High-profile helmers make way to Croisette

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Organizers of this year's Festival de Cannes might have pulled a rabbit out of their berets Wednesday with an Official Competition lineup jammed with hotly anticipated films including several that prevailing wisdom dictated wouldn't be ready in time to unspool at the Palais.

The idea of such North American directors as Clint Eastwood, Steven Spielberg, Atom Egoyan and Woody Allen rubbing shoulders with Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Brazil's Walter Salles, Germany's Wim Wenders and Hong Kong's Wong Kar Wai certainly raises the bar of anticipation to that of the 2002 lineup, which produced "The Pianist," "About Schmidt" and "City of God."

As Festival de Cannes president Gilles Jacob and GM Thierry Fremaux announced the majority of the lineup in Paris for the 61st edition that runs May 14-25, they said that there will be fewer films than last year's 60th anniversary blowout.

Spielberg will have his "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" at Cannes, but the film won't open the festival as previously announced, Fremaux said. The closing-night film is expected to be Barry Levinson's Hollywood-set "What Just Happened?" (HR 4/16).

The festival's biggest coups came with films still in frantic postproduction. Despite fears that his "Changeling" might not be finished in time for Cannes, Eastwood reportedly rushed to complete the Angelina Jolie starrer in time for a festival slot. Ditto Steven Soderbergh, who will bring "Che," his four-hour biopic about Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara, to the Competition.

"It's not a typo — the film really does last four hours." Fremaux said.

Charlie Kaufman will fly the stars and stripes alongside Eastwood and Soderbergh, with the writer's first outing in the director's chair, "Synecdoche, New York," set to unspool.

French screen influence will be as strong as ever as Catherine Deneuve heads to the red carpet with Arnaud Desplechin's family drama "A Christmas Tale." The film co-stars a who's who of Gallic talent including Mathieu Amalric, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Melvil Poupaud and Deneuve's daughter, Chiara Mastroianni.

French presence on its home turf also was bolstered as director Philippe Garrel landed a Competition slot for the first time in his 40-year-plus career. His "La Frontiere de l'aube" stars his son Louis alongside another famous offspring, Nathalie Baye's daughter, Laura Smet.

A third French title will be added to the Competition lineup in the coming days, Fremaux said.

Riviera regulars the Dardenne brothers are back with their sixth film, "Le Silence de Lorna," about a young Albanian woman hoping to realize her dreams in Belgium.

DreamWorks' animated "Kung Fu Panda" will bring comedy and martial arts to an Out of Competition slot alongside Allen, who comes with "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," and South Korean Kim Ji-woon, who arrives with "The Good, the Bad, and the Weird."

Also In Competition, Matteo Garrone's "Gomorra" takes an inside look at Italy's modern-day Mafia, while Paolo Sorrentino's "Il Divo" tells the story of Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti.

Fremaux and company also sprinkled the Competition lineup with two Argentine titles: Lucrecia Martel's "La Mujer sin cabeza" and Pablo Trapero's "Leonera."

Asian films are notably absent from this year's lineup, with Jia Zhangke's "24 City" from China and Eric Khoo's "My Magic" from Singapore the lone titles from that continent.

Eastern European fare also is missing from the fest's main dish, with only Hungarian Kornel Mundruczo trying his luck with incest drama "Delta."

"A film festival is characterized as much by the films it accepts as the films it refuses," Jacob said.

After looking at 1,692 films — up from last year's 1,615 — the selection committee has picked 19 for Competition slots and plans to add one more to the list in the coming days.

"Can you imagine how many DVDs were piled up in our office?" Fremaux said.

Croisette favorite Ceylan will represent Turkey with "Uc Maymun," and Filipino director Brillante Mendoza will follow last year's Cannes entry "Foster Child" with his latest directorial effort, "Serbis."

Israeli director Ari Folman will present an unprecedented format for the Cannes Competition, namely the animated documentary "Waltz With Bashir," about Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Rounding the Competition are Wenders' "The Palermo Shooting," Salles' "Linah de Passe" and Egoyan's "Adoration."

After last year's star-studded, special screenings-filled romp to celebrate 60 years of the festival, organizers have decided to decrease the number of films screened, plan fewer concurrent events and "concentrate on cinema," Fremaux said.

