The Cannes film festival on Thursday unveils its pick of Hollywood giants and arthouse newcomers to compete at the world's top movie showcase on the French Riviera next month.
Organisers will announce the 50-odd films awarded a slot at the May 16-27 event at a press conference in Paris, half of them in the official race for the Palme d'Or and half in the parallel new talent section, Un Certain Regard.
Cannes' general delegate Thierry Fremaux selected the line-up from among some 1,700 submissions, from the biggest names in film right down to first-time directors from North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America or Africa.
Star-wise, Nicole Kidman is tipped to make a double appearance after Fremaux warned in an interview the Australian actress was "going to surprise us."
Kidman holds lead roles this year in two very different thrillers: "Stoker" by South Korea's Park Chan-wook, and the 1960s-set "The Paperboy" by US director Lee Daniels.
The French press is betting on Marion Cotillard, star of three Cannes-tipped films: "Of Rust and Bone" by Frenchman Jacques Audiard, "Low Life" by US director James Gray about an immigrant woman tricked into a life of burlesque, and Christopher Nolan's new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises".
"On the Road" by the Brazilian Walter Salles is all-but-assured of a slot: based on the Jack Kerouac novel the movie stars Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart and Viggo Mortensen.
David Cronenberg's "Cosmopolis", starring Robert Pattinson as a billionaire asset manager, is seen as a strong contender, as is Australia's Andrew Dominik with the gangster flick "Killing Them Softly" starring Brad Pitt.
Austrian director Michael Haneke -- whose "The White Ribbon" won the 2009 Palme d'Or -- is seen as a likely choice with "Amour" (Love), starring Isabelle Huppert as a woman hit by a stroke.
Veteran Frenchman Alain Resnais, who will shortly turn 90, is expected to bring his new film "Vous n'avez encore rien vu" (You Haven't Seen Nothing Yet).
And from Britain, Ken Loach -- who has brought 16 films to Cannes in the past -- could be in with "The Angel's Share", about an ex-offender on the mend.
This year's jury is headed up by Italian director Nanni Moretti, who scooped a Palme d'Or for "La stanza del figlio" ("The Son's Room") in 2001 and who told AFP he would be "looking for films that are still able to surprise me."
The jury for Un Certain Regard is to be chaired by the British actor and director Tim Roth.
Berenice Bejo, co-star of the hit French silent movie "The Artist", is to host the festival's opening and closing ceremonies.
Wes Anderson's 1960s teen love story "Moonrise Kingdom" will open the festival, while Claude Miller's "Therese Desqueyroux" will close it, in a tribute to the French filmmaker who had barely finished editing the movie when he died this month aged 70.