May 14 (Bloomberg) -- Movies about musicians starring Justin Timberlake and Matt Damon are among the 20 contenders for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where Steven Spielberg will steer a nine-member jury.
Timberlake appears in Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” screening in competition at the festival, which runs from May 15 to May 26. It’s the story of a 1960s folk singer making his way in Greenwich Village; Carey Mulligan co-stars.
Damon plays the lover of pianist Liberace (Michael Douglas) in “Behind the Candelabra,” by Steven Soderbergh, who has said he’s giving up moviemaking. The drama, which did not find backing from a movie studio, is being released on Time Warner Inc.’s Home Box Office in the U.S.
“It’s important that the people understand that Liberace wasn’t a goof,” Soderbergh said in the film production notes. “He was a seriously talented, proficient musician.”
Founded in 1946 in the French Riviera resort, Cannes is the world’s leading film festival. Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel, and Ingmar Bergman were early award winners. The festival is both a venue for splashy Hollywood-movie premieres and a springboard for low-budget international titles; 4,000 journalists cover it each year.
The jury includes actors Nicole Kidman, Daniel Auteuil and Christoph Waltz and director Ang Lee. Led by Spielberg, they will watch competition movies back to back and deliver their verdict on May 26, the festival’s closing day.
A third title in the 2013 competition is “Only God Forgives,” where Ryan Gosling plays a Bangkok drug trafficker whose crime-boss mom (Kristin Scott Thomas) prods him to avenge his brother’s murder.
“We are so used to seeing crime and violence as being the work of male characters that the very notion of seeing a woman embody absolute evil -- and a mother to boot -- it was great fun to write,” says Danish-born filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn (who directed Gosling in “Drive.”)
“I thought it would be very interesting to do a combination of Lady Macbeth and Donatella Versace,” Refn says of the Scott Thomas character in the movie’s production notes.
Cannes opens with Baz Luhrmann’s 3-D “The Great Gatsby,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan, which is not in competition. “Gatsby” is getting its international premiere on the Riviera. Its U.S. release was May 10.
On May 16, Sofia Coppola screens “The Bling Ring,” based on the true story of a teenage gang that robbed Hollywood celebrity homes. Starring Emma Watson, it’s competing in a parallel section of the festival (“Un Certain Regard.”)
Coppola’s rival in the same section is James Franco, director of “As I Lay Dying,” based on the 1930 William Faulkner novel.
European directors in the running for the 2013 Palme d’Or include Roman Polanski, with “Venus in Fur,” starring his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric; and Francois Ozon, whose “Young & Beautiful” has Charlotte Rampling in the cast.
Iranian director Asghar Farhadi -- whose “A Separation” won the foreign-language Oscar last year -- is also in the main competition with “The Past,” shot outside Iran, starring Berenice Bejo (“The Artist.”)
Stephen Frears’s drama “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight” -- about the boxer’s confrontation with the U.S. government -- will get a special Cannes screening. It features Christopher Plummer and Danny Glover.
Muse highlights include Scott Reyburn on Ferrari auctions and Zinta Lundborg’s interview with Dan Brown.
To contact the reporter on the story: Farah Nayeri in London at Farahn@bloomberg.net.
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