Reporting from Cannes, France -- Consider this the "Groundhog Day" of Cannes Film Festivals. Not because that fine Bill Murray film is being revived, but because everything feels like it's been here before.
Not only are four previous Palme d'Or winners back with new films, but a whole flotilla of big-name art-house directors and Cannes veterans are keeping them company in the 62nd edition of the event the French like to call "le plus grande festival de cinema du monde" -- the world's biggest film festival.
On the other hand, for the first time the festival, which begins tonight, has broken with tradition and chosen an animated film, Pixar's Pete Docter-directed “Up,” as its prestigious opening-night film.
It's always like this at Cannes, a dance between tradition and innovation, between the artistic main competition and the thriving Marchédu Film or marketplace where, Lord help us, films such as "Werewolf Erotica" and "Toolbox Murders . . . The Return" are trolling for buyers.
So though the city's forest of festival billboards lean more toward upcoming Hollywood releases such as "G.I. Joe" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" than they once did, you can still find those boggling European poster juxtapositions, with "The Red Riding Trilogy" ("an epic tale of murder, corruption and obsession") resting comfortably right next to "Around the World in 50 Years," the animated story of how Sammy the sea turtle forges "the friendship of a lifetime."
In fact, if anything's a constant at Cannes, it's that one way or another, people will find something to complain about, a turn of events that Harvey Weinstein, head of the Weinstein Co., thinks is really worth complaining about.
"The movie business is not Scottish coal mining," Weinstein says. "Anybody who sits around and complains that 'it takes half an hour for my coffee to arrive' deserves to be lined up and guillotined. The people who watch movies for a living have to not take it for granted."
Weinstein, who remembers that the very first time he visited Cannes "my brother Bob and I shared a room and a bed and that was quite an experience," is here this year with "Inglourious Basterds," a Quentin Tarantino-directed reworking of a 1978 World War II film originally advertised as "Whatever 'The Dirty Dozen' Did, They Do It Dirtier."
"It always feels good to be with Quentin," Weinstein says. "Going with him is like going with the Rolling Stones."
In addition to Tarantino, returning Palme winners include Jane Campion, here with "Bright Star," a romantic drama about poet John Keats, and Ken Loach, whose "Looking for Eric" costars soccer standout Eric Catona.
As for perennial festival bad boy and Palme winner Lars von Trier, he's back with a horror film called "Antichrist," one of several dark dramas in the competition, including Gaspar Noé's "Enter the Void" and Korean director Park Chan-wook's vampirish "Thirst." And that doesn't even include a midnight screening of Sam Raimi's "Drag Me to Hell." Indeed.
Other boldfaced names in the competition are Ang Lee, here with the period drama "Taking Woodstock," and 87-year-old French New Wave veteran Alain Resnais, showing "Les Herbes Folles." Always interesting are his compatriot Jacques Audiard ("A Prophet"), Palestinian Elia Suleiman ("The Time That Remains") and of course Pedro Almodóvar, here with the melodramatic "Broken Embraces."
That film stars Penélope Cruz, which was all the excuse that all kinds of French magazines (even a publication called Psychologies) needed to put her on the cover. The only Cannes celebrity with as much magazine face time is French icon Johnny Hallyday, starring as a chef-hit man for Hong Kong action maestro Johnny To in "Vengeance."
Not in competition but high on everyone's list to see is Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," the film Heath Ledger was working on when he died, a situation that led three actors -- Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell -- to pinch-hit and finish up his role.
Also not in competition, and an antidote to some of Cannes' more frivolous moments, is "My Neighbor My Killer," a wrenching documentary by Anne Aghion that details how a small community in Rwanda deals with the return of the Hutus who massacred much of the town's Tutsi population.
Un Certain Regard, the festival's sidebar section, features not one but two films from the Romanian New Wave; "Air Doll," a new film by Japan's Hirokazu Kore-eda that shares a preoccupation with "Lars and the Real Girl," and Lee Daniels' Sundance winner "Precious."
Across town at the friendly rival Directors Fortnight event, three other Sundance films are being shown. These include "I Love You Phillip Morris," "Humpday" and the excellent "Amreeka," directed by Cherien Dabis. Opening the Fortnight will be Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro," starring Vincent Gallo, who hasn't been back in town since his "Brown Bunny" turned heads several years ago.
One of the areas where the Cannes festival has changed in recent years is in the bulking up of the Cannes Classics section that is devoted to restorations and revivals. This year the jewel in the crown looks to be a restoration of Michael Powell's "The Red Shoes" masterminded by the UCLA Film & Television Archive's Robert Gitt.
Despite all these good things, idle minds always return to the Marché, where films that come close to defying description are on offer.
Here's the logline for something called "Burning Bright": "Trapped in a house with a ravenous tiger during a hurricane, a young woman must decide whether to sacrifice her autistic younger brother to save her own life."
If I could make up stuff like that, I'd be in another line of work.