Cannes Fest names competition lineup

April 23, 2009 10:33:54 AM PDT
This year's Cannes film festival will pit a roster of festival veterans, including four former winners of the glamorous film competition's top prize, against challengers from emerging cinema hotbeds from China to the Philippines.

Quentin Tarantino, Ken Loach, Jane Campion and Lars von Trier, each of whom has won top honors at the prestigious festival on the French Riviera, are all presenting their newest films in the competition scheduled to run from May 13 to 24.

Tarantino, who won the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or, for "Pulp Fiction" in 1994, is in the competition with "Inglourious Basterds," an action flick starring Brad Pitt featuring Jewish soldiers dishing out chaos among the Nazis.

Festival President Gilles Jacob said the 62nd edition of the Cannes festival would focus particularly on independent cinema. Speaking at a news conference in Paris, Jacob, who has been involved in shaping the festival's selection of films for over three decades, said he wanted to counter the idea that independent cinema was dead.

"There's a trend emerging, especially among certain Anglo-Saxon commentators, that takes as established fact the death of auteur cinema ...," Jacob said. "These films supposedly have no more viewers, so they are becoming extinct."

Jacob said that the 20 films in competition for the Palme d'Or as well as another 19 films in a secondary competition called "Un Certain Regard" would demonstrate that creative, inventive and energetic filmmaking survives, even if it is more likely to be found today in Bucharest, Tel Aviv and Hong Kong than in Los Angeles, New York or Paris.

Another former Palme d'Or winner in competition this year is Britain's Ken Loach, with "Looking for Eric," starring soccer great Eric Cantona. Cantona plays himself in a film about a soccer fan who imagines the former Manchester United goal scorer helps him deal with life's difficulties.

Loach's film "The Wind that Shakes the Barley," won Cannes' top prize in 2006.

Jane Campion, the New Zealand director whose "The Piano" took the Palme d'Or in 1993, is back with her new film "Bright Star," about 19th century English poet John Keats' love affair with his muse Fanny Brawne.

Denmark's Lars von Trier, who won a Palme d'Or for "Dancer in the Dark" in 2000, will try for another top prize with "Antichrist," a horror movie that depicts Satan, rather than God, as the world's creator. It stars Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

This year's competition also features Cannes veterans Pedro Almodovar and Michael Haneke.

Spain's Almodovar, who won Best Director at Cannes in 1999, will present his new film "Broken Embraces." It recounts the tale of a writer and director telling the story of an accident that left him blind 14 years earlier and a torrid relationship with an actress - played by Penelope Cruz.

Austrian director Haneke, whose "The Piano Teacher" won Cannes' second-highest award in 2001, is in the competition with "The White Ribbon." The black-and-white film is set in a German village on the eve of World War I.

Park Chan-wook, the South Korean director who took Cannes' Grand Prix, the second-highest award, in 2004 with his gory "Oldboy," is back in competition with his new film, "Thirst" - about a priest who becomes a vampire.

Another Asian entry comes from Johnnie To, the prolific Hong Kong director who has shown four of his films at Cannes since his "Breaking News" was screened out-of-competition in 2004.

This time To is in contention for top honors with "Vengeance," a thriller starring French rock legend Johnny Hallyday as a father who tries to avenge the death of his daughter, her husband and their children.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Ang Lee's new movie "Taking Woodstock," is set against the background of the Woodstock music festival 40 years ago.

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