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Soderbergh, Polanski in Cannes shortlist US comic Jerry Lewis to get special tribute

PARIS, France, April 18, (AFP): Movies by US directors Steven Soderbergh and the Coen Brothers, Nicolas Winding Refn of Denmark and France’s Roman Polanski are among contenders for the coveted Palme d’Or at next month’s Cannes Film Festival, organisers said Thursday. Soderbergh’s eagerly awaited “Behind the Candelabra”, with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon, recounts the life of flamboyant pianist-entertainer Liberace, who masked his homosexuality from public view. Another much-anticipated film is Refn’s “Only God Forgives”, starring Ryan Gosling in a gangland thriller set in Bangkok. Also making the Cannes cut is “Inside Llewyn Davis” by Joel and Ethan Coen starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake in a tale about a singer-songwriter in the 1960s folk scene in New York.
Polanski, 79, first competed in Cannes back in 1976.

“Venus in Fur” features his wife Emmanuelle Seigner alongside Mathieu Amalric in an adaptation of a Broadway play drawn from an erotic novel by Leopold Sacher-Masoch — who inspired the term masochism. The festival on the Riviera, seen as the most prestigious event in cinema, runs from May 15 to 26. Nineteen movies are in the running for the Golden Palm, but others may be added in the coming weeks, the organisers said. Only one director, though, is a woman — Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, sister of former French first lady Carla Bruni, with “Un Chateau en Italie”. Last year’s line-up included no woman directors.

Famed for its top-grade celebrities, glitzy parties and luxury yachts, the festival this year will see Robert Redford and Marion Cotillard as well as Douglas and Damon among VIPs gracing the red carpet.
But the festival will also turn the spotlight on obscure directors and young talents, and has a tradition of screening quirky or provocative movies. Cannes is a “temple that’s really important to protect the more adventurous filmmaking that’s going on around the world,” Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle told AFP in Paris earlier this week. Sofia Coppola’s film “The Bling Ring” starring Harry Potter star Emma Watson will open the newcomers’ section called Un Certain Regard.

Inspired by a true story, the film recounts how a group of adolescents who rob celebrities’ homes after becoming obsessed with the world of “beautiful people” and luxury consumer goods. Steven Spielberg will head the festival jury and “Amelie” star Audrey Tautou will host the opening and closing ceremonies.
Jerry Lewis, the US comedy star from the 1950s and 1960s who later poured his efforts into raising money for muscular dystrophy research, will get a special tribute. The 87-year-old entertainer, who has a history of ill health, will attend a screening of his latest film, “Max Rose”, in which he plays the role of an elderly jazz pianist facing the loss of his wife. Twelve years after Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!” opened the 2001 festival, the Australian’s latest film, “The Great Gatsby”, will do the opening honours with Leonardo DiCaprio and Mulligan in a remake of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel.

Jerome Salle’s film “Zulu”, starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom, will bring proceedings to a close on May 26. “Gatsby” will be screened out of competition on the same day as it is released in France, but five days after it goes to market in North America. In the film, set on the US East Coast of the Roaring Twenties, DiCaprio stars as Fitzgerald’s mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, battling to win the heart of Daisy, a girl he courted in his youth, played by Mulligan. “Zulu”, meanwhile, is set in Cape Town against the background of a South Africa still overshadowed by apartheid, where affluent suburbs rub shoulders with dirt-poor townships. Whitaker won the best actor Academy Award in 2007 for his role as former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in “The Last King of Scotland” and best actor at Cannes in 1988 for his part in Clint Eastwood’s “Bird”.

Celebrating world cinema from countries with limited freedom of expression is clearly one of this year’s stories, with a lineup with features from Chad, China, Mexico and Iran among the 19 films competing for the Palme d’Or, one of cinema’s most coveted prizes. “The festival is a house that shelters artists in danger,” said Cannes President Gilles Jacob, who announced the nominees Thursday. Harking from Africa, “Grigris” by Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, will feature alongside “The Life of Adele” from French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche. “Zulu” - a police thriller shot in South Africa and starring Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom - will close the festival but is not competing.

The list also includes “A Touch of Sin” by Chinese director Jia Zhangke; “The Past,” from Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, featuring Tahar Rahim and rising star Berenice Bejo who garnered attention for “The Artist”; and Mexican narco-film “Heli” by director Amat Escalante, who explores how love and family ties can provide solace in the desperation stemming from drug trafficking. Old favorite filmmakers of the festival also fared well. On the sidelines of the movie screenings, Cannes is also a huge marketplace, gathering thousands of people, from producers and distributors haggling over upcoming movies to screenwriters hawking their scripts and firms offering innovations in computer-generated imagery.

Here are the 19 films chosen to compete before the jury headed by US director Steven Spielberg:
* “Un Chateau en Italie” (“A Chateau in Italy”),
Valeria BruninTedeschi
* “Inside Llewyn Davis”, Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
* “Michael Kohlhaas”, Arnaud Despallieres
* “Jimmy P. (Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian)”, Arnaud Desplechin
* “Heli”, Amat Escalante
* “Le Passe” (The Past), Asghar Farhadi
* “The Immigrant”, James Gray
* “Grigris”, MahamatnSaleh Haroun
* “Tian Zhu Ding” (“A Touch of Sin”), Jia Zhangke
* “Soshite Chichi Ni Naru” (“Like Father, Like Son”), KorenEda Hirokazu
* “La Vie d’Adele” (“The Life of Adele”), Abdellatif Kechiche
* “Wara No Tate” (“Shield of Straw”),
Takashi Miike
* “Jeune et Jolie” (“Young and Pretty”), Francois Ozon
* “Nebraska”, Alexander Payne
* “La Venus a la Forrure”, Roman Polanski
* “Behind the Candelabra”, Steven Soderbergh
* “La Grande Bellezza” (“The Great Beauty”), Paolo Sorrentino
* “Borgman”, Alex van Warmerdam
* “Only God Forgives”, Nicolas Winding Refn

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