What's in the Cannes?

Industry abuzz about possible Cannes lineup

As spring dawns, so does one of the film world's biggest questions, namely -- what's in the Cannes?

The official announcement from Thierry Fremaux and his team regarding what's in store for the annual cinephile and industry gathering won't take place for another three weeks. But filmmakers, execs and sales agents are already buzzing about what will unspool at the festival.

The consensus: a slate that mixes auteur fare and star-driven pics, though one that's a little light on high-profile American titles.

The most prominent pic, at least from a star-power standpoint, won't even have its star there, as Terry Gilliam's "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus," the last film from Heath Ledger, is expected to make its debut after a lengthy postproduction process.

In addition to Gilliam's first appearance on the Croisette in more than a decade, a "Parnassus" debut also would offer the prospect of several stars -- including Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law -- who all stepped in to play different parts of Ledger's role after the actor died last year.

That glitzy cast could be used as a de facto tribute both to Gilliam, an auteur favorite, as well as to the late Ledger.

Aside from Pixar's "Up," the Pete Docter film that will open Cannes, the fest has yet to confirm fest entrants. Still, many films are seen as probable candidates.

Asian filmmakers will be well represented. Bong Joon Ho, the auteur behind Korean monster pic "The Host," will unveil "Mother," about a woman who searches for a murderer who framed her son. Genre specialist Johnnie To will probably bring his latest, the Hong Kong revenge pic "Vengeance," though the movie is in French. And Chinese helmer Lu Chuan may debut his "City of Life and Death," his Nanking massacre pic, which has been generating strong international buzz.

On the U.S. side, And Ang Lee's period pic "Taking Woodstock" is seen as a strong candidate, assuming the director can wrap the pic in time for the May debut.

Francis Ford Coppola's "Tetro," which the director plans on self-distributing, is a strong bet to land at the fest. The pic, which stars Vincent Gallo and an international ensemble cast, tells the story of a rivalry in an Italian family (between artists, not mobsters).

Todd Solondz's "Forgiveness," a follow-up to his sophomore effort "Happiness," could also end up on the Croisette, though questions remain about whether the director, who is in will finish it in time.

Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," the Brad Pitt pic that focuses on a rogue group of American soldiers fighting Nazis in World War II, has been pegged as a Cannes title for several months and is expected to be at the fest.

Studio fare that could nab an out-of-competition slot -- a la "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull" last year -- seem in short supply. "Terminator: Salvation," set to be released by Warner Bros. on May 21, is one of the few titles whose release dates are in sync with a Cannes debut and could at least yield a promotional event, if not a fully-fledged screening.

High-profile directors from a host of international territories will be on the Riviera to unspool their efforts, and they're a heady mix.

Alejandro Amenabar will likely premiere his big-budget "Agora," a historical drama starring Rachel Weisz, at the fest; the movie, which is seeking U.S. distribution, is considered one of the hottest potential acquisition targets.

Brit Ken Loach will likely debut "Looking for Eric," a dramedy about a soccer fan who is down on his luck but receives advice from a famous soccer player.

Loach's countryman Philip Ridley and countrywoman Andrea Arnold also will probably have pics there; the former will debut the deal-with-a-devil drama "Heartless," toplined by Jim Sturgess, while Oscar winner Arnold could well unspool her family drama "Fish Tank."

Australian Jane Campion will probably be in the south of France for the first feature she has helmed in six years with "Bright Star," about the romance between poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. While the Australian Film Council-financed picture is ostensibly without an output deal, distribution vet Bob Berney apparently has a gentleman's agreement to buy the picture and make it a cornerstone of his new company if he launches it in time.

And a couple of Cannes heavyweights are expected to be back: Pedro Almodovar could unveil his Sony pictures Classics release "Broken Embraces," while Lars von Trier could debut his genre-tinged "Antichrist," starring Charlotte Gainsbourg.

A big question on the international side, however, remains Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful," the next pic to come out of the Mexican filmmakers' Cha Cha Cha deal, which tells of a relationship between a policeman and his criminal friend but which may or may not be ready in time.

Producer Alan Moloney will likely bring the Colin Farrell-Paz Vega journalist thriller "Triage" to the Croisette. That would allow the actor to go for the Cannes hat trick -- in addition to "Parnassus," he's also in "Ondine," the Neil Jordan fisherman drama that CAA packaged and which could well end up at the fest.

Elsewhere in Europe, Michael Haneke, the Austrian auteur behind "Cache" and "Funny Games," will likely return to Cannes for the first time since "Cache" debuted there four years ago. He'll be unspooling "Das Weisse Band," about the events in a rural German school at the dawn of World War I.

Turkish-German auteur Fatih Akin is expected to be there with "Soul Kitchen," a comedy that reunites the director with his "Head-On" star Birol Unel.

Among the French filmmakers, auteur Jaco van Dormael will presumably unspool his interlocking, time-jumping story "Mr. Nobody," which stars Jared Leto, while "Amelie" director Jean-Pierre Jeunet will probably debut his weapons comedy "Micmacs a tire-larigot." And "Triplets of Belleville" helmer Silvain Chomet could be at the fest with his animated rocker tale "The Illusionist."

Several titles with French themes will likely, because of their release dates, not end up at the festival. "Coco Avant Chanel," the biopic of the perfume impresario starring Audrey Tautou and being released by SPC, will open before the fest, making it ineligible. Similarly, Stephen Frears' period romance "Cheri," which Miramax is releasing stateside in June, is opening in France this month.

Cannes has increasingly become a race to the wire, and several candidates may find themselves falling short. The Coen brothers' coming-of-age tale "A Serious Man" and Steven Soderbergh's "The Informant," an agri-business thriller, have been floated as hopefuls but very well may not finish in time.

Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany, Jonathan Landreth in Beijing and Rebecca Leffler in Paris contributed to this report.