CANNES, France – Carlos the Jackal will square up to Robin Hood when Cannes gets under way Wednesday but volcanic ash could keep megastars and movie directors away from the glitzy French Riviera resort.
"Carlos" -- about the notorious Venezuelan terrorist -- will, at three and a half hours, be easily the longest movie at the 12-day festival that opens with Ridley Scott?s Hollywood blockbuster "Robin Hood".
Russell Crowe, who plays the medieval English archer who robs the rich to give to the poor, is among the bevy of A-list celebrities such as co-star Cate Blanchett expected to sashay up the fabled red carpet.
But with an ash cloud drifting across Europe, which on Sunday lead to 100 flights being cancelled at nearby Nice airport, organisers are worried that the Icelandic volcano might dim the festival's star power wattage.
Cannes was already rushing to clean up after a freak storm last week lashed the resort, sending giant waves crashing over cafes and festival installations on the beachfront La Croisette and causing millions of euros worth of damage.
But even if Hollywood stars like Sean Penn, Naomi Watts and Javier Bardem fail to make it, the show will go on.
Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" sees Michael Douglas reprise his 1987 role as corporate raider Gordon Gekko getting out of jail and warning Wall Street of impending financial disaster.
Gekko was the character who coined the phrase "Greed is good" back in the avaricious 1980s, but he has now seen the error of his ways.
The theme of greed runs through the notoriously extravagant festival this year, with the documentary "Inside Job" delivering a scathing analysis of the 2008 crisis that brought the world close to economic collapse.
"Cleveland vs. Wall Street" meanwhile stages a mock trial in which victims of the US subprime crisis confront bankers and mortgage brokers.
Cannes 2010 will see gala premieres of films by Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Japan's Takeshi Kitano, veteran US director Woody Allen and New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard.
The event that first began in 1946 has hired "Alice in Wonderland" director Tim Burton to preside over a jury that will present the coveted Palme d'Or top award to one of the 19 films in the main competition.
This year's crop is marked by austerity and a distinct lack of frivolity.
British director Ken Loach, who scooped the top prize at Cannes in 2006, on Monday made a late entry in the race for Cannes gold with a movie on the Iraq war titled "Route Irish".
The field includes works from the likes of Iran's Abbas Kiarostami, who makes his first foray into European cinema with "The Certified Copy," starring French actress Juliette Binoche.
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's "The Screaming Man" brings Chad for the first time to the Palme competition, whose results will be announced on May 23, while Ukraine also makes a debut in the main category with Sergei Loznitsa's "My Joy".
Asia has a strong showing, with two entries for the Palme from South Korea -- "Poetry" by Lee Chang-dong and Im Sang-soo's "The Housemaid" -- and China, Japan and Thailand are also represented.
France has three films in the main race that Michael Haneke won last year with "The White Ribbon" after a competition seen as a bumper crop that included Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" and Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist".
The United States has just one.
"Fair Game", by "The Bourne Identity" director Doug Liman and starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, looks at the bid by former US president George W. Bush's administration to discredit CIA agent Valerie Plame.
The prestigious Directors' Fortnight sidebar competition promises some lively fare, with documentaries on disabled Congolese street musicians and ageing rockers The Rolling Stones.
Around 10,000 movie industry types, 4,000 press and thousands of film lovers and celebrity watchers are due to attend a festival whose heady cocktail of commerce, glamour and art makes it the top film event of the year.