Woody Allen, at left, directs Owen Wilson and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during the filming of Midnight in Paris on in July 2010. The film will open the Cannes Film Festival. ((Thibault Camus/Associated Press))

Midnight in Paris, Woody Allen's latest romantic comedy, will open this year's Cannes International Film Festival.

"Midnight in Paris is a wonderful love letter to Paris," festival director Thierry Frémaux said Wednesday as he announced the opening film.

"It's a film in which Woody Allen takes a deeper look at the issues raised in his last films: our relationship with history, art, pleasure and life. His 41st feature reveals once again his inspiration."

The high-profile international cast includes Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Adrien Brody and Marion Cotillard. Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the model-turned-singer and wife of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also appears in the film.

Midnight in Paris was shot last year in the French capital, but is actually a Spanish production.

U.S. director Allen is highly respected in Europe and his most recent movies, such as Vicky Cristina Barcelona and Match Point, have used European locations to full effect.

This year, Cannes organizers plan to make a digital transmission of the festival's opening ceremony available to any French theatre requesting it, so that audiences in other cities can experience it live.

The move follows that of the Sundance Film Festival, which streamed one of its opening movies and offers a program that brings different titles to various smaller centres during the festival.

American actor Robert de Niro has been named chair of the 2011 Cannes jury.

The Cannes International Film Festival, considered one of the world's premiere film festivals, will take place May 11-22.