‘Goldmine’ of pix vie for Cannes slots

Abundance of titles means some won't make sked

LONDON — Todd Haynes’ “Velvet Goldmine” and John Turturro’s “Illuminata” are in, Chen Kaige, Robert Redford and Nikita Mikhalkov are not, and Godzilla may make his presence felt on the Croisette.

That’s the early line on the lineup for the 51st Cannes Film Festival, which is already shaping up to be a potentially tasty feast, with no shortage of name product out there for Official Selection head Gilles Jacob to put on his plate.

However, with almost four weeks to go before the official press conference April 23, word emanating from the fest’s Boulevard Malesherbes HQ in Paris is that Jacob still isn’t rushing to send out too many unretractable invitations at this stage, as there’s still a mountain of product to view and the Cannes topper knows he holds the whip hand in a potentially strong year.

Studios missing

As of Friday, U.S. studio product is still conspicuous by its absence. Universal will participate by way of the world preem of its restoration of the director’s cut of Orson Welles’ 1958 “Touch of Evil,” which will be attended by co-stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh. But major U.S. distribs have nothing committed to the Croisette thus far.

There is a growing chance, however, that Sony’s summer behemoth, Roland Emmerich’s “Godzilla,” will rise from the sea outside the Palais. Sony and MTV are collaborating on one of the biggest bashes of the festival, and studio sources indicated that the inclination is to show the sci-fi spectacle if the fest approves (pic opens Stateside mid-fest, on May 20).

Shoo-ins

By March 27, fewer than half of the 20-odd Competition slots were definitely filled. Although the fest itself will confirm nothing at this point, jousters for Palmes are known to include Haynes’ Brit glam-rock saga “Velvet Goldmine,” featuring Ewan McGregor; Turturro’s “Illuminata,” an erotic farce set in 19th century Italy toplining Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Ben Gazzara and Turturro; Lodge Kerrigan’s French-financed “Claire Dolan,” a drama about a prostitute starring Katrin Cartlidge and Vincent D’Onofrio; Danish helmer Lars Von Trier’s offbeat black comedy “Idiots”; Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-liang’s part-musical “Hole”; Rolf de Heer’s “Dance Me to My Song” from Australia; and Ken Loach’s Glasgow-set romance “My Name Is Joe.”

Raising some eyebrows is the Competition status of Hal Hartley’s “Henry Fool,” since pics previously shown at major international fests not located in the film’s country of origin aren’t normally considered for the Competition, and the U.S. pic world-preemed in September in a regular section of the Toronto fest. Version destined for Cannes is said to have been somewhat re-edited from the 141-minute original.

Robert Duvall’s “The Apostle,” which also world preemed in a long version at Toronto, is heading for Un Certain Regard in the shorter cut that has played commercially in the U.S.

Worth a look

Other pics that are locked in Un Certain Regard at this stage include British director John Maybury’s “Love Is the Devil,” with Derek Jacobi as late gay painter Francis Bacon; producer Jeremy Thomas’ helming debut, “All the Little Animals,” with John Hurt and Christian Bale; Jake Kasdan’s offbeat private-dick riff, “Zero Effect”; Ingmar Bergman’s two-hour TV costumer “In the Presence of a Clown,” which aired late last year in Sweden; Jean-Pierre Limosin’s “Tokyo Eyes”; Niki Caro’s “Memory and Desire” from New Zealand; and “The Apple,” by Samirah Makhmalbaf, teenage daughter of Iranian helmer Mohsen Makhmal-baf, whose own “The Silence” is to be viewed by Jacob & Co. in April with an eye to a competition berth.

Slated for Special Screenings within the Official Selection are Carlos Saura’s latest dancefest, “Tango,” and John Landis’ “Blues Brothers 2000,” while Alex Proyas’ “Dark City” is set for a midnight unspooling.

The list of other titles doing the trade rounds is mostly just that, with many still unseen (or already rejected) by Jacob & Co. However, there are numerous pictures that are definitely in selectors’ sights and look more likely than others to show up somewhere in the Official Selection.

