'Bug' buzzes to Cannes sidebar

William Friedkin’s “Bug” is one of five new pics repping the U.S. in an otherwise Europe-heavy Directors Fortnight, the Cannes Film Festival sidebar laced this year with beaucoup Gallic fare.

First films are more numerous than in recent years, repping seven of the 22 main selection titles.

“The Exorcist” helmer Friedkin’s latest, an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ stage play starring Lynn Collins, Harry Connick Jr. and Ashley Judd, is a psychological thriller.

Other U.S. pics are M. Blash’s “Lying,” a tale of friendship and lies featuring a bevy of actresses including Chloe Sevigny and Leelee Sobieski; Julian Goldberger’s previously announced Sundance title “The Hawk Is Dying”; “Daft Punk’s Electroma,” a visual and musical odyssey by the French pop duo of the title; and Julia Loktev’s “Day Night Day Night,” about the last two days in the life of a young female suicide bomber in America.

Gus Van Sant’s first film, the 1985 “Mala Noche,” will receive a special screening.

“We have more American films than usual, but these are very independent American films,” said Directors Fortnight artistic director Olivier Pere.

“This is a lineup about youth,” Pere continued. “Most of the directors are younger than me, between 25 and 35. They are a new generation of artists making films, and a lot of the films are about other arts, such as video, theater or music. It’s a very modern selection.”

As for the quantity and geographical range of European films, Pere said: “We were surprised that there were so many worthy of selection. We are usually accused of neglecting European cinema in favor of Asian films, so it is nice to be able to redress that imbalance for once.”

France dominates with six fully French features and six co-productions in the sidebar, ranging from a kidpic to some distinctly grownup material. Gallic helmer Michel Ocelot’s 3-D animated “Azur et Asmar,” a film that had been expected to draw a berth in the main festival, surfaces instead as the Fortnight’s Sunday night alternative to DreamWorks’ “Over the Hedge.”

In addition to the gala screening in the evening, the usual 11 a.m. unspooling also will be attended by kids from deprived neighborhoods in Marseilles.

“It’s an accident that it is the same day as the DreamWorks film, but having the two in Cannes the same day will invite comparisons, I would imagine,” Pere predicted.

Sex-themed titles include Jean-Claude Brisseau’s “Exterminating Angels,” inspired by the Gallic helmer’s true-life tangles with actresses he was casting for roles in a film about female sexuality (Brisseau was taken to court on abuse charges), and “We Shouldn’t Exist,” porn actor Herve-Pierre Gustave’s autobiographical account of his attempts to become a mainstream thesp. His mainstream credits include French films “Romance” and “Baise-Moi.”

“The Brisseau is likely to be one of our more controversial titles because of the publicity surrounding Brisseau’s own story. Also because it goes even further in terms of eroticism and emotion than his previous films,” Pere said.

Other French titles are Claire Simon’s “Ca brule,” about a teen’s passion for an older man; Christophe Honore’s “Dans Paris,” with Romain Duris as a lovelorn young man and Louis Garrel as his brother; and “Changement d’adresse,” a first film by Emmanuel Mouret featuring the French pop singer Dany Brillant.

Lineup includes just two Asian pics: “Yureru,” a psychological thriller by Nishikawa Miwa, which reps the only Japanese film at Cannes this year, and previously announced monster movie “The Host,” by South Korea’s Bong Joon-ho.

Ray Lawrence’s “Jindabyne,” an adaptation of a Raymond Carver story that marks his follow-up to “Lantana,” flies the flag for Oz and is likely to be one of the section’s more mainstream titles.

Canada will close the sidebar this year with Philippe Falardeau’s “Congorama,” about events that take place after two strangers meet and are involved in a car accident. Pic stars Olivier Gourmet, previous winner of Cannes’ acting kudos for the Dardenne brothers’ “The Son.”

Pics from Italy, Spain, Romania, Hungary, Germany and Denmark all have berths this year.

As previously announced, sidebar will open with Anders Morgenthaler’s animated/live-action “Princess.”

Pic could be one of the sidebar’s talking points, said Pere, because of its theme — it’s about a little girl rescued from child pornography — and its manga style.

Other Euro titles in the main 22-film lineup include the Italian “Anche libero va bene” (Even Independent It’s All Right), a family drama by Italian thesp Kim Rossi Stuart; bucolic Spanish Don Quixote tale “Honor de Cavalleria,” by Albert Serra; the German pic “Summer ’04 on the Banks of the Schlei”; and Portuguese helmer Teresa Villaverde’s “artistic and baroque” fifth film, “Transe,” set in the world of prostitute trafficking.

Eastern Europe is present in the form of Hungarian sports drama “White Palms,” minority co-produced by French filmmaker Mathieu Kassovitz, and a Romanian title, “Did It Happen or Not?,” in which characters in a small Romanian backwater where nothing seems to have changed investigate whether their country’s revolution did or did not take place 15 years ago.

In addition to Van Sant’s “Mala Noche,” sidebar will feature two other special screenings.

“Fantasma” by Lisandro Alonso is an Argentina/Netherlands/France co-production by the director of “Los Muertos,” a Directors Fortnight entry two years ago. Pic, which grew from a short film project, stars nonprofessional thesp Argentino Vargas, from “Muertos,” as one of two characters trying to find their way to that pic’s preem.

“Melvil,” by Melvil Poupaud, is a collection of three autobiographical shorts by the Gallic thesp.

2006 Directors Fortnight

FEATURE FILMS
“Azur et Asmar” Michel Ocelot (France)
“Bug” William Friedkin (U.S.)
“Ca brule” Claire Simon (France-Switzerland)
“Changement d’adresse” Emmanuel Mouret (France)
“Congorama”Philippe Falardeau (Canada-Belgium-France)
“Daft Punk’s Electroma” Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter (U.S.)
“Dans Paris” Christophe Honore (France)
“Day Night Day Night” Julia Loktev (U.S.-Germany-France)
“Did It Happen or Not?” Corneliu Porumboiu (Romania)
“Even Independent It’s All Right”
Kim Rossi Stuart (Italy)
“Exterminating Angels” Jean-Claude Brisseau (France)
“The Hawk Is Dying” Julian Goldberger (U.S.)
“Honor de Cavalleria” Albert Serra (Spain)
“The Host” Bong Joon-ho (South Korea)
“Jindabyne” Ray Lawrence (Australia)
“Lying” M. Blash (U.S.)
“Princess” Anders Morgenthaler (Denmark-Germany)
“Summer ’04 on the Banks of the Schlei” Stefan Krohmer (Germany)
“Transe” Teresa Villaverde (Portugal-France-Italy)
“We Shouldn’t Exist” Herve-Pierre Gustave (France)
“White Palms” Szabolcs Hadju (Hungary-France)
“Yureru” Nishikawa Miwa (Japan)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS
“Fantasma” Lisandro Alonso (Argentina-France-Netherlands)
“Mala Noche” Gus Van Sant (U.S., 1985)
“Melvil” Melvil Poupaud (France)

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