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Three U.S. film surprises in lineup

April 24, 2008|Nancy Tartaglione-Vialatte | Special to The Times

PARIS -- Eleventh-hour additions of Clint Eastwood's thriller "Changeling," starring Angelina Jolie, and Steven Soderbergh's double Che Guevara biopics, "The Argentine" and "Guerrilla," were among the big news delivered by festival general manager Thierry Fremaux during Wednesday's news conference to unveil the official lineup for the 61st annual Cannes Film Festival.

However, the opening- and closing-night films remain a mystery. Barry Levinson's show-business comedy "What Just Happened?" had been previously mentioned as a possible closing-night film, but was not yet part of the official roster.

Fremaux didn't specifically address the movie, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival this year, but did remark during the conference: "If Cannes is to retain its strength, it mustn't show films that have been seen elsewhere."

The festival's official announcement came a week later than is the norm and Fremaux acknowledged the "long, very complicated, very difficult" selection process this year. He noted that many confirmed Cannes habitues had been shooting during the winter, meaning that the films, in many instances, were not completed in time for the festival. But three or four more films will be added over the next few days, Fremaux said.

In the case of Soderbergh, recent media reports had left a question mark hanging over whether the Che films, which star Benicio Del Toro, would be ready in time.

But in a phone call to Fremaux at 12:10 a.m. on Wednesday, Vincent Maraval of France's Wild Bunch -- which is handling international sales on the films -- confirmed their availability. Maraval told The Times that the films will be screened digitally.

Meanwhile, Fremaux previously believed that Eastwood's film would not be ready in time. But, he said, "it was a marvelous surprise," to learn the contrary.

The other American filmmaker in the main competition is Charlie Kaufman with his directorial debut "Synedoche, New York," starring Philip Seymour Hoffman, Michelle Williams, Emily Watson and Catherine Keener.

As expected, Steven Spielberg will bring "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" to screen out of competition on May 18. This marks the first time Spielberg will have visited the Cannes red carpet since 1985's "The Color Purple."

Also out of competition, Woody Allen will return with "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," starring Scarlett Johansson, Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem. Allen's last film at the festival was 2005's "Match Point."

Other out-of-competition films include "Surveillance" from David Lynch's daughter Jennifer and starring Julia Ormond and Bill Pullman; Emir Kusturica's soccer legend documentary "Maradona"; and Wong Kar Wai's "Ashes of Time Redux," an update of his own 1996 film.

DreamWorks Animation's family comedy "Kung-Fu Panda," with the voices of Jack Black, Jackie Chan, Dustin Hoffman and Jolie will make for a very special red carpet march, Fremaux said.

Indeed, star wattage will be bright, if slightly more subdued than last year. Jolie was on hand in 2007 in support of "A Mighty Heart," but it remains to be seen if the actress will make an appearance.

Back in the competition, other well-known names in the lineup are Wim Wenders with "The Palermo Shooting," Atom Egoyan with "Adoration," Cannes favorites Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne with "Le Silence de Lorna" and Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas' "Linha De Passe."

Thus far, only two French films appear on the roster: Arnaud Desplechin's "A Christmas Tale" with Catherine Deneuve and Mathieu Amalric and "La Frontiere de l'Aube" by Philippe Garrel. Fremaux said he would add another French title in the days to come.

In the Un Certain Regard sidebar, both Abel Ferrara and James Toback will have a berth. Ferrara brings the documentary "Chelsea on the Rocks," a look at New York's infamous Chelsea Hotel.

Toback, meanwhile, will visit Cannes with a documentary on boxing legend Mike Tyson.

This year's jury will be presided over by Sean Penn, along with members Natalie Portman, Alfonso Cuaron, Sergio Castellitto, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Alexandra Maria Lara and Rachid Bouchareb.

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