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Montreal Fest pix set

Two U.S. films among 21 titles in competish

MONTREAL — More than 200 features will unspool at the 21st annual Montreal World Film Festival from Aug. 22-Sept. 2, including 21 pics in the official competition and upwards of 80 world premieres.

Several English-lingo entries will be vying for the competitive Grand Prix des Ameriques, including two British films, two indie U.S. offerings and one Aussie title, as well as three pics from Japan and two from Spain.

The Montreal competition, which will include two French-Canadian films, will not be showcasing any English-language Canuck pics this year.

The fest lineup was unveiled by fest president Serge Losique at a press conference here Tuesday. Opening- and closing-night entries won’t be announced for another week or two.

The American films competing in Montreal are first-time feature helmer James F. Robinson’s “Still Breathing,” a tale about a Texas street artist who ends up in Hollywood, and thesp and former NFL wide-receiver Bernie Casey’s directorial debut, “The Dinner,” a murder story starring Casey. Brit entries in the running are John Duigan’s “Lawn Dogs” and Mike Barker’s “The James Gang” from HandMade Films.

The lone Australian pic in the competition is Bill Bennett’s “Kiss or Kill,” a road movie about a young couple who drug and rob men. Starring Frances O’Connor, Matt Day and Chris Haywood, it created a stir in its Cannes market screenings.

French Canada is repped in the race for hardware in Montreal by CFP production “The Haven” (“La Conciergerie”), a “Chinatown”-like noir from director Michel Poulette (“Louis 19”) that toplines Quebec thesps Serge Dupire, Macha Grenon, Isabel Richer and David LaHaye. The other Quebec entry is “The Seat of the Soul” (“Le Siege de l’Ame”), a philosophical 19th-century tale from arty Montreal writer-director Olivier Asselin and producer Denise Robert (“Le Confessionnal”).

The Montreal competition will also be the site of the world preem of “Pajarico,” the new outing from vet Spanish auteur Carlos Saura. Fellow Spanish director Jose Luis Garci, who won the best foreign-language film Oscar in 1982 for “To Begin Again,” will be in Montreal to showcase his newest effort, “A Wound of Light.” French helmer Yves Angelo’s “Un Air Si Pur” will world preem in the competition, as will “Expectations,” the new feature by Daniel Bergman, son of Ingmar. Pic is based on a collection of short stories from “My Life as a Dog” author Reidar Jonsson.

Japanese films in the competition are Jun Ichikawa’s “Tokyo Lullaby,” Kei Kumai’s “To Love” and Yoshimitsu Morita’s “Lost Paradise.” China will be repped by Xie Jin’s “The Opium War.”

Other competitors are Majid Majidi’s “The Children of Heaven” from Iran, Stole Popov’s Macedonian gypsy film “Gypsy Magic,” Czech director Juraj Jakubisko’s “An Ambiguous Report About the End of the World,” Alberto Arvelo’s “One Life and Two Trails” from Venezuela, Fabio Carpi’s “Homer — Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man” from Italy and France, and Petar Lalovic’s “Some Birds Can’t Fly” from Yugoslavia.

As usual, the other highest profile films at the Montreal festival are mostly grouped in the 42-pic non-competing Hors Concours section, which includes a large number of important titles from this year’s Cannes festival.

The Cannes alumni list includes Manuel Poirier’s French road movie “Western,” Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine’s “Destiny,” Francesco Rosi’s “The Truce,” Nick Cassavetes’ “She’s So Lovely,” Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai’s gay-themed, Buenos Aires-set love story “Happy Together” and, as previously announced, Japanese director Shohei Imamura’s “The Eel,” which was the co-winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes this past May.

Other pics set to screen in the Hors Concours section include Liv Ullmann’s “Private Confessions,” Philippe Harel’s “The Forbidden Woman,” Belgian Alain Berliner’s Belgian-French-British co-production “Ma Vie en Rose” and Manoel de Oliveira’s “Journey to the Beginning of the World,” which features thesp Marcello Mastroianni in his last bigscreen role.

Mike Leigh’s latest, “Career Girls,” will also screen at the Montreal fest, as will American director Neil LaBute’s feature debut, “In the Company of Men”; both are already running in U.S. theaters.

The homegrown Panorama Canada sidebar will put the spotlight on 18 Canuck pics and the Montreal festival scored a minor coup by nabbing the Canadian preem of “Twilight of the Ice Nymphs,” the new feature from quirky Winnipeg helmer Guy Maddin (“Tales from the Gimli Hospital”), starring Pascale Bussieres, Shelley Duvall, and R.H. Thomson.

The Canadian section will also include Kari Skogland’s crime drama “Men With Guns,” Daniel Petrie’s handmade film “The Assistant,” adapted from the Bernard Malamud novel, and “Confessions of a Rabid Dog,” an autobiographical portrait of heroin addiction from Toronto-based director John L’Ecuyer (“Curtis’ Charm”).

This year, Montreal fest programmers have added a special section devoted to Iranian filmmaking; the nine-film sidebar includes pics from both well-known and up-and-coming helmers from Iran. Director Jafar Panahi, who won the Camera d’Or at Cannes two years ago for “The White Balloon,” will be back in Montreal with his latest, “The Mirror,” about a football match between Iran and South Korea.

For the first time, the fest will pay tribute to the Cannes Critics’ Week section by screening five pics from the Cote d’Azur sidebar, including the well-received Norwegian comedy about a mailman, “Junk Mail,” and British director Sean Mathias’ “Bent,” an adaptation of Martin Sherman’s play about gay life in fascist Germany that has Mick Jagger in a featured role. As always, the Montreal Intl. Film, TV and Video Market will run alongside the festival and market director Gilles Beriault said he expects around 1,000 industryites to descend on Montreal for the mart.

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