Fri, May 02, 2008 - Page 17 News List

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Frances McDormand, left, and Brad Pitt, right, in a scene from the new Joel and Ethan Coen movie, Burn After Reading, a dark spy-comedy that will open this year’s Venice Film Festival.

PHOTO: AP

he final line-up for this year’s Cannes film festival sees veteran directors Clint Eastwood, Steven Soderbergh and Brazil’s Fernando Meirelles face off against lesser-known talent for its coveted Palme d’Or for best movie, organizers said Wednesday.

Bumping up the number of films to compete for the top prize from 19 to 22, organizers said in a surprise announcement that this year’s award will be handed out by Robert de Niro.

Canne’s mix of old and new, of Hollywood glitz and auteur fare, has proven a recipe for success as the film industry’s paramount festival gears up for its 61st edition from May 14 to May 25.

After viewing 1,792 films from 96 countries, organizers selected 22 movies to compete for the Palme with the countdown per continent at Asia (three), Europe (eight), Latin America (four), the US (four), and a film each from Israel, Canada and Turkey.

A yearly 12-day extravaganza of exclusive parties, red-carpet screenings, and wheeling and dealing, the festival this year expects movie celebs Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie, Penelope Cruz and Woody Allen — not to mention sporting giants Mike Tyson andDiego Maradona — to attend.

De Niro, apart from handing out the Palme, flies in for a red carpet ceremony as star of Barry Levinson’s What Just Happened, in which he plays a fading Hollywood producer. The film, also starring Bruce Willis and Sean Penn, closes the filmfest.

Kicking off the event is Blindness by Meirelles, best-known for his Oscar-nominated City of God or more recent The Constant Gardener. His new film, Blindness, stars Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo and Danny Glover as residents of a city mysteriously struck by creeping blindness.

Also added at the last-minute to compete for the Palme is James Gray’s Two Lovers starring Joaquin Phoenix as a New Yorker torn between Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw, a first sentimental drama by the maker of mafia crime chronicles such as Little Odessa and We Own the Night.

Eastwood’s Changeling is a thriller set in the 1920s starring Jolie as a mother grieving for a kidnapped son.

Soderbergh, best known for his Ocean’s movies, will be presenting a four-hour two-part movie entitled Che about the revolutionary hero’s life and times that stars Benicio del Toro, who played in the director’s 2000 hit Traffic.

Much-awaited also are the movies selected to be screened out of competition and getting their world release, including the latest from top-name directors Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg will be bringing the year’s most-awaited movie, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — the fourth installment in the box office-busting series starring Harrison Ford as the archaeologist adventurer who had his first outing way back in 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Woody Allen, a longstanding favorite at the Cannes filmfest, brings his Spanish-set Vicky Cristina Barcelona, along with its stars Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem, for a walk up the red carpet.

A kicking and punching Kung-Fu Panda — an animated comedy-adventure from Dreamworks with a voice cast boasting Jack Black, Jolie, Lucy Liu and Dustin Hoffman — has also been selected out of competition, along with The Good, The Bad, The Weird, a “kimchi” Western from South Korea’s Kim Jee-Woon.

High profile documentaries screening out of competition include an Emir Kusturica film about Maradona, a film on Tyson by James Toback and Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired by Marina Zenovich.

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