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Auteurs return to the roost at 58th Cannes

A correction was made to this article on April 27, 2005.

PARIS — Established auteurs are back with a vengeance this year in an English-lingo-heavy Cannes Film Festival competition, unveiled along with the rest of the official selection Tuesday.

Cannes faves in competition next month include David Cronenberg, Wim Wenders, Michael Haneke, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Atom Egoyan, Amos Gitai, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Jim Jarmusch, Gus Van Sant and Lars von Trier.

Beyond pure name appeal, many of the 53 films from 28 countries in the official selection address meaty themes. In that respect, artistic director Thierry Fremaux can’t be accused of simply retreating to safer territory after last year’s experiments with the Cannes formula.

Wenders’ “Don’t Come Knockin’ ” stars Sam Shepard, Jessica Lange and Eva Marie Saint in a tale — written, like Wenders’ Palme d’Or-winning “Paris, Texas,” by Shepard — of a cowboy star’s self-searching. Haneke’s “Cache” (Hidden) pairs Gallic leading lights Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil in a family drama centered on a package of mysterious videotapes.

The presence of Cronenberg and Egoyan in the competition makes it a big year for Canada. Cronenberg describes his graphic novel-derived “A History of Violence,” which toplines Viggo Mortensen, Maria Bello, Ed Harris and William Hurt, as having “almost a classic Western feel to it, like a John Ford film, even though it’s set in Indiana in modern times.” Egoyan’s “Where the Truth Lies” involves a young journalist, played by Alison Lohman, who uncovers a long-ago showbiz scandal. Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth co-star.

Von Trier’s “Manderlay,” the second film in his so-called USA Trilogy, sees Bryce Dallas Howard, stepping into a role meant for Nicole Kidman, in a ’30s-set racial story. Pic also features Isaach De Bankole, Willem Dafoe, Danny Glover, Lauren Bacall and Jeremy Davies.

The only bigscreen directorial debut to nab a competition slot this year, Tommy Lee Jones’ EuropaCorp-backed road movie “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” reps the U.S. along with Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s pulp noir extravaganza “Sin City”; Van Sant’s “Last Days,” which focuses on a Kurt Cobain-like rocker played by Michael Pitt; and Jarmusch’s “Broken Flowers.”

“Three Burials” stars Jones as a ranch hand intent upon fulfilling a promise to bury his best friend in Mexico. Jarmusch’s comedy concerns a confirmed bachelor, played by Bill Murray, who visits ex-girlfriends across the U.S. for clues to the origins of a 19-year-old alleged son who has just come to his attention. Pic co-stars Julie Delpy, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange, Chloe Sevigny, Sharon Stone, Tilda Swinton and Jeffrey Wright.

Stateside cache

Fremaux told Daily Variety he viewed a few hundred American films out of a total 700-800 features. “I saw a lot of very good American films and had to refuse ones I would have liked to include because we have to keep a balance in the selection. American cinema has a lot of vitality right now, and I think we’ve picked a range of films that reflect its richness and diversity.”

Referring to Jones’ pic, Fremaux said, “Films by actors are always interesting. Look at Sean Penn’s films, Charles Laughton’s ‘Night of the Hunter.’ Actors always have something different to say.”

As for “Sin City,” the graphic novel adaptation repped “a virtuosity and originality that I’m proud to present at Cannes,” he said.

There are nine English-lingo films in competition.

While Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” was the controversial winner of the Palme d’Or last year, docus are absent from competition this time. However, Brit helmer Adam Curtis’ “The Power of Nightmares,” a BBC broadcast that presents American neo-cons and Islamic extremists as two sides of the same coin, will receive a special screening. Also, there are no animated films in competish this year.

‘More classical auteurs’

Commenting on his choices, Fremaux said, “Each year is different. Last year there were opportunities to open the festival to documentaries and animation, and we jumped at that. This year, a sort of unconscious rendezvous has taken place with more classical auteurs, and we’ve grabbed that opportunity. I don’t think I am taking a step backward — I think everyone wants to see these films.”

Out of competition screenings include Woody Allen’s “Match Point” and George Lucas’ “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.” The former, the helmer’s first U.K.-lensed production, co-stars Allen alongside Scarlett Johansson, Emily Mortimer and Brian Cox.

