Bound for Cannes <sub18>'Parnassus,' 'Tetro' strong bets for Croisette</sub18>

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As spring dawns, one of the film world's biggest questions looms: What's in the Cannes?

The official announcement from Thierry Fremaux and his team of what's in store for the annual cinephile and industry gathering won't take place for three weeks. But filmmakers, execs and sales agents already are prognosticating what will unspool at the festival.

The consensus: It will be a traditional mix of auteur fare and star-driven pics — though a little light on high-profile American titles.

The most prominent film so far, at least from a star-power standpoint, won't have its star there, as "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," the last film from Heath Ledger, is expected to make its debut. Terry Gilliam's picture has been in a lengthy postproduction process.

In addition to Gilliam's first appearance on the Croisette in more than a decade, a "Parnassus" debut would offer the prospect of several other stars — including Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, who stepped in to play different parts of Ledger's role after the actor died last year — attending.

Aside from Pixar's "Up," the Pete Docter film that will open Cannes, the fest has not confirmed any titles. Still, many films are seen as probable candidates.

On the U.S. side, Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro," which the director plans on self-distributing, is a strong bet to land at the fest. The pic, which stars Vincent Gallo, tells the story of a rivalry in an Italian family. (They're artists, not mobsters.)

Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," the Brad Pitt pic that focuses on a rogue group of American soldiers fighting Nazis in World War II, has been pegged as a Cannes title for several months.

Todd Solondz's "Forgiveness," a follow-up to his sophomore effort "Happiness," could end up on the Croisette, though questions remain about whether he'll finish it in time.

And while Hollywood studio titles that could nab an out-of-competition slot a la "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull" last go-round seem in short supply, "Terminator: Salvation," set to be released by Warner Bros. on May 21, is one of the few titles whose release dates are in sync with a Cannes debut.

High-profile directors from a host of international territories will be on the Riviera to unspool their efforts. And they're a heady mix.

Alejandro Amenabar will likely premiere his big-budget "Agora," a historical drama starring Rachel Weisz and a hot acquisition target. Brit Ken Loach will likely debut "Looking for Eric," a dramedy about a soccer fan, as will countryman Philip Ridley and countrywoman Andrea Arnold, with "Heartless" and "Fish Tank," respectively.

Australian Jane Campion will probably fly in for the first feature she has helmed in six years. "Bright Star" centers on the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. While the Australian Film Council-financed picture is ostensibly without an output deal, distribution vet Bob Berney apparently has a gentleman's agreement to buy the picture and make it a cornerstone of his new company.

A big question on the international side, however, remains Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful," the next pic to come out of the Mexican filmmaker's Cha Cha Cha deal, which tells of a relationship between a policeman and his criminal friend. Again, questions remain as to its readiness.

Producer Alan Moloney will likely bring the Farrell-Paz Vega journalist thriller "Triage" to the Croisette. Farrell could go for the Cannes hat trick — in addition to "Parnassus," he's also in "Ondine," the Neil Jordan fisherman drama that CAA packaged.

Michael Haneke, the Austrian auteur behind "Cache" and "Funny Games," will likely return to Cannes for the first time since "Cache" debuted there four years ago. He'll be unspooling "Das Weisse Band," about the events in a rural German school at the dawn of World War I.

Turkish-German auteur Fatih Akin is expected to be there with "Soul Kitchen."

Among the French filmmakers, auteur Jaco van Dormael will presumably unspool his interlocking, time-jumping story "Mr. Nobody," which stars Jared Leto, while "Amelie" director Jean-Pierre Jeunet will probably debut "Micmacs a tire-larigot," as will "Triplets of Belleville" helmer Silvain Chomet with "The Illusionist."

Several titles with French themes will likely, because of their release dates, not end up at the festival. "Coco Avant Chanel," the biopic of the perfume impresario starring Audrey Tautou, will open before the fest, making it ineligible. Similarly, Stephen Frears' period romance "Cheri," which Miramax is releasing stateside in June, is opening in France this month.

Asian filmmakers will be well represented. Bong Joon Ho, the auteur behind Korean monster pic "The Host," will unveil "Mother," about a woman who searches for a murderer who framed her son. Genre specialist Johnnie To will probably bring his latest, the Hong Kong revenge pic "Vengeance," though the movie is in French. And Chinese helmer Lu Chuan may debut his "City of Life and Death."

Cannes has increasingly become a race-to-the-wire, and several candidates may find themselves falling short. The Coen brothers' coming-of-age tale "A Serious Man" and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant," an agri-business thriller, have been floated as hopefuls but may not finish in time.

Focus, which has the Ang Lee Cannes prospect "Taking Woodstock," also is releasing the Jim Jarmusch-Bill Murray collaboration "The Limits of Control," which may end up on the Croisette.

Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany, Jonathan Landreth in Beijing and Rebecca Leffler in Paris contributed to this report.
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