The United States accounts for four of the 20 movies (from 13 countries) selected to compete at the festival running May 11-22, organizers announced Tuesday. The awards will be announced May 21.
Among the U.S. entries: the directing debut by Tommy Lee Jones, "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," and the graphic-novel adaptation "Sin City," co-directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez.
Jim Jarmusch is on the slate with "Broken Flowers" starring Bill Murray, Jessica Lange and Sharon Stone, while Van Sant returns with "Last Days," a tale of the final moments in the life of a tormented musician that was inspired by the demise of Kurt Cobain. Van Sant's "Elephant," about teenage gunmen who attack a high school, took Cannes' top prize in 2003.
More than half the directors competing at Cannes' 58th festival are regulars, which is not the case for Iraqi Kurd Hiner Saleem.
Saleem's "Kilometer Zero" broaches the difficult subject of Kurdish-Arab relations in Iraq and marks a first for an Iraqi director at Cannes, organizers said.
Like Van Sant, three other directors are vying for their second Golden Palm, the festival's top award.
Lars von Trier is back with "Manderlay," the second in a trilogy about evil in small-town America that started with "Dogville," starring Nicole Kidman. The Danish director won the top award in 2000 for "Dancer in the Dark." Cannes regular Wim Wenders, who won in 1984 with "Paris, Texas," is back with "Don't Come Knockin'," and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are showing "L'Enfant." The Belgian brothers won in 1999 for "Rosetta."
Canadian director David Cronenberg will be on hand with "A History of Violence," starring Viggo Mortensen as an unassuming family man hurled into the public spotlight by a violent incident.
Also in the running are three French films, including Dominik Moll's "Lemming," which opens the festival.
Director Emir Kusturica is heading this year's jury.
Movies by two U.S. directors beloved to the French will be among those presented out of competition: Woody Allen's "Match Point" and George Lucas' "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith."
By JOCELYN GECKER