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Woody Allen tops bill at star-studded Cannes festival

The May 11-22 cinema extravaganza opens today with Allen’s 'Cafe Society'.

FILE: Staff members lay out the red carpet outside the Palais des Festivals in the southeastern French city of Cannes on 100 May, 2016 on the eve of the opening ceremony of the 69th Cannes Film Festival. Picture: AFP.

CANNES, FRANCE - The 69th Cannes Film Festival has what it takes to be a vintage edition, with Woody Allen leading a pack of celebrated filmmakers presenting their movies to the French Riviera crowds.

The May 11-22 cinema extravaganza opens on Wednesday with Allen's Cafe Society, featuring Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart in a story of a young man who arrives in Hollywood during the 1930s hoping to work in the film industry.

"When we will be old we will tell our children you know I was living at a time when Woody Allen's films were coming out, and I think he's one of the greatest auteurs," festival director Thierry Fremaux told Reuters.

Although he has never been in competition, Allen is a Cannes favorite. This year will be the third time he has opened the festival, and several other familiar faces will be presenting their films in the main competition.

"This year the competition is mostly Cannes favorites, Cannes darlings," Variety critic Jay Weissberg told Reuters.

"Fremaux is someone who likes to reward his friends, he's somebody who likes to have the people he knows come back year after year after year."

The Dardenne brothers, who present The Unknown Girl, have won the festival's highest distinction, the Palme d'Or, twice.

Ken Loach, in Cannes with I, Daniel Blake has won it once, while Bruno Dumont; Jim Jarmusch, who is showing two films including a documentary on Iggy Pop; Park Chan-wook; and Pedro Almodovar have all previously scooped other honors.

Jarmusch's films are two of five distributed by Amazon as the video streaming giant makes its first appearance in Cannes.

While the competition films bring much of the prestige, some of the red carpet glitz will surround some of the out of competition screenings, such as Steven Spielberg's The BFG, based on the novel by Roald Dahl.

Oscar-winner Julia Roberts makes her Cannes debut in Jodie Foster's out-of competition film Money Monster, alongside George Clooney.

Twilight star Stewart has been labeled queen of the festival by organizers as she features in Cafe Society as well as Olivier Assayas's Personal Shopper, which is vying for the Palme d'Or crown.

Despite the glamor, security will be intense as France is still facing a high risk of attack.

Private security officers will control the Palais des Festivals entry points while "hundreds" of police officers will be deployed as France is still under a state of emergency after last year's Paris attacks killed 130 people.

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