Soderbergh, Eastwood pics head list

Steven Soderbergh’s two-part Che Guevara biopic, Clint Eastwood’s “Changeling,” Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited “Indiana Jones” sequel and Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” will all world preem at the 61st Cannes Film Festival.

Upcoming edition, which unspools May 14-25, will be lighter on Yank-produced Palme d’Or contenders than was last year’s banner season. But it will still offer Hollywood glam as multiple U.S. pics, both studio and indie items, fill many Out of Competition slots.

Elsewhere, Thierry Fremaux — in his first year as a fully fledged Cannes delegate general, but with the seeming complicity of Cannes president Gilles Jacob — looks to be shaking up things.

The Competition section still showcases the work of a small pantheon of hallowed auteurs, but it also boasts pics from eight directors new to the section. As Fremaux emphasized, Cannes has fast-tracked a clutch of lesser-known helmers and left-of-field pics into Competition.

Fremaux, who acknowledged that the selection process was “very difficult,” said last year’s 60th anni edition drew a line in the sand. “Cinema is evolving and the Cannes festival with it,” he declared to a packed press conference Wednesday at Paris’ Grand Hotel. The 61st edition is “recentered and renewed,” Jacob said in an introductory speech.

Whether the Cannes Film Festival will deliver on this promised renewal will no doubt be one of the event’s major talking points.

Fest openers and closers have yet to be announced. Michael Patrick King’s “Sex and the City: The Movie” and Barry Levinson’s “What Just Happened?” are said to be still in the running. Fremaux said opening and closing night films — and perhaps more than one additional Competition title — would be announced later.

The inclusion of Soderbergh’s two-part, four-hour “Che” opus, “The Argentine” and “Guerrilla,” was a nail-biter, as it remained unclear down to the last minute whether the onetime Palme d’Or winner would be able to complete work in time for the fest. Fremaux assured the press that digital post-production would allow Soderbergh to deliver the French-Spanish co-production in finished form.

Inclusion of Eastwood’s 1920s-set mystery thriller, which toplines Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Amy Ryan and Colm Feore, also came as a surprise, as the Universal release isn’t due to hit theaters until November. Pic will be the director’s fifth in the Competition; the Palme d’Or is one of the few awards Eastwood has never won.

Cannes selectors were reportedly still making decisions Tuesday, and some films, including Jia Zhangke’s “24 City” and Kim Jee-woon’s “The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” were only seen over the weekend.

Three highly anticipated Stateside Out of Competition entries, all with major star quotients, look set to keep Palais flashbulbs popping.

As previously disclosed, Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” world preems on the Croisette on the evening of May 18. It promises to be the fest’s most star-studded event, with Spielberg, producer George Lucas and thesps Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf, Karen Allen and Cate Blanchett set to grace the red carpet. DreamWorks-Paramount release will open in France and Belgium on May 21 and around the rest of the world over the subsequent two days.

On May 15, also Out of Competition, DreamWorks Animation’s “Kung Fu Panda,” a comedic chopsocky toon voiced by Jack Black, Jolie, Lucy Liu, Jackie Chan and Dustin Hoffman, promises another Hollywood red-carpet cavalcade. Pic bows in the U.S. on June 6.

Also noncompeting, as is Allen’s custom, is the Spain-shot “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Said to be Allen’s sexiest film in many years, pic will bow over the fest’s first weekend. Topliners Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz are expected in Cannes; co-star Javier Bardem has yet to confirm.

This year’s Cannes Competition will roll out some other Riviera regulars.

Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne vie for their third Palme d’Or with a drama about a young woman, “The Silence of Lorna.”

Arnaud Desplechin returns with “A Christmas Tale,” a family solidarity tale with a star-studded French cast led by Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric. Other than the two-part “Che,” this film looks to be the longest in the Competition at 2½ hours; the only other feature listed by the fest at more than 2¼ hours is Eastwood’s “Changeling,” at 140 minutes.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” has a 125-minute running time, according to the official Cannes schedule.

The only first-time director in the Competition lineup this year is highly regarded screenwriter Charlie Kaufman with his “Synecdoche, New York,” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theater director.

From Latin America, Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas address modern Brazilian social issues with “Linha de passe,” an urban road movie, mostly set in Sao Paulo’s high-rise hell, about four wannabe soccer star brothers.

Canada’s Atom Egoyan competes with “Adoration,” a tale of the relationship between teens and new technology starring Scott Speedman and Rachel Blanchard.

