Mais oui, it's that time of year again when glamor, art and thick accents collide at the Cannes International Film Festival.

Each spring, films from around the world make their debuts in this seaside town on France's south coast, competing in several categories as well as screening Out of Competition for some of the world's most prominent tastemakers.

Now in its 63rd year, the festival not only brings together elite filmmakers and stars for serious soirees and screenings, but also serves as ground zero for the hottest films set for release in the year ahead. While Cannes features films from a diverse array of directors from around the world, Americans are well-represented in the 2010 official selection -- no doubt thanks in part to California native Tim Burton, who's serving as president of the Cannes jury. Still, international directors have solid footing, with some of this year's picks arriving from countries including Japan, Brazil and Russia.

Mais oui, it's that time of year again when glamor, art and thick accents collide at the Cannes International Film Festival.

Each spring, films from around the world make their debuts in this seaside town on France's south coast, competing in several categories as well as screening Out of Competition for some of the world's most prominent tastemakers.

Now in its 63rd year, the festival not only brings together elite filmmakers and stars for serious soirees and screenings, but also serves as ground zero for the hottest films set for release in the year ahead. While Cannes features films from a diverse array of directors from around the world, Americans are well-represented in the 2010 official selection -- no doubt thanks in part to California native Tim Burton, who's serving as president of the Cannes jury. Still, international directors have solid footing, with some of this year's picks arriving from countries including Japan, Brazil and Russia.

Cannes might be far away from Hollywood geographically and culturally, but just because the French don't drive big cars or eat fast food doesn't mean they don't have good taste in movies -- at least, most of the time. This year's lineup is packed with new films that range from the dramatic to the genre-busting, and how they fare with festival-goers can make or break their box-office potential when they ultimately arrive in theaters. As the event's May 12 kick-off draws closer, we've selected the top 10 films from the official selection that are worth watching for, no matter how they fare on French shores.

Mike Leigh'Another Year'

Famed British director Mike Leigh is set to premiere his latest work In Competition, no doubt building on the momentum from last year's awards darling, 'Happy-Go-Lucky.' Not much has been revealed about the film save the cast, which features some of Leigh's go-to talent like Jim Broadbent (who Harry Potter fans will recognize as Professor Horace Slughorn) and Lesley Manville. If past films are any clue, count on gritty realism and a story born of Leigh's signature development style, which typically begins without a script and allows for broad improvisation from the actors.

'Biutiful'
'Babel' director Alejandro González Iñárritu will premiere his first Spanish-language film since 'Amores Perros' (2000), which introduced the world to the smoldering Gael Garcia Bernal. This time Javier Bardem is the leading sex-pot as Uxbal, a man involved in dodgy schemes who's confronted by his childhood friend. The twist? Uxbal's old pal is now a policeman. While a Brad Pitt cameo is unlikely, metaphysical coincidence wouldn't be a bad theme to bet on.

'Burnt by the Sun 2: Exodus'
Cannes wouldn't be any fun without some old-fashioned political controversy, and this year Nikita Mikhalkov is obliging with the sequel to his Oscar-winning 1994 flick 'Burnt by the Sun.' The first installment, which focused on the Stalin era in Russia, won the festival's Grand Jury prize that year. The follow-up, which focuses on the Nazi invasion of Russia, has so far been less successful on the director's home turf, becoming known as the country's priciest flop since its opening earlier this month. The director's tight-knit relationship with the Kremlin has made matters worse, prompting one critic to declare, "Mikhalkov is no longer seen as a director but as a state bureaucrat."

'Chatroom'
The Riviera better brace itself: This abstract thriller is the second English-language film from the man who brought us 'The Ring' (and all the nightmares that went with it), and features a group of teens whose online discourse goes horribly wrong. 'Kick-Ass' star Aaron Johnson plays the online-addicted posse's resident alpha male whose motives aren't what they seem in Hideo Nakata's dark look at social dynamics among teens.



'Inside Job'
Getting the inside scoop on what really caused the global economic crisis might not be the typical festival-goer's idea of a fun night out in the French Riviera. But with Matt Damon narrating and heavy skewering of people and events from Wall Street to the White House, the new documentary from Charles Ferguson ('No End in Sight') promises to be a riveting look at how the recession came to be.

Naomi Watts'Fair Game'
Intrigue, cover-ups and a destroyed career: It's all par for the course in Doug Liman's take on the Valerie Plame affair, which ignited a national dialogue when the CIA agent was outed in a 2003 Washington Post article. America may never know what really happened or how high the chain of command really was, but with Naomi Watts and Sean Penn playing the real-life former CIA operative and her husband, former ambassador Joe Wilson, it (almost) doesn't matter. Liman's cinematic take on one of the country's most spectacular political botches promises to bring a little fun to the Cote D'Azur -- if not some salt in the wound for former veep Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby.

'Film Socialisme'
The architect of France's famed New Wave style of film, Jean-Luc Godard, is turning the art form on its head again, this time with a funky assortment of snippets from his latest work for fans to see on the Web. True to the movie's title, the film seems to feature concurrent stories about a diverse set of characters from around the world whose lives may (or may not) intersect on a cruise ship that sails to places like Greece, Egypt, Naples and Barcelona. Is Godard making yet another statement about modern capitalism? Getting experimental again? Or simply re-mastering the art of self-promotion?

'Tamara Drewe'
British actress Gemma Arterton achieves cinematic saturation as the titular heroine in Stephen Frears's new film (see also: 'Clash of the Titans,' 'Prince of Persia'). Based on a graphic novel by fellow Brit Posy Simmonds (which is in turn based on Thomas Hardy' 19th century novel, 'Far from the Madding Crowd'), 'Tamara' follows the misadventures of a young journalist who returns to her rural hometown, all glammed up and ready to wreak havoc -- intentionally or not. Frears is no stranger to edgy material (see also: 'Dangerous Liaisons,' 'Dirty Pretty Things'), and 'Tamara''s pulpy promise should delight his fans this week on the French coast.

'Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps'
Shia LaBeouf can save the world from evil robots, but can he fend off the allure of Wall Street greed? The young gun teams up with Michael Douglas for the sequel to the classic 1987 film on excess -- revamped and retrofitted for a new generation. Douglas reprises his role as the money-hungry Gordon Gekko, who's just been released from jail, while LaBeouf plays the wide-eyed boyfriend of his daughter (Carey Mulligan), who watches history repeat itself as her man becomes enmeshed in Daddy's nefarious ways.



'You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger'
Woody Allen's latest film debuts Out of Competition and stars heavy-hitting stars such as Antonio Banderas and Josh Brolin. Swap in 'Slumdog Millionaire' star Freida Pinto and blond beauty Naomi Watts for Allen's previous muses, and fans will find a fresh ensemble ready for what distributor Sony Pictures Classics describes as "a little romance, some sex, some treachery and ... a few laughs." In short: A typical Woody Allen film, now with a European sensibility.

CATEGORIES Features