HEAVY HITTERS HEADED FOR CANNES

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FROM VARIETY

The upcoming CANNES FILM FESTIVAL will be swimming in top international filmmakers, as directors including QUENTIN TARANTINO, LARS VON TRIER, JANE CAMPION, ANG LEE, PEDRO ALMODOVAR, MICHAEL HANEKE, JOHNNIE TO and BONG JOON HO expect to square off for the PALME D’OR on MAY 13.

With one week to go before the APRIL 23 announcement of the OFFICIAL SELECTION, fest director THIERRY FREMAUX and his selection committee still have numerous films to watch. So this weekend will tell the tale as far as several titles are concerned.

Unlike his predecessor GILLES JACOB, who tended to accept or reject films as he saw them over a period of months, Monsieur Fremaux prefers to keep his options open to a certain extent until he’s seen everything – leaving anxious filmmakers, distributors and sales companies in the dark until the final bell.

All the same, the line up for the competition has come into focus in recent days, creating an image of a fest that will be heavy on Asian and European titles, light on films from Central/South America, Africa and the Middle East and iffy where Hollywood is concerned.

QUENTIN TARANTINO’S WWII saga INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, toplining BRAD PITT, was locked in a couple of weeks ago.

But fest toppers only saw ANG LEE’S TAKING WOODSTOCK (set during the fabled 1969 music event) this week and extended an immediate invitation to the FOCUS FEATURES release. LIEV SCHREIBER, JEFFREY DEAN MORGAN and EMILE HIRSCH head the cast.

Word is that FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S Argentine family drama TETRO (with VINCENT GALLO) will be viewed imminently by the committee and that WERNER HERZOG’S BAD LIEUTENANT makeover – starring NICOLAS CAGE – is jockeying for a special screening or midnight slot.

An almost certain midnight attraction will be SAM RAIMI’S horror/thriller DRAG ME TO HELL – a UNIVERSAL release starring ALISON LOHMAN that was very well received in incomplete form at the recent SXSW FILM FESTIVAL.

Less confirmed word has it that TERRY GILLIAM’S THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASUSS – featuring HEATH LEDGER’S final performance in a role that, after his death, came to be shared with JUDE LAW, JOHNNY DEPP and COLIN FARRELL – may make its debut at CANNES.

Officials announced early on that PETE DOCTER’S animated PIXAR feature UP will open the fest, which runs through MAY 24.

Other English language fare will include JANE CAMPION’S U.K. production BRIGHT STAR, a drama about the romance of 19th century poet JOHN KEATS and FANNY BRAWNE, with BEN WISHAW and ABBIE CORNISH; CANNES regular LARS VON TRIER’S ANTICHRIST, a horror drama with WILLEM DAFOE and CHARLOTTE GAINSBOURG as two people who retreat to a secluded forest cabin after the death of their son; prolific helmer JONNIE TO’S French financed VENGEANCE, starring JOHNNY HALLYDAY as an assassin turned chef who heads to Hong Kong to avenge his daughter’s death.

MICHAEL HANEKE’S German entry THE WHITE RIBBON examines incipient fascism at a rural school in 1913. Like FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA’S film, it was shot in black and white. PEDRO ALMODOVAR’S BROKEN EMBRACES, which has all ready opened in Spain, is a multistrand melodrama starring PENELOPE CRUZ.

South Korea and China will be heavily represented this year.

From the former comes THE HOST director BONG JOON HO’S MOTHER, a thriller about a woman’s attempt to determine who framed her antisocial son for a ghastly murder. Also under consideration is OLDBOY helmer PARK CHAN WOOK’S THIRST, a vampire tale about a small town priest transformed into a neck biter by a medical experiment gone wrong.

Flying the Chinese flag will be SUMMER PALACE director LOU YE’S SPRING FEVER, about a young threesome overcome with erotic longings.

Also very likely for the competition are Malaysian auteur TSAI MING LIANG’S French financed FACE, which revolves around a Taiwanese director who arrives in PARIS to make a film about SALOME. It stars JEANNE MOREAU, MATHIEU AMALRIC, FANNY ARDANT, NATHALIE BAYE, LAETITIA CASTA and JEAN PIERRE LEAUD. There is also Japanese fest regular HIROKAZU KOREEDA’S AIR DOLL, about the love affair between a video store clerk and an inflatable sex doll.

Yet another possibility is Belgian director JACO VON DORMAEL’S time jumping fantasy MR. NOBODY, with DIANE KRUGER and JARED LETO.

The final selection of French titles is regularly made at the very last minute. But the films nearest the front of the line are ALAIN RESNAIS’ LES HERBES FOLLES, JACQUES AUDIARD’S A PROPHET, BRUNO DUMONT’S HADEWIJCH and XAVIER GIANNOLI’S IN THE BEGINNING.

Prominent in the UN CERTAIN REGARD sidebar will be a Romanian feature: TALES FROM THE GOLDEN AGE, an omnibus film produced by PALME laureate CRISTIAN MUNGIU (4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS & 2 DAYS), with two episodes directed by him and others helmed by proteges.

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