For now, Jia’s “24 City” is the only major Chinese film at Cannes, a situation that has a lot to do with a current bottleneck in the Chinese censorship process, which includes bans on overseas travel.

Notably, several auteurs in the Competition section have turned to genre fare. This could be pure chance or the result, seen in recent years at Cannes, of directors edging toward the mainstream in search of wider audiences.

Wim Wenders, for instance, competes with a romantic thriller, “The Palermo Shooting,” starring Milla Jovovich, Dennis Hopper and Giovanna Mezzogiorno.

Another Cannes favorite, Turkish vanguard auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan, famed for his aesthetic, contemplative dramas, incorporates a detective story into “Three Monkeys.”

France has three films in Competition: Alongside Desplechin’s pic is “La Frontiere de l’aube,” from indefatigable New Wave auteur Philippe Garrel. A third, Fremaux said, has still to be announced.

What’s really eye-catching about Cannes’ 2008 Official Selection is how the Competition throws the spotlight on a clutch of helmers who are hardly brand auteurs, however much their films are being talked up in their home countries.

The clearest example may be Ari Folman’s “Waltz With Bashir.” The Israeli industry has been buzzing for months about the animated docu feature that centers on Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon.

Other Palme d’Or contenders who are far from being household names include Hungary’s Kornel Mundruczo, with “Delta,” an incest-themed village drama; Italian Matteo Garrone, with bestseller-based Mafia drama “Gomorra”; and Singapore’s top-ranking auteur, Eric Khoo, with his Tamil-language, father-son and body-piercing drama “My Magic,” his first film in Competition after last appearing at the Directors Fortnight.

Prolific, but relatively new to the limelight, director Brillante Mendoza from the Philippines also gets a promotion, with his latest pic, “Serbis,” in Competition, after “Foster Child” played Directors’ Fortnight last year.

Argentina boasts two features in the Competition. Lucrecia Martel, who previously competed with “The Holy Girl,” is back with the politically tinged woman’s drama “La Mujer sin cabeza,” while Pablo Trapero will bring “Leonera.”

Italy is repped by Paolo Sorrentino’s “Il Divo,” about Italy’s shadowy seven-time prime minister Giulio Andreotti. With Marco Tullio Giordana’s “Sangue pazzo,” about a famed Mussolini-era acting couple, playing in a Special Screening, Italy has a strong presence at Cannes, with three films focusing on its turbulent recent history.

Asia has a slim Competition presence. But just as the Korean film industry has hit bottom business-wise, it will still bring two films that promise to stoke cinephiles’ interest.

“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” a South Korean Western from auteur Kim Jee-woon, will show Out of Competition. A Midnight slot has been reserved for serial killer actioner “The Ch
aser,” by first-time director Na Hong-jin. Warner Bros. has already acquired remake rights for what is characterized as a kind of sequel to “Oldboy.”

Fest’s notable docu strand should bring two sports world mega-celebs to Cannes: Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona for Emir Kusturica’s chummy and confessional bio “Maradona,” which plays as a Midnight Screening, and Mike Tyson for James Toback’s “Tyson.”

In Fremaux’s best joke in a good-humored presentation, he quipped that pic’s American producers had been concerned about Tyson’s security at Cannes.

Marina Zenovich’s Sundance docu hit “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” receives its European preem as a Special Screening.

At his behest, Cannes jury president Sean Penn will present Alison Thompson’s Thailand tsunami-themed “The Third Wave.”

A third Midnight Screening is indie supernatural thriller “Surveillance,” by Jennifer Lynch, daughter of David Lynch. Pic stars Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman.

Though Fremaux may be trying to bring new blood to the world’s auteur pool, two name helmers enjoy special screenings: Terence Davies with “Of Time and City” and Wong Kar Wai with “Ashes of Time Redux.”

Meanwhile, French documentary producer-director Daniel Leconte presents a further special screening, “C’est dur d’etre aime par des cons.”

It’s in the Official Selection’s 19-pic Un Certain Regard that the festival’s drive for wide-ranging geographical reach can really be seen and has even proved slightly polemical.

Though at least five Un Certain Regard films are French productions — including vet helmer Raymond Depardon’s “The Modern Life”; Jean-Stephane Sauvaire’s “Johnny Mad Dog,” about African child soldiers; and Pierre Schoeller’s single-mother drama “Versailles” — the apparent meagerness of the Gallic presence prompted one journalist to ask Fremaux why there weren’t more French films.

