Jockeying begins for Cannes

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With the jury still out on where this year's Berlin lineup will rate on the Dieter meter, attention is beginning to focus on the selection for the Festival de Cannes.

The Riviera event marks its 60th anniversary when it un-spools May 16-27, suggesting fest president Gilles Jacob will want to inject extra glitz. But artistic director Thierry Fremaux said the landmark year will not influence his choice of movies for Competition.

After the poor reception given to last year's opener "The Da Vinci Code," the pressure is on to find a more crowd-pleasing title. One option is the hugely ambitious documentary "Earth," which offers a dazzling look at natural life on the planet.

"We're already speaking to Cannes about being the opening film," said Sophokles Tasioulis of Greenlight Media, who co-produced the movie with the BBC. The movie is distributed in France by Gaumont, which has handled opening-night duties with "The Fifth Element" and "Vatel."

A more conventional contender is "Ocean's Thirteen" from Palme d'Or winner Steven Soderbergh. That would allow for a top-flight red-carpet gala given that the Warner Bros. Pictures' all-star cast is headed by George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and Al Pacino.

Warners' Iraq-themed movie "The Valley of Elah," written and directed by Paul Haggis and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron and James Franco, also is in the running. "It's not out of the question," a source said.

Although it is too early for titles to have received any locked-down slots, Fremaux looks to have a good choice of titles from the U.S. and France.

Among the former is Cannes golden boy Quentin Tarantino's exploitation double-feature "Grind House," co-directed by Robert Rodriguez.

The Walt Disney Co.'s "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" is one possibility for Out of Competition. Paramount Pictures' fantasy adventure "Stardust," starring Claire Danes, Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, also might show up. "Spider-Man 3" is thought unlikely because it bows in the U.S. ahead of the festival. 20th Century Fox top brass in Berlin hinted that the studio would not be positioning anything for the Croisette this year. Despite early speculation that DreamWorks' "Shrek the Third" would make the trip, the odds seem to be lengthening.

The Coen brothers' adventure drama "No Country for Old Men," starring Jones, for Paramount Pictures should be ready, as should Palme d'Or winner Gus van Sant's "Paranoid Park," produced by French indie MK2.

But selectors might be wary of criticisms about packing the lineup with familiar faces.

Other U.S. indie titles in contention are thought to be Sean Penn's Alaskan tale "Into the Wild," based on the best-seller by Jon Krakauer and starring Emile Hirsch; Harmony Korine's comedy drama "Mister Lonely," starring Diego Luna as Michael Jackson and Samantha Morton as Marilyn Monroe; and the Billy Crudup starrer "Dedication," directed by Justin Theroux, though the film's inclusion in Sundance means it is more likely for a sidebar slot.

Woody Allen's "Cassandra's Dreams," shot in London and Brighton and starring Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Michelle Williams, and Francis Ford Coppola's "Youth Without Youth" also are possibilities.

The documentary possibilities are strong as well. After successfully screening the Al Gore climate-change docu "An Inconvenient Truth" last year, the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced documentary "11th Hour" is a sort of survival guide for the global environment directed by Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen. And Michael Moore — director of the most commercially successful Palme d'Or film with "Fahrenheit 9/11" — might be back with "Sicko," his expose of the U.S. health-care system.

Scott Roxborough and Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.
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