Although 12 special screenings were held at last year's festival, the 2008 edition will include only five, notably Wong's "Ashes of Time Redux," a reworking of his martial arts film "Ashes of Time" 12 years after its release.

Emir Kusturica will hold a Midnight Screening of his soccer docu "Maradona," and Jennifer Lynch will follow in her father David's footsteps and head to the Croisette with "Surveillance," also in the Midnight Screenings category.

"The process was long, complicated and difficult," Jacob said. "We're in a post-anniversary year. This year, a lot of the big European directors are working, so they don't have films ready to show yet. We needed to find new names."

The winners and losers from the Competition will be picked by a jury that is headed by Sean Penn and includes Natalie Portman, Italian director-screenwriter Sergio Castellitto, German actress Alexandra Maria Lara, Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and French director Rachid Bouchareb, whose "Days of Glory" was a festival favorite when it screened in 2006.


IN COMPETITION

UC MAYMUN

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey

LE SILENCE DE LORNA

Directors: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium

A christmas tale

Director: Arnaud Desplechin, France

CHANGELING

Director: Clint Eastwood, U.S.

ADORATION

Director: Atom Egoyan, Israel

WALTZ WITH BASHIR

Director: Ari Folman, Israel

LA FRONTIERE DE L'AUBE

Director: Philippe Garrel, France

GOMORRA

Director: Matteo Garrone, Italy

24 CITY

Director: Jia Zhangke, China

SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK

Director: Charlie Kaufman, U.S.

MY MAGIC

Director: Eric Khoo, Singapore

LA MUJER SIN CABEZA

Director: Lucrecia Martel, Argentina

SERBIS

Director: Brillante Mendoza, Philippines

DELTA

Director: Kornel Mundruczo, Hungary

LINHA DE PASSE

Directors: Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas, Brazil

CHE

Director: Steven Soderbergh, U.S.

IL DIVO

Director: Paolo Sorrentino, Italy

LEONERA

Director: Pablo Trapero, Argentina

THE PALERMO SHOOTING

Director: Wim Wenders, Germany



UN CERTAIN REGARD
TOKYO!

Directors: Bong Joon Ho, Leos Carax, Michel Gondry, France

AFTERSCHOOL

Director: Antonio Campos, U.S.

TING CHE

Director: Chung Mong-Hong, Taiwan

SOI COWBOY

Director: Thomas Clay, U.K.

LA VIE MODERNE (PROFILS PAYSANS)

Director: Raymond Depardon, France

WOLKE 9

Director: Andreas Dresen, Germany

TULPAN

Director: Sergey Dvortsevoy, Germany

LOS BASTARDOS

Director: Amat Escalante, Mexico

CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS

Director: Abel Ferrera, U.S.

JE VEUX VOIR

Directors: Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil

Joreige, France

O' HORTEN

Director: Bent Hamer, Norway, Germany

MILH HADHA AL-BAHR

Director: Annemarie Jacir, Palestine

TOKYO SONATA

Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan

YI BAN HAISHUI, YI BAN HUOYAN

Director: Fendou Liu, China

A FESTA DA MENINA MORTA

Director: Matheus Nachtergaele, Brazil

DE OFRIVILLIGA

Director: Ruben Ostlund, Sweden

WENDY AND LUCY

Director: Kelly Reichardt, U.S.

JOHNNY MAD DOG

Director: Jean-Stephane Sauvaire, France

VERSAILLES

Director: Pierre Schoeller, France

TYSON

Director: James Toback, U.S.




SHORT FILM
411-Z

Director: Daniel Erdelyi, Hungary

BON VOYAGE

Directors: Javier Palleiro, Guillermo Rocamora, Spain

DE MOINS EN MOINS

Director: Melanie Laurent, France

THE DESIRE

Director: Marie Benito, Mexico

JERRYCAN

Director: Julius Avery, Australia

LOVE YOU MORE

Director: Sam Taylor Wood, U.K.

MEGATRON

Director: Marian Crisan, Romania

MY RABBIT HOPPY

Director: Anthony Lucas, Australia

SMAFUGLAR

Director: Runar Runarsson, Iceland
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