co-production with Paris-based Les Films d’Ici, the film pulls together video filed out of the besieged city of Homs by a young female video activist. See separate Screen story here.

Sergei Loznitsa’s Maidan, charting the events leading up to and during the current political crisis in the Ukraine, is also in the line-up.

“Sergei plans to update the film right up until the screening,” said Fremaux.

Stephane Valloatto’s Caricaturistes – Fantassins De La Democratie looks the work of satirical cartoonists around the around.