Fest’s prize-giving ceremony May 21 — a slot equivalent to the old closing-night spot — will feature a screening of Brit helmer Martha Fiennes’ Altmanesque ensembler “Chromophobia,” with Ralph Fiennes, Ben Chaplin, Penelope Cruz, Ian Holm, Rhys Ifans, Damian Lewis and Kristin Scott Thomas.

The Palme d’Or-winning pic will receive a repeat screening May 22.

In addition to the plethora of auteurs, celebs should be plentiful on the Croisette. Among those expected on the Riviera are Stone, Lange, Johansson, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Benicio Del Toro, Val Kilmer, Ewan McGregor, Samuel Jackson, Gael Garcia Bernal, Zhang Ziyi and Natalie Portman. Portman will have both “Revenge of the Sith” and the Amos Gitai Jerusalem-lensed competition pic “Free Zone” at Cannes.

Close call

In 4½ years at the fest, Fremaux has earned a reputation for last-minute decisionmaking, but the phrase “down to the wire” has taken on new resonance this year. Organizers did not settle on the opening-night film — Dominik Moll’s in-competition “Lemming” — until late Monday. But that, Fremaux insisted, was because of the fest’s wish to keep up a tradition: divulging the French film selection last.

“This year we told them late in the evening,” Fremaux said. “Usually, it’s in the early hours of the day that we hold the press conference.”

Gallic helmer Moll was in competition at Cannes in 2000 with his second film, “With a Friend Like Harry.” New pic, starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Charlotte Rampling, Andre Dussollier and Laurent Lucas, is said to have the same darkly comic tone as “Harry.”

At Tuesday’s press conference, it emerged that the fest was not ready to announce the makeup of the jury, which will be headed by Emir Kusturica.

Fest managing director Veronique Cayla promised full details of all four juries — competition, Un Certain Regard, Cinefondation and the short-film competition — by next week.

Among extracurricular events, Catherine Deneuve will give the “acting lesson,” while Ousmane Sembene will provide the “director’s lesson.”

Cannes selectors saw 1,500 films this year, up 16%, from 97 countries. The organizers hired an additional selection team of four to ease sifting through submissions.

“Overall, the selection reconfirms Asia’s status as a rich filmmaking region and the clear emergence of Latin America, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico,” Fremaux opined.

Closer to home, some 90 Gallic entries were narrowed down to 11, including two shorts.

French seasoning

Three French films are in competition — a restricted number to which the fest decided to adhere, come what may. One is out of competition, Christian Carion’s WWI-set European co-prod “Joyeux Noel.” Un Certain Regard is home to three: Alain Cavalier’s “Le Filmeur,” a personal journal filmed over five years; Pierre Jolivet’s “Zim and Co.,” a comedy set in a Paris suburb starring Jolivet’s son Fred; and Francois Ozon’s “Le Temps qui reste.”

As ever, the French competition selection caused controversy, as film folk speculated over the absence of Patrice Chereau’s heavily tipped “Gabrielle” and wondered why one of the cherished Gallic slots went to “Hidden,” which, despite French cast and coin, is helmed by an Austrian.

The other Gallic competition entry is Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu’s first Cannes offering, “Paint or Make Love,” about two couples played by Sabine Azema, Daniel Auteuil, Sergi Lopez and Amira Casar.

“Film’s nationalities have less and less meaning,” fest prexy Gilles Jacob, flanked by Fremaux and Cayla, told journalists. “In the future we’ll probably start referring to films as European or Latin American.”

European films rep about a third of the competition, including Italian entry Marco Tullio Giordana’s “Quando sei nato non puoi piu nasconderti” (Once You Are Born). The helmer’s “The Best of Youth” was a surprise hit at Cannes two years ago.

U.S. or U.S.-set fare reps another third, and the rest come from other corners of the globe including China (Wang Xiaoshuai’s love story “Shanghai Dreams” and Johnnie To’s triad drama “Election”) and Mexico (Carlos Reygadas’ “Battle in the Sky”).

As for Un Certain Regard, fest organizers have sought to boost its profile this year, appointing “Sideways” director Alexander Payne as jury prexy and including some potentially meaty titles by such established helmers as Ozon and Kim Ki-duk.

