Inside Move: Croisette crunch

Biz anxious as Cannes list gets down to wire

Cannes Fest artistic director Thierry Fremaux, in his third year in the job and his first in full charge of the selection reins, is under the gun like never before.

Following last year’s unparalleled criticism of the Official Selection, Fremaux has to prove Cannes still deserves to be called the world’s premier event in an increasingly level fest playing field.

He also has to demonstrate the event is one of discovery and on the cutting edge rather than just ashowcase for Croisette favorites.

But Fremaux’s extreme caution in sending out official invitations this time is driving tradesters to distraction. “This year, we’ve been left hanging like never before,” moans one Italo publicist.

Late last week, 2004’s Official Selection looked very much still up in the air.

The U.S. could end up well repped on the Croisette, East Asia with a so-so presence, and Scandinavia and Central Europe looking decidedly thin. And though much juggling is still going on, there may be fewer French pics.

With some 20 slots to fill, the following look definite to go head-to-head for this year’s Palme d’Or:

Pedro Almodovar‘s “Bad Education,” which opens the fest; DreamWorks’ “Shrek 2”; Walter Salles‘ Sundance discovery “The Motorcycle Diaries”; Emir Kusturica‘s “Life Is a Miracle”; “Woman Is the Future of Man,” by South Korea’s Hong Sang-soo; “La nina santa,” the second pic by Argentine helmer Lucrecia Martel, centered on a girl who sets out to save an old man’s soul; and “Comme une image,” sophomore outing by France’s Agnes Jaoui.

Also definite for berths in the Official Selection are Disney’s “The Ladykillers,” by the Coen brothers, a special May 13 screening of Warners’ “Troy” a day before its Stateside release, and fest closer “De-lovely,” showing out of competition.

Italian vet Michelangelo Antonioni, 91, will be repped by the short “Michelangelo’s Eye,” about the artist’s marble statue of Moses, and Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami by “Five,” the second part of a diptych begun with “10” in 2002.

Jean-Luc Godard‘s Bosnian War opus, “Our Music,” will get a special non-competitive screening.

Potential Competition slots are being held open for Wong Kar Wai’s much-delayed “2046,” with Gong Li; Michael Moore‘s doc “Fahrenheit 9/11”; and the latest pic by South Korean veteran Im Kwon-taek, a ’70s-set gangland yarn tentatively titled “Lower Class Life.”

Official unveiling takes place April 21 in Paris.

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