Cannes pic clique

Fest entries diverse; U.S., Brit profiles low-key

A wide diversity of countries, including China, Russia, Iran and Brazil, will be represented at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival, but U.S. and Brit presence will be low-key when the fest officially announces the competition lineup at a press conference this morning.

As of Tuesday, 17 of the 22 films seemed firm; the final French titles and a couple of others were still to be skedded as the clock struck midnight.

The roster was decided after a long Easter weekend of viewing and juggling of titles.

As anticipated, American participation is modest. Joining Gus Van Sant’s HBO feature “Elephant” in the competition will be Vincent Gallo’s indie “The Brown Bunny” and, almost assuredly, Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River.”

Eastwood would be making his fourth foray into the Cannes fray, having previously presented “Pale Rider,” “Bird” and “White Hunter, Black Heart” on the Croisette. He also served as jury president in 1994. An adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s bestselling mystery, “Mystic River” stars Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Laurence Fishburne, Marcia Gay Harden and Laura Linney and will be released this year by Warner Bros.

Maverick filmmaker Gallo’s picture concerns a young motorcycle racer’s loss of the love of his life and promises to be one of this year’s “scandales” based on a hardcore oral sex scene featuring Chloe Sevigny and Gallo.

At this point, there is only one British director with a picture in the competition, Peter Greenaway’s “The Tulse Luper Suitcases,” an international co-production toplining JJ Field and Jordi Molla and featuring a vast array of guest stars, including Gallo, Kathy Bates, William Hurt, Don Johnson, Madonna, Franka Potente, Molly Ringwald, Isabella Rossellini and Sting.

Danish Dogma auteur Lars von Trier will weigh in with “Dogville,” an entirely studio-shot drama set in a Rocky Mountains small town in the 1930s. Cast includes Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgard, Siobhan Fallon, Sevigny, Patricia Clarkson, Jeremy Davies, Philip Baker Hall, Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, James Caan and Blair Brown.

Another English-lingo offering is French helmer Francois Ozon’s “Swimming Pool,” starring Charlotte Rampling as a British mystery writer whose visit to her publisher, played by Charles Dance, in the South of France sets off an intrigue involving his daughter (Ludivine Sagnier).

Now officially set is Hector Babenco’s “Carandiru,” a drama about Brazil’s most notorious state prison and the slaughter of more than 100 inmates there during a 1992 revolt. Pic just opened in Brazil to very favorable notices.

Two French entries are Andre Techine’s “Strayed” (“Les Egares”) toplining Emmanuelle Beart, and Raul Ruiz’s “Ce jour-la,” with Michel Piccoli and Edith Scob.

Other films vying for prizes will be Russian helmer Alexander Sokurov’s “Father and Son,” Denys Arcand’s “Invasion of the Barbarians” from Canada, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s “Distant” and, almost certainly, Pupi Avati’s “The Heart Is Elsewhere,” starring Giancarlo Giannini, from Italy.

China will be represented by “Purple Butterfly” from “Suzhou River” director Lou Ye, while Japan is sending two pictures, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s “Akarui Amrai” (Bright Future) and Naomi Kawase’s “Sharasoja.”

Barely into her 20s but already a Cannes veteran, Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf will bring “Five in the Afternoon,” purportedly the first feature shot in Afghanistan after the overthrow of the Taliban. Pic concerns a bomb blast in Kabul and the activities of a horse cart driver and his family.

Looking set for Un Certain Regard are Sue Murray’s Aussie entry “Japanese Story,” with Toni Collette, and three Chinese-language films, by mainlander Wang Xiaoshuai (best known for “Beijing Bicycle”), Hong Kong helmer Nelson Yu Lik-wai and Taiwanese Lincheng-sheng.

(Derek Elley in London contributed to this report.)

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