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Voila Hollywood

H'wood hot in 51st Cannes lineup

Hollywood Blvd. intersects with the Croisette at the 51st Cannes Film Fest, running May 13-24.

Aside from opening and closing with U.S. major-studio offerings — the previously announced “Primary Colors” and “Godzilla” — the fest promises hordes of American stars like Sharon Stone, John Travolta and Bruce Willis, and a healthy number of U.S. films in competition and in the sidebars. Universal is making a particularly strong showing.

Otherwise, Britain has a quartet of official entries, Latin America will be there in force, Denmark is sending a pair of cutting-edge offerings, Iran is sending a pic from an 18-year-old helmer, while Germany, despite its thriving film biz, will have a sparse presence this year.

The competish will include Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” John Turturro’s “Illuminata” and Hal Hartley’s “Henry Fool.” Longest film in the official selection, and also the most unknown quantity, is the three-hour U.S. indie drama “Island, Alicia,” by first-time New York director Ken Yunome.

The sidebars and out-of-competition entries yield an equally eclectic mix of U.S. offerings.

Fox Searchlight has Stanley Tucci’s “The Impostors,” featuring Tucci, Oliver Platt, Isabella Rossellini, Campbell Scott, Tony Shalhoub, Lili Taylor and Steve Buscemi, set for a Midnight Screening in Un Certain Regard.

MGM is linked to U.S. director Todd Haynes’ competition runner, the glam rock “Velvet Goldmine,” with Jonathan Rhys-Myers, Ewan McGregor and Christian Bale, via its London-based boutique Goldwyn Films. Goldwyn raised finance for the Zenith-produced pic through pre-sales, while Miramax has U.S. rights.

Warner Bros. has an out-of-competition entry with a special screening of Roland Joffe’s comic thriller “Goodbye, Lover,” with Patricia Arquette, Dermot Mulroney, Ellen DeGeneres, Mary Louis Parker and Don Johnson.

Referring to the annual debate of whether the Hollywood studios are snubbing or being snubbed by Cannes, Fest programmer Gilles Jacob noted, “If there are few Hollywood films then we are being snubbed. If there are many then it’s a Hollywood invasion.” He said that this year’s crop struck a healthy balance.

Jacob was clearly upbeat about the 1998 selection, admitting that he would have liked this year’s crop to have been available last year, to mark the festival’s 50th birthday bash. He said there had been a “real explosion” this year both in terms of “the remarkable increase in the number of films which were proposed to us and in their quality.”

For the first time since 1994, the festival opens and closes with U.S. studio productions: U’s “Primary” and Sony’s “Godzilla,” both out of competition.

However, U is in competition with “Fear and Loathing,” out of competition with John Landis’ “Blues Brothers 2000” and, via its October Films subsid, in Un Certain Regard sidebar with Robert Duvall’s “The Apostle.” In addition, U is bringing the recently assembled director’s cut of Orson Welles’ “Touch of Evil,” which will be screened with stars Charlton Heston and Janet Leigh attending.

Meanwhile, the WB banner will fly in competition in the form of the Warners co-financed “La Classe de Neige,” a mystery thriller from French director Claude Miller.

Gallic coin has historically been prominent among competition entries from international directors such as Mike Leigh, Nick Cassavetes, Robert Altman and Jane Campion, and this year is no exception. Jacob described U.S. helmer Lodge Kerrigan’s “Claire Dolan” as an American film, although it was entirely financed by Paris-based MK2.

And reflecting the continued interest among Euros who want to invest in U.S. properties, actor-director Turturro’s Italian-based costumer “Illuminata” has a wad of lira in it.

More than last year, many Cannes favorites are back on the Croisette, including Greek director Theo Angelopoulos with “An Eternity and a Day,” Ken Loach via the Glasgow-set romancer “My Name is Joe,” Taiwan’s Hou Hsiao-hsien with the bordello-set costumer “The Flowers of Shanghai,” John Boorman with his black-&-white biopic of Dublin outlaw Martin Cahill, “The General,” Nanni Moretti with his political reverie “Aprile,” Lars Von Trier with “Idiots,” a black comedy about intelligent people who pretend to be idiots, and Patrice Chereau with “Ceux qui M’aiment predront le Train,” a meeting-of-old-friends drama starring Jean-Hugues Anglade, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Charles Berling and Vincent Perez.

Jacob noted that “Idiots” and fellow Danish competition pic “The Celebration” from helmer Thomas Vinterberg are the first two films to appear in Cannes from the Copenhagen collective Dogma 95. Described by Jacob as a kind of Danish “new wave,” Dogma 95 is dedicated to stripping away the use of cosmetic technology for filmmaking.

Although a sizable number of touted Brit pics did not make it into the official selection, the four chosen show a broad diversity. Edgier fare is present in experimental director John Maybury’s portrait of late gay painter Francis Bacon, “Love is the Devil,” while vet producer Jeremy Thomas makes his debut directing appearance with rural-set drama of a young boy’s emotional regeneration, “All the Little Animals,” starring John Hurt.

