With Spielberg, Penn, Foster and Jarmusch (twice), Americans will help storm the beaches at Cannes

Steven Zeitchik
Los Angeles Times (TNS)

Last year's Cannes Film Festival was notable for its English-language movies made by directors from non-English-speaking places, with selections such as "The Lobster," "Sicario," "Louder than Bombs," "Tale of Tales" and "Youth" dotting the selection.
This year's festival maintains half that bargain. There are, once again, many English-language movies. Only this time, they are largely made by Americans.
With Steven Spielberg, Jim Jarmusch, Woody Allen, Shane Black, Jodie Foster, Jim Jarmusch again, Jeff Nichols and Sean Penn all bringing new directorial work to the festival, the 2016 edition of Cannes will be as American as it's been in years. Add in Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish American making a Los Angeles-set English language movie, and there are a lot of red-and-white stripes to go along with the bleu.
In fact, when Cannes general delegate Thierry Fremaux announced the much-anticipated lineup for the May confab at a Paris news conference Thursday morning, only one American hopeful was left out — Oliver Stone, whose fact-based "Snowden" is likely to hit the late summer festivals ahead of its mid-September release.
Cannes is seen as the most prestigious film festival in the world, and its lineup offers a kind of live referendum on the state of individual and national cinemas — not to mention a fanboy-level of anticipation usually reserved for precincts far removed from the global film scene.
This year, the Yanks, bringing a mix of in- and out-of-competition titles, join competition movies from international returnees including South Korean auteur Park-Chan Wook ("Agassi"), Brit Ken Loach ("I, Daniel Blake"), the Belgian-born Dardenne brothers ("The Unknown Girl"), French-Canadian Xavier Dolan ("The End of the World") and a pair of Romanians (Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu, with, "Bacalaureat" and "Sierra-Nevada," respectively), always a force to be reckoned with.
All will spur the usual frenzy of scrambling for the top prize of Palme d'Or — which has gone to French-language movies in three of the last four years. (Good news for the Dardennes and Dolan, along with Hollywood pulp-master Paul Verhoeven, whose revenge thriller "Elle" marks his first feature in 10 years and his first ever in French.)
But it is the Americans who could well end up generating a good amount of talk on the Croisette.
One reason will be Spielberg's "The BFG," an adaptation of the Roald Dahl fantasy in which newly minted Oscar winner Mark Rylance stars as the titular, acrimonious giant. The film will get a special screening out of competition.
Spielberg is no stranger to Cannes, having headed up the jury several years ago and bringing "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" in 2008. But where most big Hollywood releases tend to be movies coming out just days or a few weeks later — see under: "Mad Max: Fury Road" last year — "The BFG" is not arriving in theaters until early July.
Foster, meanwhile, will bring the George Clooney-starring "Money Monster," a movie that continues where award-season hit "The Big Short" left off, focusing on an outspoken financial-news commentator (Clooney) confronted by a man who lost a boatload of money.
Penn, fresh off some notoriety for his meeting with El Chapo this winter, is taking "The Last Face," a love story starring Charlize Theron and set in the world of African nonprofit work. The competition entry might put the Penn focus back on film after the Rolling Stone-centric controversy; indeed, Penn has not directed a movie in nearly a decade ("Into the Wild"), and hasn't been to Cannes as a director in 15 years ("The Pledge").
The same minimalist label can't be put on Nichols, who is in Cannes competition for the second time in five fests ("Mud") and is coming right off his well-reviewed Berlin, SXSW and recently released sci-fi effort "Midnight Special." His new movie, "Loving," offers yet another turn in the 37-year-old's increasingly eclectic career — it focuses on a real-life court case involving interracial marriage in the South in the mid-20th century.
Equally prolific is Allen, who returns to Cannes with "Cafe Society," his previously announced opening-night film set in 1930s Hollywood. Allen's previous opening-night film, "Midnight in Paris" in 2011, was one of the biggest hits of his career, and he'll be looking to reclaim that magic after modest returns and ambivalent reviews for his 2015 Cannes film and release "Irrational Man."
Refn, for his part, will also look to rebound from a recent tough ride — for "Only God Forgives," in 2013 — and return to his own 2011 luster, in his case for "Drive." Refn will bring to this year's competition "The Neon Demon," a supernatural story set in L.A. that stars Elle Fanning.
Refn's go-to star for some of his earlier films, meanwhile, will be back on the Croisette himself: Ryan Gosling will return to the fest after his own shelling several years ago, for directorial effort "Lost River," as he and Russell Crowe arrive with Shane Black's 1970s buddy cop comedy "The Nice Guys," also out of competition.
But perhaps the biggest American star will be Kristen Stewart, fast becoming a Cannes It actor. Stewart, who has been to the Croisette with films such as "On the Road and "Clouds of Sils Maria" in recent years, will have two films: the previously announced Allen opener and "Personal Shopper," a supernatural tale against the backdrop of the French fashion business that reunites her with "Clouds" director Olivier Assayas.

General Delegate of the Cannes Film Festival Thierry Fremaux, left and Cannes Film Festival President Pierre Lescure attend a press conference for the presentation of the 69th Cannes film festival, in Paris, France, Thursday, April 14, 2016. A Sean Penn film about aid workers in Africa and movies about interracial marriage and cannibal fashion models are among the selections for this year’s Cannes Film Festival. The 20 films from 28 countries announced Thursday will compete for prestigious Palme d’Or at the May 11-22 festival on the French Riviera, being held under extra security after last year’s attacks on France. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)