Some last-minute shopping at Cannes

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The Festival de Cannes is winding to a weekend close just as film buzz and deals are ratcheting up.

Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" makes its long-awaited public debut here tonight. As Heath Ledger's last film and with Johnny Depp starring, it is expected to generate strong media attention.

But the Palais screening is not just another media opportunity. A strong reception for "Parnassus" could compel U.S. buyers, who so far have stayed on the sidelines, to step up with a deal for the Cinetic-repped pic; a weaker reception might give them pause.

Other deals were coming together as the fest prepared to close.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired Jacques Audiard's "A Prophet," a mob prison drama that has been discussed as a possible Palme d'Or contender. The label beat out Oscilloscope and IFC for the pic in a deal representing SPC's third fest pickup, or half of its six-film Cannes cache last year.

It was a good day all around for the New York banner, which unspooled "The White Ribbon," Michael Haneke's German- language pre-World War I tale, to one of the fest's most enthusiastic receptions. SPC execs, who are considering replacing the German voice-over with an English one, hope to use strong critical response to the artily composed black-and-white film to springboard a specialty run and possible Oscar campaign.

With most of the big titles having screened, it's unlikely there will be any blockbuster deals besides "Parnassus," though the Rachel Weisz-toplined period drama "Agora" remains available and could fetch a deal in the coming days.

The fest closes Saturday with a screening of "Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky," a historical drama about the two icons that SPC also has bought. (partialdiff)
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