Blanchett, Pitt, Jolie and 'Da Vinci' Bring Buzz to Cannes

It's that time of year again -- 11 days of glittering galas, scintillating screenings, borrowed bling, and much ado about something.

The 59th annual Cannes Film Festival will begin Wednesday with the world premiere of Ron Howard's "The Da Vinci Code." Although only 20 films will be gunning for the prestigious Palme d'Or award, 55 films -- of which 48 are world premieres -- will represent 30 countries.

Though some will blushingly admit that it is indeed a thrill to get a peek at Kirsten Dunst, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz, and Brad and Angelina, the real thrill manifests itself in a great story portrayed by master storytellers -- some lauded for their talents and others new to the spotlight.

Up-and-Comers Mix With Stars

There is a growing number of entries each year. A jury of nine will select the winner of the Palme d'Or award, but there are other categories where films, shorts, documentaries and animation will compete to be recognized as the best.

Though each production is unique, themes that have emerged this year include globalization, love stories and human interest. There are films that link us to the past, and others that propel us into the future. Come May 28, one tale will emerge with the prize.

Which films are creating buzz?

"The Da Vinci Code" -- Although there has been a good deal of hype and objections surrounding the political and religious implications, there is a surprising hush surrounding the actual film. There has not yet been the slightest murmur as to whether Howard will match the potency of Dan Brown's thriller. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou star in the film.

"Marie-Antoinette" -- Sofia Coppola is one of three female directors in competition for the Palme d'Or. Filmed in Paris, this modernist period piece stars Dunst in the title role. Coppola is among the "rising generation," according to Thierry Fremaux, the festival's artistic director, who suggested that youth was among the criteria in selecting films for this year's competition. Based on Antonia Frazer's biography of the ill-fated French queen, the film and its current buzz sounds as though Coppola has woven a drama with the same confidence and breezy touch of 2003's "Lost in Translation."

"Babel" -- Though the movie is billed as an American production, Mexican director Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu -- "Amores Perros" and "21 Grams" -- collaborated with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga to depict several stories about the state of the world. Starring Blanchett, Brad Pitt and Gael García Bernal, "Babel" takes place in Mexico, Morocco, Tunisia and Japan.

"Volver" -- Pedro Almodovar blends the everyman story, haunting love, the supernatural, desperation and vengeance in "Volver" (The Return), which stars Cruz in a return to filmmaking in her native land. Cruz plays a housewife who is put at ease by the appearance of her late mother's ghost. The film is set in rural La Mancha (Almodovar's birthplace).

"The Caiman" -- This satirical slaying of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is the latest work by director Nanni Morretti. Morretti is the winner of the 2001 Palme d'Or award for "My Son's Room."

"Southland Tales" -- Directed by Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko"), this mysterious, futuristic film is set in Los Angeles in 2008. It is a political film commenting on life in the United States and each character's struggle to overcome his or her own personal trials. Anticipation builds, but it is yet to be determined whether this poetic, musical, dark, but hopeful film will meet the expectations, or whether the plot line is too chaotic. Starring The Rock and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

"Summer Palace" -- The sole Asian entry in competition, the love story about two Chinese students takes place during the upheaval of the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The real-life politicking surrounding the film came when Chinese director Lou Ye was forced to battle the international relationship department of China's government certification board. Apparently, the film had been submitted to Cannes without the proper approval. The producers of "Summer Palace" allegedly had nothing to do with the submission, which was handled by the film's international sales agents.

"Fast Food Nation" -- Directed by Richard Linklater, "Fast Food Nation" stars Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke and Greg Kinnear. It is a story, not just about the end product, but what goes into the food we eat. As globalization makes the world a smaller place, it is not just a story geared to frighten Americans, but rather has far-reaching implications for society -- from the slaughterhouse to the dinner table.