Fest competition light on U.S. pix

MONTREAL — The 24th edition of the Montreal World Film Festival is light on high-profile Hollywood fare and instead focuses on well-known international auteurs and Canuck helmers.

The opening-night pic, which is also in the official competition, is Gallic title “Le Gout des Autres,” the directorial debut from French thespian Agnes Jaoui, and the 22-pic competition features four homegrown Canadian pics, including Denis Villeneuve’s “Maelstrom,” which also opens the Perspective Canada section at the upcoming Toronto Intl. Film Festival.

The Montreal festival runs Aug. 25 to Sept. 4, with 216 features from 55 countries screening. The entire lineup was unveiled at a press conference in Montreal Tuesday.

Longtime Montreal festival president Serge Losique defended the non-American slant, pointing out that his fest will be bringing in a number of renowned figures from the world of international cinema, including Gallic helmer Claude Chabrol, Chinese actress Gong Li, actress/helmer Liv Ullmann and Indian actor Om Puri.

Tip of the hat

Gong and Puri are part of a more ambitious tribute program, which will also include events honoring Italian director Francesco Rosi, Japanese auteur Kaneto Shindo and Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami. Rosi will be given a special Grand Prix of the Americas for lifetime achievement.

Prominent pics with Hollywood ties at the fest include writer-director David Mamet’s latest, “State and Main,” a Hollywood satire starring Alec Baldwin, William H. Macy and Sarah Jessica Parker; Fox Searchlight pic “Woman on Top,” starring Spanish thespian Penelope Cruz; upcoming Artisan Entertainment release “Cecil B. Demented,” directed by John Waters and starring Melanie Griffith; and “Bait,” from Warner Bros., a prison-set drama directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Jamie Foxx.

The closing pic is the Fox Searchlight release “Bootmen.” The Australian film is directed by Dein Perry, who created the hit musical “Tap Dogs,” and toplines tap-dance star Adam Garcia in a story of a steelworker in New South Wales who dreams of becoming a professional tap dancer.

Canadian offerings

The Canuck pics competing for the Grand Prix of the Americas in the competition include Quebec filmmaker Michel Jette’s “Hochelaga,” a controversial drama set in the biker-gang milieu in Montreal; Claude Demers’ first feature, “The Invention of Love”; and Villeneuve’s “Maelstrom,” the tale of a young woman whose life is turned upside down when she accidentally runs over someone in her car. Villeneuve’s first pic, “August 32nd on Earth,” traveled the fest circuit two years ago.

The one English-Canadian pic competing is “Protection,” a drama about a social worker on the verge of a nervous breakdown directed by former child-protection social worker Bruce Spangler.

Chabrol’s 52nd feature, “Nightcap,” which is also in the competition, toplines Isabelle Huppert and Jacques Dutronc is the story of a world-famous concert pianist who remarries an influential chocolate-company exec.

Cox’s ‘Innocence’

Other competition titles include seasoned Australian helmer Paul Cox’s “Innocence,” Raul Ruiz’s philosophical fable “Combat D’Amour en Songe,” French pic “Sade” from helmer Benoit Jacquot and starring Daniel Auteuil, and Argentinean director Eliseo Subiela’s “The Adventures of God,” a metaphysical thriller.

The lone U.S. entry in the competition is playwright-turned-helmer Kenneth Lonergan’s “You Can Count on Me,” which stars Matthew Broderick and is based on the play by Lonergan.

The out-of-competition Hors Concours section includes a number of pics that have already screened at other festivals including Miramax release “Harry, He’s Here to Help” from France, Olivier Assayas’s “Les Destinees Sentimentales” with Emmanuelle Beart and Isabelle Huppert, James Joyce biopic “Nora” starring Ewan McGregor and Liv Ullmann’s latest directing effort “Faithless,” based on a script by Ingmar Bergman.

Other sections include Panorama Canada with 13 new Canuck features, the annual Latin American Cinema sidebar, Cinema of Today: Reflections of Our Time, and Cinema of Tomorrow: New Trends.

The spotlight country this year is Italy, with a section presenting 12 features from Italian helmers, including Lucio Gaudino’s “First Light of Dawn,” Giorgio “Rosa and Cornelia,” and Giovanni Fago’s “On the Beach Beyond the Pier.”

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