The section has always struggled with a reputation as a Cannes competition reject basket. This year, banishing that idea, it boasts six first features and a bevy of second films.

Some entries are off most folks’ radar, such as “Part Ocean, Part Flame,” from Beijing-born Liu Fendou (“Green Hat”), and “Parking,” from Taiwan’s Chung Mong-hong, who made the enigmatic, black-and-white U.S.-set docu “Doctor.”

Section’s most famous helmers are Bong Joon-ho, Leos Carax and Michel Gondry, who team for an out-there three-part fantasy omnibus, “Tokyo!”

Of better-known helmers, Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa presents “Tokyo Sonata,” a Japanese family expose; Norway’s Bent Hamer (“Kitchen Stories”) presents the much prized “O’ Horten,” about a death-obsessed retired train driver; Brit Thomas Clay, who shocked with sophomore pic “The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael,” weighs in with “Soi Cowboy”; and Amat Escalante, possibly Mexico’s most talked-up new helmer after Fernando Eimbcke, will unveil his second film, “The Bastards,” a U.S.-set Mexican immigrant drama.

A U.S. entry starring Michelle Williams, “Wendy and Lucy,” is directed by Kelly Reichardt, who won a Rotterdam Tiger for “Old Joy,” while German Andreas Dresen, who took the director nod at Berlin for “Grill Point,” contributes “Cloud 9,” about senior citizen sex.

Several Un Certain Regard first features are anticipated with interest based on the filmmakers’ previous work.

“Salt of This Sea,” a Mideast romantic drama debut from multi-prized Palestinian filmmaker Annemarie Jacir, won prizes at San Sebastian’s Cinema in Motion unfinished film showcase last September.

Brazilian actor-turned-director Matheus Nachtergaele also caught attention at last September’s San Sebastian, in its Films in Progress section, for “The Dead Girl’s Feast,” a poetic drama about Amazon religious sects.

U.S. helmer Antonio Campos, who presents debut “Afterschool,” nabbed the Cannes Cinefondation’s top prize in 2005.

A few films bring humor to Un Certain Regard, such as Kazakh Sergei Dvortsevoy’s comedy “Tulpan,” and Lebanese scripted two-hander “Je veux voir,” by Khalil Joreige and Joana Hadjithomas, which tracks Deneuve on a visit to Lebanon. The visuals — the actress, bombed out cityscapes — are reportedly near-surreal.

This year’s Official Selection bears witness to the explosion in the world’s production levels, partly driven by cinemas in emerging countries. In all, the festival viewed 1,792 feature films, up 11% from 2007, said Fremaux.

Joining Penn on the Competition jury are Natalie Portman, Alfonso Cuaron, Rachid Bouchareb, Sergio Castellitto, Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Alexandra Maria Lara; seven-person jury is down from nine last year. German director Fatih Akin presides over the Un Certain Regard jury. Admired French filmmaker Bruno Dumont will preside over deliberations for the Camera d’Or for best first film.

(Todd McCarthy, Patrick Frater and Ali Jaafar contributed to this report.)

CANNES FILM FESTIVAL

IN COMPETITION
“24 City,” China, Jia Zhangke
“Adoration,” Canada, Atom Egoyan
“Changeling,” U.S., Clint Eastwood
“Che” (“The Argentine,” “Guerrilla,”) Spain, Steven Soderbergh
“Un Conte de noel,” France, Arnaud Desplechin
“Three Monkeys,” Turkey, Nuri Bilge Ceylan
“Delta,” Germany-Hungary, Kornel Mundruczo
“Il Divo,” Paolo Sorrentino, Italy
“Gomorra,” Italy, Matteo Garrone
“La Frontiere de l’aube,” France, Philippe Garrel
“Leonera,” Argentina-South Korea, Pablo Trapero
“Linha de Passe,” Brazil, Walter Salles, Daniela Thomas
“La Mujer sin cabeza,” Argentina, Lucrecia Martel
“My Magic,” Singapore, Eric Khoo
“The Palermo Shooting,” Germany, Wim Wenders
“Serbis,” Philippines, Brillante Mendoza
“The Silence of Lorna,” U.K.-France, Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne
“Synecdoche, New York,” U.S., Charlie Kaufman
“Waltz With Bashir,” Israel, Ari Folman

OUT OF COMPETITION
“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” U.S., Steven Spielberg
“Kung Fu Panda,” U.S., Mark Osborne, John Stevenson
“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” South Korea, Kim Jee-woon
“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” U.S.-Spain, Woody Allen

