Nostalgia is always a big part of the Cannes Film Festival. This year, thoughts will surely turn to 1979 when Francis Ford Coppola brought a work-in-progress version of his Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now to the world’s most famous cinematic get-together.

The chaotic production, which ballooned in budget, led him to famously claim in the press conference “My film is not about Vietnam, it is Vietnam.” Despite it’s unfinished state, the jury awarded it a share of the festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or with The Tin Drum and a legendary film was born.

Now, 35 years on, Coppola is back in competition with Megalopolis, a science fiction drama he’s dreamed of making for three decades. Financed personally, through the sale of his extensive vineyards, this tale of a metropolis in the wake of a huge disaster arrives in Cannes still looking for major distribution deals. A recent screening in Hollywood, attended by studio heads and celebrities, received mixed murmurings, with some claiming it was too experimental to release widely. Surely, unveiling it in Cannes will be just what Coppola needs to stir up interest globally.

Away from the mega-excitement over Megalopolis, the 77th Cannes Film Festival will be honouring Coppola’s good friend and peer George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, with an Honorary Palme d’Or. Another will be given to Japanese animation giant Studio Ghibli. Arriving shortly after Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki won the second Oscar of his career for The Boy and the Heron, it’s the first time Cannes has bestowed such an award on a company, rather than an individual. Japan also adorns the festivals official poster: a still from Akira Kurosawa’s 1991 movie Rhapsody in August.

Another veteran who hasn’t premiered a film in Cannes competition for decades is Paul Schrader, the man who famously scripted Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. His last film vying for the Palme was 1988’s Patty Hearst, but now he’s back with Oh, Canada – an adaptation of the novel by Russell Banks (whose work gave Schrader one of his greatest films, Affliction). This meditative tale sees Richard Gere, who featured in the director’s early Eighties classic American Gigolo, playing a left-leaning writer who fled to Canada to avoid the Vietnam War draft years earlier.

Talking of Canada, horror maestro David Cronenberg is also back. The Toronto native now seems to be on a roll. After an eight-year hiatus, he made his return to filmmaking with 2022’s Crimes of the Future, and thankfully he’s back again quickly with The Shrouds. Vincent Cassel stars as a grieving widower who builds a device to connect to the dead inside a burial shroud. Diane Kruger and Guy Pearce co-star alongside Frenchman Cassel, who has already featured in Cronenberg’s Russian gangster tale Eastern Promises and Freud/Jung drama A Dangerous Method.

Cronenbergian body horror, or something like it, will also feature in The Substance, a fellow competition entry from Parisian-born filmmaker Coralie Fargeat (who made 2017’s deliciously bloodthirsty rape-revenge drama Revenge). The film stars two Hollywood veterans Dennis Quaid and Demi Moore, alongside rising star Margaret Qualley. Little is known about the story, but the impression is that it could make a similar impact to 2021 Palme d’Or-winner Titane – another out-there body horror from fellow female French filmmaker Julia Ducournau.

Qualley also co-stars in Kinds of Kindness, the new film from Greek miracle-worker Yorgos Lanthimos, who has rapidly followed up his Venice-winning triumph Poor Things. Again, it casts Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe, who both featured in that Victorian-era feminist Frankenstein tale. This latest is a triptych of fable-like tales co-written by Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, who scripted much of the director’s earlier work including his last Cannes entry, 2017’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer. Curiously, Lanthimos’ actress-wife Ariane Labed, who featured in some of those early films, sees her directorial debut September Says bow in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.

From Britain, all eyes will be on Andrea Arnold’s competition entry Bird. The filmmaker has thrice won the Jury prize in Cannes, for the Glasgow-set Red Road, Fish Tank, and her last narrative feature, 2016’s road movie American Honey. Could Bird finally see her elevated to a Palme d’Or winner? The film stars two of the hottest actors around, Saltburn’s Barry Keoghan and Passages’ German-born Franz Rogowski, although the focus is a 12-year-old girl named Bailey, living with her father (played by Keoghan) in North Kent.

The Herald: Horizon: An American Saga is scripted by Jon BairdHorizon: An American Saga is scripted by Jon Baird (Image: free)

Perhaps the most intriguing film in competition, though, is The Apprentice. No, it’s not a biopic of Alan Sugar, though it will undoubtedly look at power and the world of big business. The film stars Marvel’s Sebastian Stan as Donald Trump, with the story examining the former American President’s earlier years and his real estate dealings. In a brilliant bit of casting Maria Bakalova (who you’ll recall from the Borat sequel) is playing Ivana Trump, while Iranian-Danish filmmaker Ali Abbasi (who made a huge impact in Cannes with Holy Spider) is at the helm.

If you want Hollywood extravaganza – and Cannes always does – the festival also sees the return of Australia’s George Miller with his Mad Max spin-off Furiosa. Nine years ago, Miller brought the house down with his apocalyptic barnstormer Mad Max: Fury Road, which introduced the world to the one-armed female warrior Furiosa, played by Charlize Theron. Replacing her for this prequel is The Queen’s Gambit’s Anya Taylor-Joy, who looks suitably unhinged in the trailers as this renegade loner, fighting for her life across a story that spans fifteen years. Avengers’s hammer-wielding Thor star Chris Hemsworth also appears in a film that hits British screens on May 24th.

Expect more weepy-eyed nostalgia with Kevin Costner back in the saddle for Horizon: An American Saga, a two-part western film that he directs and stars in. The first part will screen in Cannes, out of competition, and intriguingly, it’s scripted by Scottish filmmaker Jon Baird, whose work includes Irvine Welsh adaptation Filth and the Laurel and Hardy bio Stan and Ollie. With an all-star cast, including Sienna Miller and Sam Worthington, the idea of seeing Costner ride into town and mount those famous steps outside the Palais is an enticing one. There aren’t many movie stars left like him – and you can bet he’ll go down a storm in Cannes.

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