CANNES, France - With all of his Academy Awards and other Hollywood honors, Clint Eastwood is not necessarily in the market for more prizes. He'll never shy away from a contest, though, including the one at the world's most prestigious film showcase.
Eastwood's missing-child drama "Changeling" was among 22 movies in the running for the top honor, the Palme d'Or, on Sunday at the 61st Cannes Film Festival.
Some established filmmakers choose to screen their movies out of competition at Cannes. Not Eastwood.
"It seems like if you're going to come to a film festival that has a competition, you might as well be in the competition," Eastwood said. "To play it out of competition is kind of playing it safe. It's like saying, 'OK, we're above that.' I'm not above that."
Among the films "Changeling" is up against are Steven Soderbergh's "Che," his two-part, four-hour-plus epic about Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, a saga that received mixed reviews; "Lorna's Silence," a drama about an immigrant woman who enters a sham marriage to gain Belgian citizenship, from two-time Palme d'Or winners Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne; and Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' "Linha de Passe," a tale of four brothers in a crime-ridden Brazilian slum.
Cannes critics say that while an obvious standout has not emerged, the competition features some solid entries, including Ari Folman's "Waltz With Bashir," an animated documentary about war in Lebanon in the early 1980s; Matteo Garrone's "Gomorra," a study of the criminal underworld in Naples; Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo," a lively portrait of former Italian Premier Giulio Andreotti and accusations against him of mafia ties; and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "Three Monkeys," a subtle drama about a family's hard choices coming home to roost.
Top honors at Cannes have served as a launch point for such high-profile films as Soderbergh's "sex, lies and videotape," Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction," Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies," Roman Polanski's "The Pianist" and Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11."
Other Palme d'Or recipients have gone largely unnoticed by general audiences, including the last three, the Dardennes' "The Child," Ken Loach's "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" and last year's winner, Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days."
Having Eastwood in competition puts Sean Penn, head of the Cannes jury, in the odd position of judging the work of a man who shepherded him to an Oscar. Penn won the best-actor prize for Eastwood's "Mystic River."
As Cannes opened May 14, Penn said it was "an emotional impossibility, I believe, for any of us to give in to something as petty as to favor a film because a friend of ours is in it. I also want to make it clear that this person will not be biased against. And that if Clint Eastwood's done a film that deserves awarding, we're going to ... award it."
"Mystic River" and three previous Eastwood films - "Pale Rider," "Bird" and "White Hunter, Black Heart" - all played in competition at Cannes. While "Bird" won the lead-actor prize and a technical award at Cannes, Eastwood has never received the festival's top award.
Eastwood's Hollywood honors include best-picture and director wins at the Oscars for "Unforgiven" and "Million Dollar Baby."
"Changeling" earned high marks from critics, who raved about Angelina Jolie's performance.
While such well-known figures as Penn, Helen Mirren and Holly Hunter have won best-acting honors at Cannes, the festival often singles out up-and-coming performers, such as 2007 best-actress winner Do-Yeon Jeon for the South Korean film "Secret Sunshine."
Jolie, a supporting-actress Oscar winner for "Girl, Interrupted," said she's happy to see lesser-known performers take Cannes honors.
"If that happens and it goes to somebody that it boosts their career, that's great," Jolie said. "Winning is not the important thing. It's fun to be here with something we are actually very proud of."
Among those joining Penn on the nine-member jury were actress Natalie Portman, director Alfonso Cuaron and comic book artist and filmmaker Marjane Satrapi.
Mexican filmmaker Cuaron joked: "In my case I'm rooting for the Mexican movie." Mexico does not have a film in competition this year.
Portman said a lot of pressure comes with serving on a Cannes jury.
"To be in the position of a judge is very humbling, because all the filmmakers are so incredible, and who am I to say something?" Portman said. "But I will."