Top international filmmakers onboard for fest

The upcoming Cannes Film Festival will be swimming in top international filmmakers, as directors including Ang Lee, Jane Campion, Michael Haneke, Quentin Tarantino, Ken Loach, Pedro Almodovar, Bong Joon-ho, Marco Bellocchio, Lars von Trier and Johnnie To expect to square off for the Palme d’Or come May 13.

With one week to go before the April 23 announcement of the Official Selection, fest director Thierry Fremaux and his selection committee still have numerous films to watch, so this weekend will tell the tale as far as several titles are concerned. Unlike his predecessor Gilles Jacob, who tended to accept or reject films as he saw them over a period of months, Fremaux prefers to keep his options open to a certain extent until he’s seen everything, leaving anxious filmmakers, distribs and sales companies in the dark until the final bell.

All the same, the lineup for the competition has come into focus in recent days, creating an image of a fest that will be heavy on Asian and Euro titles, light on films from Central and South America, Africa and the Middle East and iffy where Hollywood is concerned.

Tarantino’s WWII saga “Inglourious Basterds,” toplining Brad Pitt, was locked in a couple of weeks ago, but fest toppers only saw Lee’s “Taking Woodstock,” set during the fabled 1969 music event, this week and extended an immediate invitation to the Focus Features release. Liev Schreiber, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Emile Hirsch head the cast.

Word is that Francis Ford Coppola’s Argentine family drama “Tetro,” with Vincent Gallo, will be viewed imminently by the committee, and that Werner Herzog’s “Bad Lieutenant” makeover, starring Nicolas Cage, is jockeying for a special screening or midnight slot. An almost certain midnight attraction will be Sam Raimi’s horror-thriller “Drag Me to Hell,” a Universal release toplining Justin Long and Alison Lohman that was very well received in incomplete form at the recent SXSW Film Festival.

Less confirmed word has it that Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” featuring Heath Ledger’s final performance in a role that, after his death, came to be shared with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law, may make its debut in Cannes.

Fest announced early on that Pete Docter’s animated Pixar feature “Up” will open the fest, which runs through May 24.

Other English-language fare will include Campion’s U.K. production “Bright Star,” a drama about the romance of 19th-century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, starring Ben Wishaw and Abbie Cornish; Cannes regular von Trier’s “Antichrist,” a horror drama with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple who retreat to a secluded forest cabin after the death of their son; Loach’s “Looking for Eric,” about a troubled adolescent soccer fan who’s counseled by former star Eric Cantona; prolific helmer To’s French-financed “Vengeance,” starring Johnny Hallyday as a hitman-turned-chef who heads to Hong Kong to avenge his daughter’s death; and possibly English director Andrea Arnold’s “Fish Tank,” toplining Michael Fassbender in a tale of a 15-year-old whose life is turned upside down by her mother’s new boyfriend. Pic looks to be in the Official Selection, although in which category remains uncertain.

Haneke’s German entry, “The White Ribbon,” examines incipient fascism at a rural school in 1913; like Coppola’s film, it was shot in black-and-white. Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces,” which has already opened in Spain, is a multistrand melodrama starring Penelope Cruz, and vet Italian master Bellocchio’s “Vincere” stars Giovanna Mezzogiorno and Filippo Timi in a study of Mussolini’s secret lover and the couple’s son Albino.

South Korea and China will be heavily represented this year. From the former come “The Host” director Bong’s “Mother,” a thriller about a woman’s attempt to determine who framed her antisocial son for a ghastly murder, and “Oldboy” helmer Park Chan-wook’s “Thirst,” a vampire tale about a small-town priest transformed into a neck-biter by a medical experiment gone wrong.

Flying the Chinese flag will be “Summer Palace” director Lou Ye’s “Spring Fever,” about a young threesome overcome with erotic longings, and possibly Lu Chuan’s “City of Life and Death” (aka “Nanking! Nanking!”), a large-scale telling of the 1937 massacre of Nanking by the Japanese army.

Also very likely for the competition are Malaysian auteur Tsai Ming-liang’s French-financed “Face,” about a Taiwanese director arrived in Paris to make a film about Salome, starring Mathieu Amalric, Jeanne Moreau, Fanny Ardant, Nathalie Baye, Laetitia Casta and Jean-Pierre Leaud; and Japanese fest regular Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Air Doll,” about the love affair between a videostore clerk and an inflatable sex doll.

Two other possibilities are Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman’s first feature since 2002, “The Time That Remains,” the story of a Palestinian family from the ’40s to the present day, and Belgian director Jaco von Dormael’s time-jumping fantasy “Mr. Nobody,” with Diane Kruger and Jared Leto.

The final selection of French titles is regularly made at the very last minute, but the titles nearest the front of the line are Alain Resnais’ “Les Herbes folles,” Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet,” Bruno Dumont’s “Hadewijch,” Xavier Giannoli’s “In the Beginning,” Robert Guediguian’s “The Army of Crime” and Catherine Corsini’s “Leaving.”

Prominent in the Un Certain Regard sidebar will be two Romanian features: “Police, Adjective,” directed by Corneliu Porumboiu (“12:08: East of Bucharest”), and “Tales From the Golden Age,” an omnibus film produced by Palme laureate Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”), with two episodes directed by him and others helmed by proteges.

(Derek Elley, Pamela McClintock, Jay Weissberg and Ali Jaafar contributed to this report.)

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