They include two high-profile U.S. titles, Bryan Singer’s eagerly anticipated “Apt Pupil” with Ian McKellan, and Terry Gilliam’s Hunter Thompson adaptation “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” toplining Johnny Depp, Benecio Del Toro and Cameron Diaz; from France, Andre Techine’s Juliette Binoche starrer, “Alice and Martin,” Patrice Chereau’s “Ceux Qui M’aiment Prendront le Train” and Nicole Garcia’s “Place Vendome,” with Catherine Deneuve as an alcoholic; Italian favorite Nanni Moretti’s “Caro Diario”-like, highly personal “Aprile”; Mexican helmer Arturo Ripstein’s sex ‘n’ religion shocker “Divine”; John Boorman’s black-&-white biopic of loose-cannon Dubliner Martin Cahill, “The General”; Cannes regular Theo Angelopoulos’ “An Eternity and a Day” from Greece; 1997 Palme co-winner Shohei Imamura’s comedy “Teacher Kankura”; Portuguese nonagenarian Manoel de Oliveira’s “Inquietude,” shot in Spain; Hou Hsiao-hsien’s whorehouse costumer “The Flowers of Shanghai,” currently doing reshoots; and a number of U.S. indies, including Todd Solondz’ “Happiness” and Vincent Gallo’s “Buffalo 66.”

Less certain are Peter Weir’s “The Truman Show,” starring Jim Carrey; Mike Nichols’ “Primary Colors”; Warren Beatty’s “Bulworth”; Spaniard Julio Medem’s “The Lovers of the Arctic Circle”; Stephen Frears’ modern Western “The Hi-Lo Country,” with Woody Harrelson; and Emir Kusturica’s “Black Cat, White Cat,” the latter two of which may not be ready in time.

Selectors for the Directors Fortnight and Intl. Critics Week sections are still traveling. However, the reportedly heavy-duty Australian gay drama “Head On,” helmed by Ana Kokkinos (“Only the Brave”), is already confirmed to world preem in the Fortnight, as is the helming debut of Canadian actor-writer Don McKellar, the apocalyptic comedy “Last Night.”

Also understood to be in Fortnight are two U.S. Sundance titles, Marc Levin’s Grand Prize-winning “Slam” and Lisa Cholodenko’s lesbian-themed screenplay prize-winner “High Art.” Other frontrunners include Whit Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco,” Meg Richman’s Sundance entry “Under Heaven” and Davide Ferrario’s comedy road movie, “Children of Hannibal.”

Critics Week, which had a particularly strong selection last year, looks set to make headlines again with the anarchic comedy “Sitcom,” the highly touted feature debut of Francois Ozon that was withdrawn at the 11th hour from Berlin.

Among widely bruited titles that, for various reasons, won’t be showing up on the Croisette are Chen’s big-budget costumer “Ch’in,” Mikhalkov’s “The Barber of Siberia,” Redford’s “The Horse Whisperer,” Giuseppe Tornatore’s “The Ocean,” British costumers “Elizabeth” from director Shekhar Kapur and “Plunkett & Macleane” from Jake Scott, Jonathan Demme’s “Beloved,” and Roberto Benigni’s “Life Is Beautiful.” Several of these are not ready; some others are shooting for, or have been promised, a slot at Venice this fall.

Firmed to join president Martin Scorsese on competition jury duty are actresses Winona Ryder and Chiara Mastroianni, helmers Neil Jordan, Chen Kaige and Alain Corneau, and controversial Paris-based Cuban writer Zoe Valdes.

In a move designed to make things geographically clearer and “better for everyone,” per one fest insider, the Critics Week and Cinemas en France sections of the fest will be exiled from the Palais this year. The former will use only the Miramar (at the other end of the Croisette) and the Arcades hardtop, and the latter the Noga and Arcades.

Main idea is to make more room in the Palais for press screenings of Un Certain Regard pix (especially in English-subtitled versions).

(David Rooney in Rome, John Hopewell in Madrid, Adam Dawtrey in London and David Stratton in Sydney contributed to this report.)

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