Cannes Opens With Willis; Kidman, Pitt Vie for Top Prize

Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and Bruce Willis in "Moonrise Kingdom," directed by Wes Anderson. The film opens the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, which runs from May 16 to 27. Source: Focus Features via Bloomberg

Bruce Willis plays a small-town sheriff searching for a pair of eloping 12-year-olds in “Moonrise Kingdom,” which opens the Cannes Film Festival tomorrow.

Set in 1965 and directed by Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”), it shows a group of adult oddballs hunting for the underage lovebirds on an island off the New England coast. “Moonrise Kingdom” is one of two dozen titles vying for the Cannes top prize, the Palme d’Or, to be handed out on May 27.

“It takes you into a completely new world from the first page,” Tilda Swinton, who plays a character called Social Services, says in the film notes. “In this story, our community of adults doesn’t really know what they’re doing, and in the process find themselves to be no less childlike, and no more grown-up, than the two children.”

Picking the winners will be the job of a nine-person jury steered by Italian director Nanni Moretti (“Dear Diary”) and including actor Ewan McGregor and couturier Jean-Paul Gaultier. This year, there are five U.S. contestants in the official race, which is usually dominated by European and world auteurs.

One contender for the Palme d’Or is “Killing Them Softly,” starring Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini. Pitt plays a rifle-wielding enforcer who is assigned to probe a robbery committed during a mob poker game. The 48-year-old actor and his partner Angelina Jolie are red-carpet regulars in Cannes.

Kidman’s Paperboy

Just as certain to set the paparazzi flashes crackling are Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, who will present their movie “Paperboy,” another competition entry. Directed by Lee Daniels (whose 2009 “Precious” won two Oscars), it’s the story of a reporter who goes back to his Florida hometown to find out more about a death-row inmate. Zac Efron and John Cusack co-star.

Kidman also plays Ernest Hemingway’s war-reporter wife Martha Gellhorn in a production screening out of the Cannes competition: Philip Kaufman’s “Hemingway & Gellhorn,” with Clive Owen in the role of the Nobel-prizewinning novelist.

A third U.S. participant in the competition is “Lawless,” a Prohibition-era bootlegging story starring Shia LaBeouf. It’s directed by John Hillcoat and written by Nick Cave.

Cannes pursues its portrayal of financiers after hosting the 2010 premieres of “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” and the documentary “Inside Job.”

Asset Manager

This year, “Cosmopolis” (directed by David Cronenberg and adapted from the Don DeLillo novel) plots a tumultuous day in the life of a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager as he rides around Manhattan in a white limo. The film stars Robert Pattinson from “Twilight.”

This year’s selection is otherwise packed with previous Cannes winners. Austria’s Michael Haneke (whose “The White Ribbon” clinched the Palme d’Or in 2009) is back with “Amour” (“Love”) starring Isabelle Huppert.

Ken Loach -- the 2006 Palme d’Or winner with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” -- brings “The Angels’ Share,” about a former offender who develops a passion for distilling whisky.

France’s Jacques Audiard (director of the 2009 “A Prophet”) presents “Rust & Bone” starring Marion Cotillard, the story of a single dad who meets a killer-whale trainer.

Italy’s Matteo Garrone, who in 2008 stunned Cannes with the organized-crime movie “Gomorrah,” is back with “Reality,” about a Neapolitan fishmonger who tries out for a reality show. And Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami, whose “Certified Copy” earned Juliette Binoche a best-actress trophy in Cannes two years ago, is in the race with “Like Someone in Love,” shot in Japan.

This year’s festival is the 65th of its kind. The first Cannes Festival took place in 1946, a year after World War II ended. Among the event’s earliest award winners were directors Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray.

Today’s Muse highlights include: Scott Reyburn on art, Amanda Gordon on Scene Last Night.

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