24 APRIL 2009

Quentin Tarantino's Brad Pitt vehicle Inglourious Basterds will go head to head against Ken Loach's Looking For Eric in the battle for the top prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The competition, which includes entries from past winners and nominees, is being billed by film pundits as the "biggest heavyweight auteur smackdown" in recent years.

Quentin's WWII epic is the only offering from an American director in a lineup dominated by European and Asian cinema. Flying the flag for Spain is three-time Palme d'Or nominee Pedro Almodovar, shortlisted for his thriller Broken Embraces, which stars Penelope Cruz.

Nine-time nominee Ken's film features footballer-turned actor Eric Cantona as himself and tells the story of a footie-mad postman who seeks life lessons from the former Manchester United player.

Other contenders include Bright Star, a film by New Zealand-born The Piano director Jane Campion, about the romance between poet John Keats and his 18-year-old neighbour Fanny Brawne.

Heath Ledger's final work The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus will also be screened at the festival, but outside the competition. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law stepped in to complete the Australian star's role after he passed away part way through filming.

The festival kicks off on May 13 with - for the first time - an animated opener, Up from the creators of Toy Story.

The Hollywood icon stars in Quentin Tarantino war drama Inglourious Basterds, which has been shortlisted for the festival's prestigious Palme d'Or prize
Also in the running is Ken Loach comedy Looking For Eric, which stars French sports star-turned-actor Eric Cantona as himself