American pix thin at fest

See lineupLONDON — Hotly awaited Brit comedy “Calendar Girls,” about a bunch of middle-aged women who pose for nudie shots, heads the lineup of 27 world preems across the two main sections of the Locarno Intl. Film Festival.

Aside from the Buena Vista U.K. laffer, starring Helen Mirren and Julie Walters, however, English-lingo fare is thin on the ground in this year’s lineup, announced in Milan and Bern today. In the Intl. Competition, the U.S. is repped by just one movie — Catherine Hardwicke’s adolescent shocker “Thirteen,” which won the director prize at Sundance – compared with four last year.

The 56th Swiss-Italian fest opens Aug. 6 with a screening of classic tuner “The Band Wagon” in the lakeside town’s 7,000-seater Piazza Grande to celebrate the 100th anni of helmer Vincente Minnelli’s birth. Fest closes Aug. 16 with epic new Italian pic “The Undesirables,” about Mafiosi deported from the U.S. back to Italy. Latter pic, shot mostly in English, co-stars Vincent Gallo.

Loach, Fellini tributes

Amid tribute screenings to Ken Loach (who gets a Leopard of Honor on Aug. 15), Swiss producer Ruth Waldburger and the late Federico Fellini and Katharine Hepburn, there’s an absence of big U.S. crowd-pleasers.

“We were offered several that we turned down,” fest director Irene Bignardi said. “However, the main problem was that many titles, like ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,’ were set to be released locally before the festival.”

Apart from “Thirteen,” the other 19 titles are all world preems, from as far afield as Kazakhstan (ironic comedy “Little Men”), Bolivia (ensemble movie “Sexual Dependency”), South Korea (cult helmer Kim Ki-duk’s Zen-like “Spring Summer Fall Winter… and Spring”) and Pakistan (fundamentalist drama “Silent Waters”). France has three entries, including director Claire Devers’ noirish drama “Lost Sailors.”

Though Locarno has always struggled to get world preems of U.S. pics, Bignardi denies she cold-shouldered American titles. “We just couldn’t find any really interesting U.S. films that hadn’t already been around (the circuit),” she said. “And we had all these other good movies from interesting places like Kazakhstan and Pakistan.”

U.K. dearth

In addition to “Calendar Girls,” the U.K. is repped by Scottish journalist-presenter Richard Jobson’s “16 Years of Alcohol,” an autobiographical drama starring Ewen Bremner and Lena Headey.

Overall, Bignardi describes this year’s competition as low on established names and experimental or edgy pics but high on storytelling and more “classically” constructed movies. Pushed to speculate on breakout titles, she names Emilie Deleuze’s French horse drama “Mister V”; Indian period feminist drama “Chokher bali,” starring Aishwarya Rai; and Bosnian postwar comedy “Fuse,” a first feature by Pjer Zalica.

This year’s sidebars include a massive 115-title retro on jazz in the movies, “All That Jazz,” curated by Franco La Polla and featuring pics from around the globe, as well as a program of recent Cuban cinema. Among the many gabfests, U.S. critic Roger Ebert will be featured in “What Can TV Do for the Cinema?” on Aug. 9.

The seven-member Intl. Competition jury includes Swiss actor Jean-Luc Bideau, U.S. composer David Robbins, U.K. producer Nik Powell and Italian actress Stefania Rocca.

Locarno film Festival lineup

INTL. COMPETITION

“The Magic Gloves,” Argentina, Martin Rejtman.

“Free Radicals,” Austria, Barbara Albert.

“Sexual Dependency,” Bolivia-U.S., Rodrigo Bellott*.

“Fuse,” Bosnia-Herzegovina, Pjer Zalica*.

“Lost Sailors,” France, Claire Devers.

“Mister V,” France, Emilie Deleuze.

“Violence des echanges en milieu tempere,” France, Jean-Marc Moutout*.

“Chokher bali,” India, Rituparno Ghosh.

“Tiny Snowflakes,” Iran, Ali-Reza Amini.

“Now or Never,” Italy, Lucio Pellegrini.

“The Bridal Dress,” Italy, Fiorella Infascelli.

“The Hairdresser,” Japan, Masahiro Kobayashi.

“Little Men,” Kazakhstan-France, Nariman Turebayev*.

“Spring Summer Fall Winter…and Spring,” South Korea, Kim Ki-duk.

“Silent Waters,” Pakistan-France-Germany, Sabiha Sumar.

“Maria,” Romania, Calin Netzer*.

“The Return,” Russia, Andrey Zvyagintsev*.

“South of the Clouds,” Switzerland, Jean-Francois Amiguet.

“16 Years of Alcohol,” U.K., Richard Jobson*.

“Thirteen,” U.S., Catherine Hardwicke*.

* first feature

PIAZZA GRANDE

“Any Way the Wind Blows,” Belgium, Tom Barman.

“The Cost of Living,” France, Philippe Le Guay.

“Jagged Harmonies: Bach vs. Frederick II,” Germany-Switzerland, Dominique

De Rivaz Knecht.

“Das Wunder von Bern,” Germany, Soenke Wortmann.

“Raghu Romeo,” India, Rajat Kapoor.

“My Brother-in-Law,” Italy, Alessandro Piva.

“The Undesirables” (closer), Italy, Pasquale Scimeca.

“Mais im Bundeshuus: Le genie helvetique,” Switzerland, Jean-Stephane Bron.

“Calendar Girls,” U.K., Nigel Cole.

“Die Mommie Die!,” U.S. Mark Rucker.

TRIBUTE SCREENINGS

“Forever Mozart” (1996), France-Switzerland, Jean-Luc Godard.

“Bread and Chocolate” (1974), Italy, Franco Brusati.

“Fellini’s Casanova” (1976), Italy, Federico Fellini.

“Raining Stones” (1993), U.K., Ken Loach.

“The Band Wagon” (1953) (opener), U.S., Vincente Minnelli.

“Holiday” (1938), U.S. George Cukor.

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