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(Reuters) - The Cannes film festival opens on May 11 and runs until May 22. There are 20 movies in the main competition, but many out-of-competition pictures will generate just as much, if not more, interest.
Following are 10 films likely to create a splash this year:
1. "The Tree of Life" (in competition)
- Directed by U.S. film maker Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life has taken on almost mythical status among European festival regulars due to its long gestation period and the secrecy surrounding its release.
A brief synopsis and trailer is all most have seen of the director's fifth feature, and mysterious cosmic images suggest the narrative may go beyond normal human experience.
Brad Pitt plays the father and Sean Penn his grown-up son Jack, described in the synopsis as a "lost soul in the modern world, seeking answers to the origins and meaning of life."
Malick, 67, previously directed movies including "Days of Heaven" and "The Thin Red Line."
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
- Johnny Depp's fourth outing as Jack Sparrow in the hugely successful pirate franchise may not be to the liking of serious-minded cineastes in Cannes, but Hollywood blockbusters bring the glitz, glamour and buzz that festivals thrive on.
If Depp and co-star Penelope Cruz do walk the red carpet along the famous Croisette waterfront, they are likely to attract a screaming crowd of fans and a small army of photographers, camera crews and reporters to the launch.
3. La Conquete/The Conquest
- Xavier Durringer tells the story of the rise to power of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, focusing on the personal turmoil that accompanied political triumph in the 2007 election.
The official synopsis says in conclusion: "The Conquest is the story of a man gaining power and losing his wife."
4. Midnight in Paris
- Woody Allen is given the coveted out-of-competition opening slot for his romantic comedy starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams.
Of greater interest to the world's media will be the performance, and possible red-carpet appearance, of French First Lady Carla Bruni who has a small role in the film.
She is currently at the center of fevered speculation in France over whether or not she is pregnant.
- U.S. film maker Gus Van Sant won the Palme d'Or for best picture in Cannes in 2003 for "Elephant."
This time around he is not in the main competition, but screenings of Restless, starring Mia Wasikowska as a young patient with terminal cancer, are likely to be packed.
6. Ichimei/Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai
- The prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike presents what has been billed as the first 3-D movie to make it into the main competition in Cannes. The tale of honor and revenge is a re-imagining of Masaki Kobayashi's 1962 classic "Harakiri."
7. This Must Be The Place
- Penn gets his second Cannes outing in Paolo Sorrentino's in-competition film in which he plays a 50-year-old ex-rocker who travels across the United States to avenge his father's death.
8. The Kid With A Bike
- Belgian brothers the Dardennes have a chance to make history with a third Palme d'Or. They previously won with "Rosetta" (1999) and "L'Enfant" (2005).
- How can Danish director Lars Von Trier follow "Antichrist," his 2009 Cannes entry which shocked audiences with its graphic sex scenes and extreme violence?
Melancholia has got critics chattering, with Kirsten Dunst playing a bride at a wedding set against impending disaster -- a planet called Melancholia is on collision course with Earth.
10. Sleeping Beauty
- Australian Julia Leigh is one of four female directors in the main competition, an unusually high number.
Sleeping Beauty stars Emily Browning as Lucy, a young university student drawn into a disturbing parallel life as a sedated prostitute who remembers nothing about her encounters with old men who demand absolute submission.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Steve Addison