Of 21 titles, nine are first works, including former short-film Palme d’Or winner Juan Solanas’ “Nordeste,” starring Carole Bouquet.

Making the cut

However, the presence of heavyweight fest names like Ozon, Kim and Fatih Akin outside competition has raised some eyebrows. “Those who agreed to be in Un Certain Regard did so because they are intelligent and not arrogant and they want to show their films at Cannes,” Fremaux said. “The section is for films that are different, more personal.”

Kim’s “Hwal,” an island-set drama concerning an old man and a young woman, is “a cinematic poem,” Fremaux said.

Two U.S. titles are in Un Certain Regard. “Down in the Valley,” directed by David Jacobson (“Criminal,” “Dahmer”), stars Edward Norton and Evan Rachel Wood. Norton plays a man who imagines he’s a cowboy in the present-day San Fernando Valley, and he also produced. “The King,” by James Marsh (“Little Odessa,” “The Yards”), follows a young man (Gael Garcia Bernal) who returns to his native Corpus Christi, Texas, to look up his father (William Hurt).

Midnight screenings include “Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” Shane Black’s action-comedy/thriller for Joel Silver and Warner Bros. that marks his directing debut and his first major script since 1996’s “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” Buddy pic starring Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr. revolves around a petty thief brought to L.A. for an unlikely audition who finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation. 

Section also includes Kim Jee-woon’s noirish thriller “A Bittersweet Life” and Stuart Samuels’ B-movie docu “Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream.” It will be followed by a never-before-seen 20-minute excerpt from George Romero’s unfinished “Land of the Dead.”

A selection of docus about the movies includes the two-hour, 54-minute “Ingmar Bergman Complete,” one of the few films to run almost three hours in this year’s selection. The vast majority run no more than around two.

Oldest director in official selection is Japanese cult fave Seijun Suzuki (“Princess Raccoon”), who turns 82 on May 24.

Other events at Cannes will kick off May 10, on the eve of the fest, with the Rencontre, a gathering of members of the various juries to mull ways the fest can help films get made.

Sideshows

Cannes also will be a more musical event than usual. On May 14, there will be the Soiree Movie-Mix, a film music-themed concert on the beach with artists Jeff Mills and Lim Giong. Each evening musicians will perform live before public screenings on the shore.

Also on the calendar are Magnum photo exhibition “James Dean — Fifty Years Ago” and “Renoir/Renoir,” a collaboration between the Cinematheque Francaise and the Musee d’Orsay, which will later move to the Cinematheque’s new Paris headquarters.

For the first time, the fest will host a workshop in which 18 film projects from 18 countries will be presented to producers.

Other fest events include Tous les Cinemas du Monde, in which the cinema fare of seven countries will be highlighted a day at a time, and the Seance des Enfants, a kids gala screening of a segment from Michel Ocelot’s “Kirikou and the Wild Beasts.”

(Derek Elley in London and Todd McCarthy in Hollywood contributed to this report.)

CANNES 2005: OFFICIAL SELECTION

OPENER
“Lemming,” France, Dominik Moll (in competition)

CLOSER
“Chromophobia,” France-U.S.-U.K., Martha Fiennes (out of competition)

IN COMPETITION
“Bashing,” Japan, Masahiro Kobayashi
“Battle in the Sky,” Mexico, Carlos Reygadas
“The Best of our Times,” Taiwan-Japan, Hou Hsiao-Hsien
“Broken Flowers,” France-U.S., Jim Jarmusch
“Cache,” France-Austria-Germany-Italy, Michael Haneke
“Don’t Come Knockin’,” Germany-France, Wim Wenders
“Election,” Hong Kong, Johnnie To
“L’Enfant,” Belgium, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
“Free Zone,” Israel-Belgium, Amos Gitai
“A History of Violence,” U.S.-Canada, David Cronenberg
“Kilometre Zero,” Iraq, Hiner Saleem
“Last Days,” U.S., Gus Van Sant
“Lemming,” France, Dominik Moll
“Manderlay,” Denmark-Sweden-Netherland, Lars Von Trier
“Quando Sei Nato Non Puoi Piu Nasconderti,” Italy, Marco Tullio Giordana
“Peindre ou Faire L’Amour,” France, Arnaud and Jean-Marie Larrieu
“Shanghai Dreams,” China, Wang Xiaoshuai
“Sin City,” U.S., Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez
“The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” U.S., Tommy Lee Jones
“Where the Truth Lies,” Canada, Atom Egoyan

