Mike Leigh and Ken Loach films selected for Cannes

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

image copyrightFilm company
image captionTimothy Spall plays English painter JMW Turner in Mike Leigh's biopic

Mike Leigh and Ken Loach have had their new films selected for competition at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Leigh's Mr Turner stars Timothy Spall as the artist JMW Turner, while Loach's Jimmy's Hall dramatises the deportation of a 1930s Irish activist.

David Cronenberg, Tommy Lee Jones and The Artist director Michel Hazavinicius are also in contention for the prestigious Palme d'Or award.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival runs from 14 to 25 May.

Other directors to be included in this year's official competition line-up include 83-year-old Jean-Luc Godard, Canada's Atom Egoyan and Belgian siblings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne.

Animated sequel How to Train Your Dragon 2 will screen out of competition, as will this year's opening night film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman.

Festival organisers have also announced the line-up of the Un Certain Regard section, which will this year feature the directorial debut of Hollywood star Ryan Gosling.

Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and former Doctor Who Matt Smith are among the cast of Lost River, a dark fantasy formerly known as How to Catch a Monster.

image copyrightFilm company
image captionIrish actor Barry Ward (centre) plays the lead role in Jimmy's Hall

This year's line-up features two appearances from Robert Pattinson, who plays the lead role in Cronenberg's Hollywood satire Maps to the Stars.

The Twilight actor also appears in The Rover, an Australian crime drama that will have a special midnight screening at this year's event.

The line-up does not include films by Paul Thomas Anderson, Terrence Malick, Woody Allen and others that had been tipped for inclusion by some industry pundits.

Yet it does include two films by female directors - Naomi Kawase of Japan and Alice Rohrwacher of Italy - following criticisms of 2012's all-male shortlist.

New Zealand's Jane Campion, whose film The Piano was named joint winner of the Palme d'Or in 1993, will head this year's main competition jury.

The Homesman, a period western that Tommy Lee Jones both directs and stars in alongside Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank, is one of two US titles among the 18 on the official shortlist.

The other is Foxcatcher, in which Anchorman's Steve Carell stars as an eccentric millionaire whose dealings with a pair of Olympic wrestlers lead to murder.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThe line-up was announced by festival programmer Thierry Fremaux and Cannes president Gilles Jacob

Veteran auteur Jean-Luc Godard's Goodbye to Language is the shortest film in the line-up with a running time of just 70 minutes.

The longest is Winter's Sleep, the latest film from Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan, which runs for three hours and 16 minutes.

The Dardennes return with Two Days, One Night, a drama starring French actress Marion Cotillard, having previously won the Palme d'Or in 1999 and 2005.

Hazavinicius, whose silent film homage The Artist went on to win five Oscars following its Cannes premiere in 2011, will also return with his follow-up feature The Search.

Starring the French director's actress wife Berenice Bejo and Annette Bening, it tells of an NGO worker who bonds with a young boy in war-torn Chechnya.

Egoyan, meanwhile, will premiere The Captive, a thriller starring Ryan Reynolds as a father trying to recover his kidnapped daughter.

image copyrightGetty Images/AFP
image captionBoth Mike Leigh and Ken Loach have been regular Cannes contenders over the years

Loach has become a regular at France's historic film festival over the years, having previously been shortlisted for the Palme d'Or on 11 occasions.

The 77-year-old, who won the Palme in 2006 with The Wind that Shakes the Barley, has let it known that Jimmy's Hall - named after a rural dance hall built by the political activist Jimmy Gralton - may be his last fictional feature.

"Looks like we made it folks - Jimmy's Hall is heading to #Cannes2014," his production company Sixteen Films posted on Twitter. "Thanks to all the team who made it happen!"

Leigh has been in contention on four previous occasions, winning the Palme d'Or in 1996 with Secrets and Lies.

"It's a great honour to be in competition in Cannes for the fifth time, and I'm over the moon!," said the 71-year-old on Thursday.

In a statement Ben Roberts, director of the British Film Institute's Film Fund, sent his congratulations to Leigh and Loach and said it had been "a privilege to work with two true masters of British cinema at their finest".

He predicted their "wonderful films" would "light up the Croisette" - the main Mediterranean-facing boulevard in Cannes - "with their colourful, transcendent reflections on life and love, politics and change, art and music".

A complete list of this year's official selection is available on the Cannes Film Festival website.

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