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Gus Van Sant among high-powered directors in competition at Cannes

Gus Van Sant among high-powered directors in competition at Cannes

The Cannes film festival leaves politics to the politicians in 2005, focusing on feature movies and leaving no room for documentaries like Michael Moore's Bush-bashing polemic that won last year's top prize. As well as featuring some of the world's great directors, this year's festival will also host an out-of-competition premiere for the eagerly awaited final installment of George Lucas's Star Wars series, organizers said on Tuesday. Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a searing indictment of George W. Bush and his reaction to the attacks of September 11, 2001, won the coveted Palme d'Or in 2004, fighting off competition from, among others, the animated flick Shrek 2. This year things will be different, with no documentaries or animated films among the 20 competition entries. Cannes organizers described the more conservative lineup this time around as a reflection of the kinds of films being made. "Last year we wanted to present the importance of documentary cinema and animation," said Thierry Fremaux, who heads the selection committee at the world's top cinema showcase. "This year, there is a return to a certain classicism, the great auteurs, many of whom have already been in the competition," he told a news briefing in Paris. Treading the red carpets in the French Riviera resort will be legendary directors such as Canadian-born David Cronenberg, openly gay American Gus Van Sant (with Last Days), and Germany's Wim Wenders. Cronenberg's A History of Violence stars Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris, while Wenders's Don't Come Knockin' features Jessica Lange and Tim Roth. Denmark's Lars von Trier, whose Manderlay is in competition, has also attracted an impressive cast, including Willem Dafoe, Danny Glover, and Lauren Bacall. Von Trier, Van Sant, and Wenders have all previously won the Palme d'Or. Against such established figures are several Asian filmmakers: Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai with Shanghai Dreams, Taiwan-based Hou Hsiao-Hsien with The Best of Our Times, and Japan's Masahiro Kobayashi with Bashing. Hollywood actor Tommy Lee Jones, famous for his roles in the Men in Black comedy series, makes his feature directorial debut with The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, in which he also stars. Lucas will be hoping to win over the critics with the final installment of the hugely successful Star Wars franchise after a disappointing reception for his last two offerings. He has described Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith as a "Titanic in space" and a "real tearjerker." The Star Wars films, the first of which was released in 1977, have sold nearly $3.4 billion worth of tickets worldwide. Organizers noted that there were fewer European films in the main competition than normal, and they broke with tradition by not announcing the full jury lineup at the same time they revealed the selection. The jury will be headed by Bosnian director Emir Kusturica. Horror film fans can look forward to a 20-minute collage of scenes from George Romero's works to be shown, naturally, on Friday, May 13. (Wilfrid Exbrayat, via Reuters)

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