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Light on a-listers

Montreal lineup emphasizes global product

MONTREAL — There is a shortage of big-name international directors competing at this year’s Montreal World Film Festival, and there isn’t a major studio pic in sight, in or out of Competition.

But the official competish list does feature two significant U.S. titles, “Pinero” and “In the Bedroom.”

Helmer Leon Ichaso’s biopic of Puerto Rican poet-playwright-actor Miguel Pinero stars Benjamin Bratt in the title role; cast includes Giancarlo Esposito, Talisa Soto and Mandy Patinkin. Bratt and director Ichaso are expected in Montreal for the fest.

Acting behind camera

“In the Bedroom,” the feature writing and directorial debut of thesp Todd Field, toplines Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek in the Maine-set story of a couple whose only child is involved in a love affair that ends tragically.

Montreal fest prexy Serge Losique unveiled the lineup for the event at a press conference Tuesday. Festival, which runs Aug. 23-Sept. 3, will include 228 features and 160 shorts from 66 countries.

The 24-pic Montreal Competition includes “Betty Fischer and Other Stories,” the latest pic from seasoned Gallic helmer Claude Miller. The French-Canadian co-prod stars Sandrine Kiberlain and Quebec thesps Yves Jacques and Luck Mervil in a psychological thriller about a young novelist and a waitress.

Iranian helmer Majid Majidi, who won Montreal’s 1999 Grand Prix of the Americas for best film for “The Color of Paradise,” returns to the Competition this year with “Baran,” a pic about Afghan refugees in Iran.

In addition, the 25th-anni edition of the Competition features three Canuck films, including Alliance Atlantis/Max Films’ “Tar Angel,” also unspooling in Perspective Canada at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. The tale of Algerian emigrants in Quebec is directed by Montreal helmer Denis Chouinard.

The other two Canuck pics vying for the Grand Prix of the Americas are Catherine Martin’s “Marriages,” a period romance set in 19th-century Quebec, and “Une jeune fille a la fenetre,” the feature directorial debut from Francis Leclerc, son of singer-songwriter Felix Leclerc.

French flavor

As usual, the higher-profile fare at Montreal is screening in the out-of-competition World Greats section, with a particularly strong French presence this year. Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amelie From Montmartre,” which has already garnered 7 million admissions in France, will have its North American preem at the fest.

Other North American premieres in World Greats include “A Ma Soeur!” (Fat Girl), from helmer Catherine Breillat, and Catherine Corsini’s “La Repetition” (Replay), a French-Canadian co-prod starring Emmanuelle Beart and Pascale Bussieres.

Montreal also will world preem “Francesca and Nunziata,” the latest pic from veteran Italian filmmaker Lina Wertmuller, which stars Sophia Loren. The Italian actress will be in Montreal to receive a special lifetime achievement Grand Prix.

The U.S. is repped in World Greats by “Daddy and Them,” written and directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Thornton, Laura Dern, Kelly Preston, Diane Ladd, Ben Affleck, Jamie Lee Curtis and Brenda Blethyn in a comedy about a family crisis in Little Rock, Ark.

World Greats also will feature “Mortal Transfer,” the first film from Gallic helmer Jean-Jacques Beineix since 1992’s “IP5,” and Italian director Ettore Scola’s “Unfair Competition.”

The World Cinema: Reflections of Our Time sidebar will include the Canadian preem of the Paramount Classics release “My First Mister,” directed by Christine Lahti, with Albert Brooks, Leelee Sobieski and John Goodman.

In addition to Loren, the fest will pay tribute to Jackie Chan, Argentinean filmmaker Fernando Solanas and Spanish thesp Francisco Rabal. All are expected to attend the festival.

Market moves

The Montreal Film Market, which runs at the same time as the festival, will double its space at the Wyndham Hotel, giving it room to showcase about 30 stands and 100 exhibitors.

On Aug. 27-28, there will be a series of workshops and speeches under the banner of Conference 2001. The market also will host Coproduction Exchanges, designed to help producers find financing partners.

This year’s fest will have a sidebar focusing on German cinema, unspooling 10 features including Stefan Jager’s “Birthday” and Maria Speth’s “The Days Between.”

There are 18 pics in the Panorama Canada section, but this year’s Canuck selection is particularly lightweight; the only eagerly anticipated title is “La loi du cochon,” director Erik Canuel’s drama about a woman acting as a surrogate mother. It is repped internationally by Alliance Atlantis.

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