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Tough Times Mean Fewer Options for Cannes Planners

Tough Times Mean Fewer Options for Cannes Planners

By all accounts, the selection process for this year’s Cannes Film Festival was difficult. The economic crisis didn’t hit the Festival last year, said Terry Frémaux today. Since it takes about 18 months to make a film, the effects are being felt this year, with fewer entries.

In Paris this morning, where the Festival’s Official Selection was unveiled, journalists and film professionals gathered at the tony Grand Hotel, waiting with baited breath for word of the the films selected to screen at Cannes’ 63rd Festival. The list had few surprises, despite the drop in entries, but the roster did not disappoint. And more films will be added to the lineup in advance of next month’s fest.

Follow indieWIRE to Cannes: For the latest on the festival and market, follow us at @iWcannes on Twitter.

The selection was announced a week earlier than usual this year, explained Fest heads Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux. They said it would give the media more time to react, diffuse information and build up excitement.

Today, digital technology accelerates post-production, making it possible to present potential competition films at the last minute, working in a fest’s favor. The committee was still viewing films, even at this late stage. At today’s press conference, 16 films were announced in the main competition (last year it was 20). Observers are already wondering, what will the others be? The highly anticipated Terrence Malick film “Tree of Life”, for example, rumored a likely choice, was not ready for today’s announcement – though it may yet make it.

Even with a leaner initial roster, Fest organizers boasted films from 13 countries. The Ukraine (Sergei Loznitsa’s “You, My Joy”) and Chad (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s “Un homme qui crie”) are represented for the first time this year. As Thierry Frémaux insisted, “Cannes is an international Festival, not just an American and European affair.”

As has been noted, many usual suspects have also been slated – auteurs such as Mike Leigh (former Palme d’Or winner for “Secrets and Lies”) with “Another Year”, Takeshi Kitano (former jury member and regular on the Croisette) with “Outrage”, Russian Mikhalkov with his follow-up “Burnt by the Sun (2)”. Meanwhile, the Iranian, Kiarostami’s romantic drama “Certified Copy” is unusual in being filmed near San Gimignano, in Italy, with Juliette Binoche. No surprise that Inarritu is on the list of favored directors, with “Biutiful” – this time without Guillermo Arriaga.

As for American presence, Woody Allen’s “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” (with Naomi Watts, Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin and Anthony Hopkins) and Oliver Stone’s “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” are screening out-of-competition, assuring star-studded red-carpet attendance. Deputy Director Thierry Frémaux explained wistfully that Woody had declined when asked to enter his film in competition. However, the director will be at the screening. Stylish director Doug Liman’s “Fair Game”, a film about the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame, with Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, is the only American title in the main-competition selection.

The French line-up includes the enthralling Mathieu Amalric, who directs and acts in his eagerly awaited “Tournée”, Bertrand Tavernier (former critic and respected filmmaker) with period piece “Princess of Montpensier” and the dependable and interesting Xavier Beauvois with “Of Gods and Men”.

Meanwhile, the sidebar Un Certain Regard may be the real draw this year, with venerable Jean-Luc Godard’s documentary “Filme Socialisme” and Cristi Puiu’s “Aurora”. Frémaux noted how amenable Godard was about appearing in the sidebar. And let’s not forget the 101-year-old Manoel de Oliveira “Angelica”, competing with 21-year-old Xavier Dolan “Heartbeats”.

Attendees this morning seemed happy about off-beat Gregg Araki returning to Cannes, after “Happy Face”, with a midnight screening of his latest, “Kaboom”.

This year’s jury includes quirky but likeable Tim Burton as President. Gilles Jacob expressed his personal pleasure at seeing heavyweight Emmanuel Carrère finally on board after urging from Frémaux.

The Festival also “symbolically” asked Iranian Jafar Panahi to be a jury member this year. Recently arrested for his political views, he is now freed, under surveillance. “The invitation isn’t just a formality”, said Jacob, implying it was to show the Iranian authorities that the Festival would not abandon the director it had discovered in 1995 with “The White Balloon.”

UPDATE: Press reports today indicate that the Iranian government is in fact detaining Panahi, charging him with making an anti-government film.

Jacob also announced their updated website is now available in 8 languages: French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic and Russian – two more than the UN, Jacob boasted. It reaches over half the world’s population.

Finally, about a recent press boycott, Frémaux explained that AFP, Reuters, AP and Getty TV news weren’t attending since Festival organizers planned restrictions on red-carpet video this year. Restrictions stem from a new deal between Cannes, Canal Plus and pay-TV service Orange and the four agencies felt penalized. Negotiations are ongoing.

So what will the mystery films be? Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”, Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter”, Gus van Sant’s “Restless” or Hungarian filmmaker Béla Tarr’s “The Turin Horse” are all potential contenders. Olivier Assayas’ “Carlos” is said to be on track for a slot as the roster is rounded out. But, what about Francois Ozon? And of course, all eyes are on Malick. Which films will ultimately join the Cannes 2010 lineup are anybody’s guess.

Follow indieWIRE to Cannes: For the latest on the festival and market, follow us at @iWcannes on Twitter.

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