With Ingmar Bergman having already declined to appear in person to accept his Palme des Palmes award, the 50th Cannes Film Festival has now lost some more key star-power. Clint Eastwood officially has informed the fest he won’t be accompanying his picture “Absolute Power” on closing night, while the Chinese government has put out the word that it does not want director Zhang Yimou or his latest film “Keep Cool,” an official competition entry, on the Croisette.

As anticipated, Iranian authorities also have issued a ban on Abbas Kiarostami’s “The Taste of Cherry,” thereby depriving Cannes of one of its most sought-after titles. If, as things look now, “Keep Cool” ends up not being shown either, it would bring the number of films in the competition in this golden anniversary year down to 18, an unusually low number. Luc Besson’s opening night sci-fier “The Fifth Element,” the status of which previously was undecided, now definitely will be shown out of competition.

In addition, it is certain that Costa-Gavras’ “Mad City” with John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman, for which fest director Gilles Jacob said he was saving a slot if it was ready in time, will not be unveiled on the Riviera.

Eastwood, who has traveled to Cannes three times with films in the competition and most recently as president of the jury, called Jacob earlier this week to express his regrets that his shooting sked on Warner Bros.’ “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which begins lensing Monday, will prevent him from making the trip this year.

“Absolute Power” will bring the fest to a close May 18, and it was thought that Eastwood might be able to make a two-day weekend trip from Savannah, Ga., in order to help bring the curtain down in glamorous fashion. However, his company has been given access to unique locations in the city for only a very limited time, and he apparently felt he couldn’t afford to lose even a day while on location. One of the film’s stars, Kevin Spacey, hopes to go to Cannes a few days earlier to attend the screening of Curtis Hanson’s “L.A. Confidential,” in which he plays a leading role, and Eastwood may be able to juggle the actor’s sked sufficiently to accommodate this.

As for Zhang, who was not allowed out of China to accompany “To Live” in the competition three years ago, Chinese authorities have put the kibosh on his “Keep Cool” being any part of the official selection, despite its inclusion in the competition. This would appear to be a reaction to Jacob’s decision to include the banned, French-financed Chinese feature, Zhang Yuen’s “East Palace, West Palace,” in Un Certain Regard.

Ironically, a print of “Keep Cool” is in Paris and has already been screened there for potential buyers. Furthermore, Zhang Yimou is on his way to Italy, where he is due to begin rehearsals any day on a production of the Puccini opera “Turandot,” which is skedded to bow June 5 as part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino opera festival at the Teatro Comunale in Florence.

However, it is considered unlikely that Cannes would show “Keep Cool” in defiance of Chinese wishes, as it could have serious repercussions for Zhang even if he were not to make the hop from Italy to France to appear with his film. When the fest showed “To Live” in 1994, it symbolically left an empty seat in the Palais for its absent director, and Zhang subsequently encountered enormous problems in setting up his next picture, “Shanghai Triad.” The government already has stated that, while it will permit Zhang to stage “Turandot” in Florence, it will not allow the production to be remounted inside the walls of the Forbidden City in Beijing, as previously planned.

In a further setback for Cannes, it appears that Jean-Luc Godard has for the moment, at least, decided not to accompany the final installments of his multipart “Histoire(s) du Cinema” to the Croisette.

David Rooney – Contributor

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