Look into Cannes' crystal ball

Familiar faces, former Palme winners likely to return to the Riviera

As the industry prepares to say auf wiedersehen to Berlin, attention turns to who will be hearing the words, "Bienvenue a Cannes!"

Festival de Cannes reps would never confirm titles before they have been officially announced, but a long list of near-certainties and strong hopefuls is emerging.

On the face of it, Cannes selection chief Thierry Fremaux and his counterparts at the various sidebars have a rich choice for the festival's 62nd edition, which bows May 13.

Films tipped as potential openers include Belgian Jaco van Dormael's sci-fi fantasy "Mr. Nobody," starring Jared Leto, Diane Kruger, Sarah Polley and Rhys Ifans, and "The Titanic Syndrome," a documentary about consumption and its effects on the planet directed by French environmental campaigner and broadcaster Nicolas Hulot.

Fremaux also has a choice of two distinct movies about fashion icon Coco Chanel: "Coco and Igor," directed by Jan Kounen and starring Anna Mouglalis, which deals with the designer's tempestuous relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky (Cannes is "tracking closely" this one); and "Coco Before Chanel," which stars Audrey Tautou, assuming French distributor Warner Bros. revises its April 22 release date for the film.

Few titles are considered locked at this stage, but one that is said to be assured a place is Johnnie To's thriller "Vengeance," which stars veteran Gallic rocker Johnny Hallyday as a hitman in Hong Kong.

As ever, the Croisette event could offer berths to a raft of familiar faces and previous award winners. The highest profile of these is favorite son Quentin Tarantino, who would have to fast-track postproduction on his World War II drama "Inglourious Basterds," which recently wrapped shooting in Germany. The smart money says he can finish in time.

Among other Palme d'Or winners, Lars von Trier seems all but certain to present his latest, "Antichrist," starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Jane Campion might return, this time with "Bright Star," a film about poet John Keats played by Ben Whishaw. Another Palme winner is Ken Loach, whose "Looking for Eric," about French soccer legend Eric Cantona, is a strong contender given Fremaux's love of the game.

Pedro Almodovar's 1950s noir "Abrazos Rotos" (Broken Embraces), starring Penelope Cruz, is a good bet following its upcoming release in Spain. Also from Spain, Alejandro Amenabar's historical drama about Egyptian philosopher Hypatia starring Rachel Weisz is considered credible.

Jim Jarmusch, whose Spain-set road movie "The Limits of Control" stars Isaach De Bankole and features a slew of star cameos, would certainly find a competition slot, but doubts remain if it will be finished by May.

A major U.S. studio picture may be a harder task, with scant films ready in the right time slot. Forerunner for a Riviera bow seems to be McG's "Terminator: Salvation," which Sony is releasing internationally.

In the absence of a DreamWorks Animation pic this summer, an alternative could be "The Illusionist," directed by Sylvain Chomet ("Belleville Rendezvous"), who adapted the screenplay from an unmade Jacques Tati script. "We're pushing hard for post to be finished in time," a source close to the production said. Another possible animated film is Tarik Saleh's "Metropia," a science-fiction tale that features the voice talent of Stellan Skarsgard and Juliette Lewis.

Elsewhere, one intriguing selection would be Francis Ford Coppola's drama "Tetro," about an Italian immigrant family, since it would mark a return to the Croisette for Vincent Gallo — this time as an actor, after his ill-fated directorial effort, "The Brown Bunny." (partialdiff)