While the U.S. presence in the official selection remains numerically on a par with last year, edgy U.S. indie productions are less in evidence this time around, particularly in sidebar Un Certain Regard. The Out of Competition section, so often a stalking ground for U.S. indie fare, is dominated by tried-and-tested Cannes names such as Roland Joffe (“Goodbye, Lover”), 1997 Palme d’Or co-winner Shohei Imamura (the comedy “Kanzo Sensei”), Carlos Saura (the dance drama “Tango”) and Portuguese nonagenarian Manoel de Oliveira (“Inquietude”).

Also turning up as a midnighter is Aussie director Alex Proyas’ futuristic “Dark City.”

Jacob said this year’s selection begins to reflect the new dynamism in Latin American production. In the competition, Argentina and Brazil are repped by Hector Babenco’s autobiographical “Foolish Heart” and Colombia by poet-filmer Victor Gaviria’s 1996 production “The Rose Seller.” In Un Certain Regard, Mexican veteran Arturo Ripstein weighs in with the sex-and-religion shocker “Divine.”

Considering its current renaissance, German cinema hardly made the cut in the official selection, with Angela Schanelec’s “Places in Cities,” a drama about a pregnant 19-year-old, the sole national rep. The only other movie with German coin attached is the Latvian co-production “The Shoe,” a first dramatic feature by Laila Pakalnina, whose shorts, “The Postwoman” and “The Ferry,” were seen in Un Certain Regard two years ago.

East Asian directors continue to have their place at Cannes, although their numbers are slightly down, due largely to the fact that they have become much sought after by other fest programmers around the world. With no films from China or Hong Kong, Taiwan carries the burden of Chinese representation, with Hou’s “The Flowers of Shanghai” and Tsai’s semi-musical two-hander “The Hole.” Indonesian helmer Garin Nugroho (like Tsai, a former Berlin favorite) makes the leap to the Riviera with “Leaf on a Pillow,” as does South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo, director of last year’s “The Day a Pig Fell Into the Well,” with “The Power of Kangwon Province.”

First-timers in competition include Italy’s Roberto Benigni with the Miramax re-edit of “Life is Beautiful,” a World War II concentration camp drama, Gallic debut director Erick Zonca with “La Vie Revee des Anges,” and Taiwan’s Tsai.

Cannes will also welcome its youngest-ever director in the official selection, as 18-year old Iranian Samirah Makhmalbaf, daughter of celebrated helmer Mohsen Makhmalbaf, has her debut pic “The Apple” in Un Certain Regard.

As usual in the run-up to the festival, a handful of expected pics failed to make the cut, largely because they weren’t finished in time. That was the case with Andre Techine’s Juliette Binoche-starrer “Alice and Martin” and Emir Kusturica’s “Black Cat, White Cat.” Jacob noted that Kusturica, who now enjoys French citizenship, “may well be a three-time Palme D’Or winner, but not this year.”

Another Cannes absentee will be director Neil Jordan, who had been tipped to line up in Martin Scorsese’s competition jury. Jacob said Jordan is still working on his latest pic and couldn’t break for Cannes. Late draftee onto the panel was British director Michael Winterbottom.

Officially flying the Stars and Stripes in competition are Gilliam’s adaptation of the Hunter Thompson druggie tome “Fear and Loathing,” starring Johnny Depp and Benecio Del Toro; Turturro’s 19th century erotic farce “Illuminata” toplining Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Ben Gazzara and Turturro, and Hartley’s working class black comedy “Henry Fool.”

The inclusion of Hartley’s pic has raised some eyebrows, as the film screened publicly at the Toronto fest last fall. Traditionally, pics that have screened at fest’s outside their country of origin aren’t accepted by Cannes, but it appears that Jacob made an exception this time around.

Away from the main competition and sidebar, this year’s fest will tip its hat to a collection of international producers who have brought top directing talent to the public’s attention. The homage to the producers will be dedicated to French producer Anatole Dauman, who died April 8.

Among the 11 names selected are American producers Roger Corman and Mike Medavoy, Working Title partners Tim Be-van and Eric Fellner and French iconoclast Claude Berri. Each producer has chosen a collection of films to screen at Cannes, with the directors and many of the cast present.

At the other end of the creative process, Cannes this year is launching an event titled Cinefondation. The idea is to screen a program of short films and short features from young directors graduating from the 30-odd film schools found around the world. Pics will be judged by a jury headed by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, with the winner getting a guaranteed fest slot for his or her first feature.

Star-gazers will have plenty to watch on the Croisette this year with a combo of top local and international names already signed up for the trip to the Cote d’Azur.

The U.S. contingent includes Travolta, Willis, Duvall, Depp, Turturro, Heston, Leigh, Walken, plus Harvey Keitel, Matt Dil-lon, Andie MacDowell, Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman and Cameron Diaz. Stone will make a fleeting visit to present “The Mighty” to a special gathering of Cannes local youngsters.

From the U.K., McGregor, Hurt, plus Emma Thompson, Derek Jacobi, Vanessa Redgrave and Kristin Scott-Thomas will be among the attendees, while the Gallic presence will include Gerard Depardieu, Sophie Marceau, Jeanne Moreau, Carole Bouquet, Fanny Ardant, Daniel Auteuil and Michel Blanc.