The Croisette has been tuned and the red carpet swept. The giant poster unfurled above the Theatre Lumiere that fronts the great Palais du Cinema with an image taken from Le Mepris, Jean Luc Godard's acid-inked love/hate letter to cinema will greet the far breezier delights of Woody Allen's Café Society, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. A stalwart of the festival and much loved by the French - "Thank God for the French!" his temporarily blind director cries at the conclusion of Hollywood Ending - Allen is a fitting opener for a line up full of familiar faces and the promotion of a few up-and-comers.
The Dardennes, Ken Loach and Pedro Almodovar all have films in competition alongside festival regulars Brillante Mendoza and Olivier Assayas. The new generation is represented by the relentlessly productive Xavier Dolan, the punk horror of Nicolas Winding Refn's Neon Demon and the ever-interesting Jeff Nichols. Britain's Andrea Arnold also books her place in the main competition with her first American film, American Honey. There are a number of old hands as well, with Sean Penn's relinquishing his ill-fated stint as an experiential journalist to getting back behind the camera for The Last Face. It's also been ten years since Paul Verhoeven directed a feature, so anticipation for Elles is high.
Park Chan-wook returns to Korean cinema following the brief sojourn of Stoker with The Handmaiden, an adaptation of Sarah Water's Fingersmith. The sidebars are also rich with possibilities. Un Certain Regard features new films from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda and ripped from the headlines, Egyptian drama Clash by Mohamed Diab. The sidebars include a new film by Paul Schrader Dog Eat Dog starring Willem Dafoe and Nicolas Cage and the Out of Competition showings boast Steven Spielberg's Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG and Jim Jarmusch's documentary on Iggy Pop Gimme Danger. A former Camera d'Or winner, Jarmusch is also in competition with poetry drama Paterson, starring Adam Driver.
Jodie Foster is back in the spotlight directing the George Clooney-starring financial thriller Money Monster and her old friend Mel Gibson lurks with a midnight screening of Blood Father, a violent thriller which looks set to return the ill-fated Australian star to top billing. Of course the likelihood is that the films that end up making the most noise will be the surprises hidden away in what is a mammoth list of talent and film. As always, CineVue will be offering up to date coverage and reviews from beginning to end.
For those lamenting that they're unable to be on the Croisette themselves, FestivalScope are offering a chance to experience some of the festival from your armchair. They've teamed up with Semain de la Critique - the Cannes Critics Week - to bring audiences all of the shorts in competition for free; from Luca Tóth's lavish animation Superbia to Erwan Le Ducs tale of two man fleeing a conflict, The Virgin Soldier. There will be 200 'tickets' per film with tickets released in three tranches (on 16, 18 and 20 May) which are expected to go quickly so eager audiences should make sure they get in their first. For more information on FestivalScope's Cannes shorts, visit their website.
The 69th Cannes Film Festival takes place from 11-22 May 2016. Follow our coverage here. Festivalscope's Semain de la Critique shorts can be found here.
John Bleasdale | @drjonty