OUT OF COMPETITION

GALA SCREENINGS
“Chromophobia,” France-U.S.-U.K., Martha Fiennes
“Joyeux Noel,” France-Germany-UK-Belgium, Christian Carion
“Match Point,” UK, Woody Allen
“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith,” U.S., George Lucas

MIDNIGHT SCREENINGS
“A Bittersweet Life,” South Korea, Kim Jee-woon
“Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang,” U.S., Shane Black
“Land of the Dead” (20 mins excerpt), U.S., George Romero
“Midnight Movies,” Stuart Samuels

SPECIAL SCREENINGS
“The Artistes of the Burnt Theater,” Cambodia-France, Rithy Panh
“C’est Pas Tout a Fait la Vie Dont J’avais Reve,” France, Michel Piccoli
“Crossing the Bridge,” Germany, Fatih Akin
“Nekam Achat Mishtey Eynay,” Israel, Avi Mograbi
“The Power of Nightmares,” U.K., Adam Curtis
“Princess Raccoon,” Japan, Seijun Suzuki

UN CERTAIN REGARD
“Cidade Baixa,” Brazil, Sergio Machado
“Dark Horse,” Denmark, Dagur Kari
“Get Up and Walk,” Burkino Faso, S. Pierre Yameogo
“Down in the Valley,” U.S., David Jacobson
“Low Profile,” Germany, Christoph Hochhausler
“Le Filmeur,” France, Alain Cavalier
“Hwal,” South Korea-Japan, Kim Ki-duk
“Jewboy” (short feature), Australia, Tony Kravitz
“Johanna,” Hungary, Kornel Mundruczo
“The King,” U.S.-U.K., James Marsh
“Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures,” Brazil, Marcelo Gomes
“The Death of Domnului Lazarescu,” Romania, Cristi Puiu
“North East,” France-Argentina-Belgium, Juan Solanas
“Blood,” Mexico, Amat Escalante
“Sleepers,” Germany-Austria, Benjamin Heisenberg
“Tawa Dura Yanna,” Sri Lanka, Vimukthi Jayasundara
“Le Temps Qui Reste,” France, Francois Ozon
“One Night,” Iran, Niki Karimi
“Yellow Fella” (short), Australia, Ivan Sen
“Zim And Co.,” France, Pierre Jolivet

SHORTS COMPETITION
“Bebe Requin,” France, Pascal-Alex Vincent.
“Before Dawn,” Hungary, Balint Kenyeres.
“Clara,” Australia, Van Sowerwine.
“Kitchen,” France, Alice Winocour.
“Litost,” Denmark, Anne Hovad Fischer.
“Missing,” U.S., Kit Hui.
“Nothing Special,” New Zealand, Helena Brooks.
“Schijn van de Maan,” Belgium, Peter Ghesquiere.
“Wayfarers,” Ukraine, Igor Strembitsky

SHORTS: SPECIAL SCREENING
“Cindy,” Bertrand Bonello (special screening)

SHORTS: CINEFONDATION
“A Deux,” France, Nikolay Khomeriki.
“A Song for Rebecca,” Poland, Norah MC Gettigan.
“Badgered,” U.K., Sharon Colman.
“Be Quiet,” U.S., Sameh Zoabi.
“Visiting Hours,” Israel, Maya Dreifuss.
“Buy It Now,” U.S., Antonio Campos.
“La Cerca,” Colombia, Ruben Mendoza.
“The Conscience,” Czech Republic, Jan Bohuslav.
“En La Oscuridad,” Argentina, Marcelo Charras and Juan Manuel Rampoldi.
“El Espino,” Cuba, Theo Court Bustamante.
“Exit,” Denmark, Robert Depuis.
“Five O’Clock Shadow,” U.K., Malcolm Lamont.
“La Plaine,” France, Roland Edzard.
“Slavek the Shit,” Czech Republic, Grimur Hakonarson.
“Vanilla Song,” U.K., Jakob Ror-vik
“El Violin,” Mexico, Francisco Vargas
“Walk on a Little More,” South Korea, Shim Min-Young
“The White Sheet,” Brazil, Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra

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