Reading the Palme for Cannes lineup

A wealth of films are in line for a Riviera visit

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BERLIN -- 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 already a long list of near-certainties and strong hopefuls is emerging.

And on the face of it, Cannes selection chief Thierry Fremaux and his counterparts at the various sidebars have a rich choice for the upcoming edition, which bows May 13.

The 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 documentary about global consumption and its effects on the planet "The Titanic Syndrome," directed by French environmental campaigner and broadcaster Nicolas Hulot.

Fremaux also has a choice of two very 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 Stravinsky, and which Cannes is said to be "tracking closely"; 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 hit man 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 Cannes' favorite son Quentin Tarantino, who will have to fast track post on his World War II drama "Inglourious Basterds," which recently wrapped shooting here in Germany. But 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 may return, this time with "Bright Star," about the 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 very strong contender given Fremaux's love of the game.

Pedro Almodovar 1950s noir "Abrazos Rotos" (Broken Embraces) starring Penelope Cruz is thought 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 a slew of star cameos, would no doubt 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, though fest organizers might wonder whether star Christian Bale will be able to keep his cool in the pressure of Cannes.

In the absence of a DreamWorks animation 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 animation 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-starred directorial effort, "The Brown Bunny."

Cannes selectors have a wide choice of Gallic pictures to chose from, with the most tipped being the latest from Xavier Giannoli, Christophe Honore, Bruno Dumont, Marina de Van, Gaspar Noe and Alain Corneau. Seasoned French helmer Claude Miller has two pictures completed, one a drama, the other a documentary about Barack Obama's election campaign, no doubt temptingly topical for Cannes. Claire Denis' drama "White Material" also could find its way in, but not in Competition since it stars Isabelle Huppert, who heads the Cannes jury this year. Also in the running is "Farewell," a KGB thriller from Frenchman Christian Carion starring Guillaume Canet, David Soul and Emir Kusturica.

German offerings include Matthias Glasner's "This Is Love," a hard-hitting look at child prostitution in Thailand from the director of "The Free Will," though it might not be ready in time, and Fatih Akin's "Soul Kitchen" starring Moritz Bleibtreu and Birol Unel ("Head On") looks almost certain, though its status as comedy might push it out of a Competition slot. Among possible Italian inclusions are "Io Sono Amore" (I Am Love) starring Flavio Parenti and Tilda Swinton, and "Il Grande Sogno" (The Great Dream) directed by Michele Placido about the student revolt in Rome in 1968.

From further afield, possibles include Elia Suleiman's drama about the creation of Israel, "The Time That Remains;" and "The Vintner's Luck," a Burgundy-set fantasy drama from New Zealander Niki Caro starring Vera Farmiga and Gaspard Ulliel, if it is finished on time.

British director Andrea Arnold's "Fish Tank," a contemporary relationship drama, could be heading for the Certain Regard sidebar. Another possibility is the portmanteau film "New York, I Love You," following the success of its predecessor "Paris, je t'aime" in 2006.

Scott Roxborough and Stuart Kemp contributed to this report.