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As Cannes winds down, the lineup for the 58th Venice Intl. Film Festival is slowly coming together, with new films from Woody Allen, David Mamet, Istvan Szabo and Eric Rohmer among those strongly tipped for Lido slots.

A perennial favorite at Venice, Allen is expected to return with the comedy “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.” Mamet, who screened “State and Main” at Venice last year, is likely to return with the crime drama “Heist.”

Fest chief Alberto Barbera reports an overwhelmingly positive response from producers and sales agents in Cannes to the decision to make the Cinema of the Present section competitive. The new lineup, focusing on emerging talent and genre fare, will flank the fest’s traditional competition for established auteurs.

Also in line for a Lido bow is veteran French auteur Rohmer’s “The Lady and the Duke,” which was picked up for the U.S. in Cannes by Sony Pictures Classics.

Other strong contenders include Szabo’s English-language drama “Taking Sides”; Jez Butterworth’s “Birthday Girl” from Miramax; and French helmer Andre Techine’s “Terminus des anges.”

Also likely to return to Venice is Serbian director Goran Paskaljevic, with his first English-language feature, “How Harry Became a Tree.” Paskaljevic’s “The Powder Keg” was one of the major discoveries of the 1998 Venice fest.

Following this year’s return in significant numbers of Italian films to Cannes, homegrown productions are expected to be out in force at Venice. Top contenders include Marco Bellocchio’s “The Religion Hour,” Silvio Soldini’s “Yesterday,” Giuseppe Piccione’s “The Light of My Eyes” and Marco Risi’s “Three Wives.”

The full Venice lineup will be announced July 27 at a press conference in Rome. The 58th Venice fest runs Aug. 29-Sept. 8.

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