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Cannes: Woody Allen’s ‘Cafe Society’ to Open Film Festival

Woody Allen becomes the first and only director to have three opening night films selected for Cannes.

Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society,” starring Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, has been selected to open the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival. The film will make its world premiere in an out-of-competition slot on May 11, in advance of its release later this year through Amazon Studios, which acquired North American rights to the picture in February.

Allen remains one of the most celebrated American directors in France, and Cannes’ selection no doubt owes to the influence of Stephane Celerier’s Mars Distribution, which has handled the Gallic release of Allen’s recent output, dating the film’s French release for May 11. (Allen’s previous feature, “Irrational Man,” grossed $6.3 million in France — by far the pic’s strongest international box office performance.)

Little is known about Allen’s 46th feature as a director — and his 14th to screen out of competition at Cannes — except that in addition to the romantic reteaming of “American Ultra” leads Stewart and Eisenberg, the cast includes Steve Carell, Parker Posey, Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin and Ken Stott.

Shot in Los Angeles and New York, the film is produced by Allen’s longtime collaborators Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum and Edward Walson. According to the festival, “The film tells the story of a young man who arrives in Hollywood during the 1930s hoping to work in the film industry, falls in love, and finds himself swept up in the vibrant cafe society that defined the spirit of the age.”

Allen is no stranger to kicking off the world’s most prestigious international film event, having previously done the honors with “Hollywood Ending” (2002) and “Midnight in Paris” (2011), which remains one of Cannes’ best-received curtain-raisers in recent years. This latest selection makes him the first and only director to present three opening-night films at Cannes — four, if you count the 1989 opener, “New York Stories,” a feature-length trilogy of films directed by Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese.

(Several filmmakers have scored two Cannes opening-night slots in the past: William Wyler with “Ben-Hur” and “The Collector”; Ridley Scott with “The Duellists” and “Robin Hood”; Luc Besson with “The Big Blue” and “The Fifth Element”; and Baz Luhrmann with “Moulin Rouge” and “The Great Gatsby.” Scorsese, too, if you count both “New York Stories” and “The King of Comedy.”)

After last year’s edition kicked off with French helmer Emmanuelle Bercot’s troubled-youth drama “Standing Tall,” the Allen film will ensure a return to the sort of splashy, star-packed Hollywood fare that Cannes has typically opened with (“Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Great Gatsby”).

The 69th Cannes Film Festival runs May 11-22, and the full official selection will be announced mid-April. As previously reported, Steven Spielberg’s “The BFG” and Jodie Foster’s “Money Monster,” starring George Clooney, Jack O’Connell and Julia Roberts, will screen at the festival.

(Peter Debruge contributed to this report.)

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