LONDON — A tighter Competition, less heavy on veteran names but still dominated by Croisette favorites, plus sidebar Certain Regard notably thinner on specialized Third World fare, mark this year’s Cannes Festival Official Selection announced this morning in Paris.

Artistic director Thierry Fremaux said that several titles still remain to be announced for sidebar Un Certain Regard, fuelling suspicions that this year’s selection process has been more of a scramble than ever.

Of the 19 competing titles — three down on last year — the U.S. leads the English-lingo charge, with Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River” repping the veterans and Vincent Gallo (“The Brown Bunny”) and Gus Van Sant (HBO movie “Elephant”) making their first appearance in Competition. Despite some advance fears to the contrary, Yank participation in this section is on a par with last year’s.

U.S. productions are also strongly repped in non-competing screenings, with documentaries by Richard Schickel, Errol Morris and Wim Wenders, plus the Wachowski Bros.’ “Matrix Reloaded.”

Other Anglophone fare is more scattered throughout the whole Official Selection, with two U.K. productions by young directors in sidebar Certain Regard (Emily Young’s “Kiss of Life” and David Mackenzie’s “Young Adam”), plus Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s HBO pic, “American Splendor,” which competed at Sundance in January. Peter Greenaway’s pan-European production, “The Tulse Luper Suitcases,” and Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool” are the only non-U.S. English-language pics in Competition.

French productions, led by Croisette favorites such as Andre Techine (“Strayed”), Claude Miller (“La petite Lili”) and Bertrand Blier (“Les cotelettes”), dominate the Competition, accounting for five of the 19 entries. As usual, France is also heavily repped in the other sections via co-productions.

Though many are not new names on the fest circuit, a larger number of directors than usual make their bow in Competition: Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Bright Furture”), Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“Distant”), China’s Lou Ye (“Purple Butterfly”) and Japan’s Naomi Kawase (“Shara”), plus Vincent Gallo and Gus Van Sant.

Familiar Riviera names are led by Canada’s Denys Arcand (“Invasion of the Barbarians”), Denmark’s Lars von Trier (“Dogville”), Russia’s Alexander Sokurov (“Mother and Son”) and Brazil’s Hector Babenco (“Carandiru”).

Vast majority of pics this year clock in comfortably under the two-hour mark, with only Von Trier’s “Dogville” and late Portuguese helmer Joao Cesar Monteiro’s “Come and Go” (both 170 mins.) pushing the time envelope, and Italian helmer Marco Tullio Giordano’s “La meglio gioventu” dramatically puncturing it (330 mins.).

Youngest helmer in Official Selection is 23-year-old Iranian Samira Makhmalbaf, with Sri Lankan veteran Lester James Peries the oldest, at a sprightly 84.

Official Selection: Cannes 2003

OPENER

“Fanfan La Tulipe,” France, Gerard Krawczyk

CLOSER

“Modern Times” (1936), U.S., Charles Chaplin

INTL. COMPETITION

“Carandiru,” Brazil, Hector Babenco

“Invasion of the Barbarians,” Canada, Denys Arcand

“Purple Butterfly,” China, Lou Ye

“Dogville,” Denmark, Lars Von Trier

“Ce jour-la,” France-Switzerland, Raoul Ruiz

“Les cotelettes,” France, Bertrand Blier

“La petite Lili,” France, Claude Miller

“Strayed,” France, Andre Techine

“Swimming Pool,” France, Francois Ozon

“Five in the Afternoon,” Iran, Samira Makhmalbaf

“The Heart Is Elsewhere,” Italy, Pupi Avati

“Bright Future,” Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa

“Shara,” Japan, Naomi Kawase

“The Moab Story/The Tulse Luper Suitcases – Part I,” Netherlands-Spain-Hungary, Peter Greenaway

“Father and Son,” Russia, Alexander Sokurov

“Distant,” Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan

“The Brown Bunny,” U.S., Vincent Gallo

“Elephant,” U.S., Gus Van Sant

“Mystic River,” U.S., Clint Eastwood

OUT OF COMPETITION

“Qui a tue Bambi?”, France, Gilles Marchand

“Le temps du loup,” France-Austria, Michael Haneke

“Les triplettes de Belleville,” France, Sylvain Chomet

“Come and Go,” Portugal, Joao Cesar Monteiro

“The Mansion by the Lake,” Sri Lanka, Lester James Peries

“Matrix Reloaded,” U.S., Andy & Larry Wachowski

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

“S-21, the Khmer Rouge Death Machine,” France-Cambodia, Rithy Panh

“Aprile & The Last Customer,” Italy, Nanni Moretti

“Charlie: The Life and Art of Charlie Chaplin,” U.S., Richard Schickel

“The Fog of War,” U.S., Errol Morris

“The Soul of a Man,” U.S., Wim Wenders

UN CERTAIN REGARD

“Today and Tomorrow,” Argentina, Alejandro Chomski

“Japanese Story,” Australia, Sue Brooks

“Struggle,” Austria, Ruth Mader

“Drifters,” China, Wang Xiaoshuai

“En jouant ‘Dans la compagnie des hommes,'” France, Arnaud Desplechin (opener)

“Stormy Weather,” France, Solveig Anspach

“Tiresia,” France, Bertrand Bonello

“September,” Germany, Max Faerberboeck

“All Tomorrow’s Parties,” Hong Kong, Nelson Yu

“Arimpara,” India, Murali Nair

“La meglio gioventu,” Italy, Marco Tullio Giordana

“A Thousand Months,” Morocco, Faouzi Bensaidi

“Empty Hands,” Spain, Marc Recha

“Robinson’s Crusoe,” Taiwan, Lin Cheng-sheng

“Kiss of Life,” U.K., Emily Young

“Young Adam,” U.K., David Mackenzie

“American Splendor,” U.S., Shari Springer Berman & Robert Pulcini

(more titles to be announced)

SHORT FILMS COMPETITION

“Cracker Bag,” Australia, Glendyn Ivin

“Fast Film,” Austria, Virgil Widrich

“A janela aberta,” Brazil, Philippe Barcinski

“To tameno,” Greece, Marsa Makris

“Ik ontspruit,” Netherlands, Esther Rots

“November Snow,” Sweden, Karolina Jonsson

“The Most Beautiful Man in the World,” U.K., Alicia Duffy

“My Blind Brother,” U.S., Sophie Goodhart

(Alison James contributed to this report.)

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