The 38th Deauville film festival kicks off on Friday with Harvey Keitel as guest of honour as the seaside resort brings out the stars and stripes for its annual celebration of American film.
"All the themes of today's cinema are there: violence, relationships, teenagers, corruption, romance," the festival's founder Lionel Chouchan told AFP ahead of the opening of the end-of-summer event on France's Normandy coast.
Six first-time filmmakers are among the 15 vying for the festival's Grand Prize to be handed out on September 8 by a jury headed by French actress and director Sandrine Bonnaire.
Oscar-winning Frenchman Michel Gondry is among those in competition with "The We and the I", which follows a bunch of schoolkids on a bus through the Bronx and premiered at the Cannes film festival in June.
Other high-profile contenders include Benh Zeitlin with his fantastical "Beasts of the Southern Wild" about a cluster of Louisiana towns being swallowed by the encroaching sea, which took the Camera d'Or first film prize in Cannes.
Adam Leon brings his New York graffiti story "Gimme the Loot", and Lynn Shelton is in competition with a story of romantic confusion "Your Sister's Sister."
Actress Salma Hayek will also be in town to promote Oliver Stone's drug cartel drama "Savages", screening out of competition as is "The Bourne Legacy" the latest instalment in the thriller series based on Robert Ludlum's novels and starring Rachel Weisz.
And the festival will pay a special tribute to Keitel, star of such screen classics as Abel Ferrara's "Bad Lieutenant" and Quentin Tarantino's "Reservoir Dogs."
Last year's Grand Prize went to the US auteur Jeff Nichols, whose latest film the Mississippi-set coming-of-age drama "Mud" will show out of competition.