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS
“Maradona,” Spain-France, Emir Kusturica
“Surveillance,” U.S., Jennifer Lynch
“The Chaser,” South Korea, Na Hong-jin

SPECIAL SCREENNGS
“Ashes of Time Redux,” China, Wong Kar Wai
“Of Time and the City,” U.K., Terence Davies
“Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” U.S.-U.K., Marina Zenovich
“Sangue Pazzo” (Crazy Blood), Italy-France, Marco Tullio Giordana

SCREENING OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE JURY
“The Third Wave,” U.S., Alison Thompson

UN CERTAIN REGARD
“A festa da menina morta,” Brazil, Matheus Nachtergaele
“Afterschool,” U.S., Antonio Campos
“De Ofrivilliga,” Sweden, Ruben Ostlund
“Je veux voir,” France, Joana Hadjithomas, Khalil Joreige
“Johnny Mad Dog,” France, Jean-Stephane Sauvaire
“La vie moderne (profiles paysans)”, France, Raymond Depardon
“Los Bastardos,” Mexico, Amat Escalante
“Milh handha al-bahr,” (Salt of This Sea), Palestine, Annemarie Jacir
“O’ Horten,” Norway-Germany, Bent Hamer
“Soi Cowboy,” U.K., Thomas Clay
“Tin Che,” (Parking), Taiwan, Chung Mong-Hong
“Tokyo!,” France-Japan, Bong Joon-ho, Michel Gondry, Leos Carax
“Tokyo Sonata,” Japan, Kiyoshi Kurosawa
“Tulpan,” Germany, Sergey Dvortsevoy
“Tyson,” U.S., James Toback
“Versailles,” France, Pierre Schoeller
“Wendy and Lucy,” U.S., Kelly Reichardt
“Wolke 9” (Cloud Nine), Germany, Andreas Dresen
“Yi ban haishui, yi ban huoyan,” China, Fendou Liu

CINEFONDATION
“Ba Yue Shi Wu,” U.S., Jiang Xuan
“Blind Spot,” France, Johanna Bessiere, Cecile Dubois Herry, Simon Rouby, Nicolas Chauvelot, Olivier Clert, Yvon Jardel
“Et dans mon coeur, j’emporterai…,” Belgium, Yoon Sung-A
“Forbach,” France, Claire Burger
“Gata,” Russia, Diana Mkrtchyan
“Gestern in Eden,” Germany, Jan Speckenbach
“H
imnon” (Anthem), Israel, Elad Keidan
“Illusion Dwellers,” U.K., Rob Ellender
“Interior. Scara de bloc,” Romania, Ciprian Alexandrescu
“Kestomerkitsijat,” Finland, Juho Kuosmanen
“The Maid,” U.S., Heidi Saman
“Naus,” Czech Republic, Lukas Glaser
“O Som E O Resto,” Brazil, Andre Lavaquial
“El Reloj,” Argentina, Marco Berger
“Shtika” (Silence), Israel, Hadar Morag
“Stop,” South Korea, Park Jae-ok
“This Is a Story About Ted and Alice,” U.S., Teressa Tunney

SHORTS IN COMPETITION
“411-Z,” Hungary, Daniel Erdelyi
“Buen Viaje” (Bon Voyage), Javier Palleiro, Guillermo Rocamora
“De Moins en Moins,” France, Melanie Laurent
“El Deseo” (The Desire), Mexico, Marie Benito
“Jerrycan,” Australia, Julius Avery
“Love You More,” U.K., Sam Taylor Wood
“Megatron,” Romania, Marian Crisan
“My Rabbit Hoppy,” Australia, Anthony Lucas
“Smafuglar,” Iceland, Runar Runarsson

THE JURIES

IN COMPETITION
Sean Penn (president), actor-director-screenwriter, U.S.
Sergio Castellitto, actor-director-screenwriter, Italy
Natalie Portman, actress, U.S.
Alfonso Cuaron, director, Mexico
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, director, Thailand
Alexandra Maria Lara, actress, Germany
Rachid Bouchareb, director, France

CINEFONDATION AND SHORT FILMS
Hou Hsiao Hsien (president) director-producer, Taiwan
Suzanne Bier, director, Denmark
Marina Hands, actress, France
Olivier Assayas, director, France
Larry Kardish, MoMA Curator for Film and Cinema, U.S.

UN CERTAIN REGARD
Fatih Akin (president), director, Germany

CAMERA D’OR
Bruno Dumont (president), director, France

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