Jedi take a starring role despite Cannes' arthouse ambitions

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The Independent Culture

It's the film festival where European class comes face to face with American brash. And with Paris Hilton vying with Catherine Deneuve for a red carpet spot, this year's Cannes festival is guaranteed to deliver its usual mix of high art and base marketeering.

It's the film festival where European class comes face to face with American brash. And with Paris Hilton vying with Catherine Deneuve for a red carpet spot, this year's Cannes festival is guaranteed to deliver its usual mix of high art and base marketeering.

More than 1,500 films from a record 97 countries were submitted for consideration for screenings, either in the main prize or in other strands of the 58th festival that gets under way today, but just 53 from 28 countries were chosen.

Woody Allen's first movie to have been shot outside America gets its premiere tomorrow. Match Point, which stars Scarlett Johansson and Emily Mortimer, was shot in London last summer. The director, who is more revered in Europe than in America, so much enjoyed the experience of working with what proved to be a largely British cast that he is expected to return to the UK for his next project.

Despite the well-documented sigh of disappointment that no British movie is in contention for the top prize, the Palme d'Or, which will be awarded by a jury headed by the Sarajevo-born director Emir Kusturica, a clutch of British stars is planning to make the dash to the Mediterranean to support films they are starring in.

The governing tone of the festival is resolutely art-house, with appearances by veteran auteurs including Wim Wenders, David Cronenberg and Jim Jarmusch.

But even the French appear to be getting excited about Sunday's premiere of the third and final episode of George Lucas's Star Wars epic, Revenge of the Sith.

Ewan McGregor, who plays Obi-Wan Kenobi, is expected to take a short break from rehearsals for his forthcoming West End debut in Guys and Dolls to walk up the red carpet on the Croisette.

Gael Garcia Bernal, star of last year's hit The Motorcycle Diaries, who trained at drama school in Britain, will also make a one-day dash to France on Sunday to promote The King, fresh from opening on stage in Blood Wedding at the Almeida theatre on Friday night.

The British director Martha Fiennes' film Chromophobia has been chosen to close the festival on Saturday 21 May. By then her brother, Ralph, one of the movie's long list of stars, will have finished his run as Mark Antony in the London Barbican production of Julius Caesar and is expected to join her on the red carpet before the play opens in Paris.

Terence Stamp, Charlotte Rampling, Colin Firth, Clive Owen and Kristin Scott Thomas are among other Brits appearing in films in competition or being promoted along the shore where the international sales market is as important to many producers as the festival itself.

Lars von Trier, the Danish director, has an entire supporting cast of British actors in Manderlay, one of the films vying for the top prize. They include Dona Croll, currently seen in Elmina's Kitchen in the West End, Nina Sosanya, seen recently in the BBC's Casanova series, and Clive Rowe who is soon to appear alongside Sienna Miller in As You Like It in the West End.

New British talent is also being screened by the festival organisers, including The Power of Nightmares, an analysis of the global terror threat,written and directed by Adam Curtis.

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