Cannes 2009: the full line-up is revealed!

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Penélope Cruz, Pedro Almodóvar, Eric Cantona, Brad Pitt and Lars Von Trier are all heading to the Cannes Film Festival next month

It was announced in Paris today that 20 films will compete for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Filmmakers including Pedro Almodóvar, Ang Lee, Ken Loach and Lars Von Trier will be vying for the world’s most coveted film prize, cheered on by actors including Penélope Cruz, Eric Cantona, Liev Schreiber, Brad Pitt, Gérard Depardieu and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Loach, who won the Palme d'Or for 'The Wind that Shakes the Barley' in 2006, is one of two British directors with films in competition. Andrea Arnold, who won the festival's Jury Prize for 'Red Road' in 2006, will present her second film, 'Fish Tank' at the event. 'Fish Tank' is a study of a 15-year-old girl having to deal with her mum's new boyfriend and stars 'Hunger' actor Michael Fassbender.

Hollywood is almost entirely absent. The festival will open with Pixar’s 3D animation ‘Up’ and includes Quentin Tarantino’s World War II action pic ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (yes, the spelling is deliberate). But, beyond that, the line-up consists almost exclusively of work by heavyweight European and Asian auteurs.

Almodóvar will bring his Broken Embraces to France, with Cruz in the leading role. Loach puts his own spin on the ‘bromance’ genre with Looking for Eric, the story of a tender friendship between a Mancunian postman and – wait for it – former Man Utd footballer Eric Cantona. The Austrian master Michael Haneke (‘Hidden’, ‘Code Unknown’) returns to the German language with The White Ribbon, a historical film set in pre-World War I Germany. And Ang Lee will follow ‘Brokeback Mountain’ and ‘Lust, Caution’ with ‘Taking Woodstock’: a drama set during the legendary music festival, with a screenplay by James Schamus and both Liev Schreiber and Emile Hirsch in leading roles.

There are always surprise omissions when Cannes annouces its line-up. This year, pundits will be asking: where is Jim Jarmusch, the director of ‘Broken Flowers’ and ‘Dead Man’? There’s no slot for ‘The Limits of Control’ with Tilda Swinton, Gael García Bernal and Bill Murray. It’s the first time one of Jarmusch’s straight feature films hasn’t been selected for Cannes since his debut ‘Permanent Vacation’ in 1980.

So, who will be making headlines for all the wrong reasons? There is always at least one filmmaker who succeeds in disgusting or dismaying festival audience, generating acres of newsprint along the way. I’m thinking of Vincent Gallo and his (allegedly) prosthetic penis in ‘Brown Bunny’. Or Gaspar Noé and the rape scene in ‘Irreversible’.

Well, Noé is back for the first time since that controversial film with Enter the Void, the tale of a drug dealer in Tokyo. Since he is unlikely to have mellowed, this new film is liable to generate some noise. Another former enfant terrible, Lars Von Trier, is back with Antichrist, a horror film starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg. But as it is Von Trier, surely this is not a horror film in any straightforward sense?

It’s ludicrously early to tip any one film for the Palme d’Or, but if I was forced to put my money on something, I’d go for Haneke and his ‘The White Ribbon’.

The Austrian director has done well at Cannes in the past. ‘Hidden’ won him the best director gong in 2005. ‘The Piano Teacher’ bagged him the Grand Prix – the festival’s second prize – in 2001. Early word on his latest is that its exploration of school life in a German village in 1913 is partly an examination of the roots of National Socialism – so, a deeply serious, potentially controversial subject that may appeal to critics and the jury. There’s only one snag: Isabelle Huppert, star of two Haneke films, is the president of this year’s jury. How will she feel about deliberating over the film of such a close collaborator? We’ll have to wait and see: the festival opens on May 13 and the prizes will be announced at the closing ceremony on May 24.

Keep an eye on www.timeout.com/film during the festival for exclusive first reviews of all the above.

Author: Dave Calhoun



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