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Last Updated: Friday, 23 May, 2003, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Cannes favourites look to US
Nicole Kidman in Dogville
Dogville is one of the contenders for the Palme d'Or
Cannes film festival is building up to the announcement of the winner of the prestigious Palme d'Or prize with several US-focused films emerging as serious contenders.

This year 20 films are vying for the French festival's top prize which will be handed out on Sunday.

Danish director Lars von Trier's Dogville, Canadian Denys Arcand's the Barbarian Invasions and Elephant by Gus Van Sant are among the frontrunners.

But the competition selection this year has proved disappointing, with Screen Daily's Allan Hunter saying the "choices were considered the worst in living memory".

Dogville, which stars Nicole Kidman, was one film that did receive a good reception from the critics.

It centres around a woman who seeks refuge in a small American town but its inhabitants demand servitude in return for her safety.

Von Trier said that although he had never been to the US, this was no barrier to being uncomplimentary about what he saw coming out of the country.

Observation

"I don't see the American society as being very caring to the people who don't have much," he said.

"This is something I believe I ought to criticise, even though I haven't been there."

Drugstore Cowboy director Van Sant's latest offering Elephant is based on the lives of teenagers at a school which is raided by armed teenagers - it is based on the Columbine High School shootings of 1999.

Although the director said he did not want to explore why it had happened, his film observes what happened in the moments before and during the shooting.

And Arnand said his movie the Barbarian Invasions, although performed in French, focuses on the US.

"I am neither anti- nor pro-American," he said.

Vincent Gallo with Chloe Sevigny
Vincent Gallo directed and stars in Brown Bunny with Chloe Sevigny
"The United States dominates the world and we are all subjects of the empire whether we want to be or not. The Iraqis learnt something about that."

Cannes has suffered a 7% drop in guests from the US although there has been a large presence of Hollywood actors including Keanu Reeves, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Kidman.

The Hollywood Reporter said it was likely that "Cannes 2003 will go down as a soft market for American dealmakers".

'Useless'

Meanwhile Vincent Gallo, director and star of the controversial film Brown Bunny screened in competition this week, reportedly apologised for the movie after it received a disastrous reception from critics.

The film, which features an extended explicit sex scene, has been damned by critics as pretentious and self-indulgent.

Screen International reported that the film maker said sorry to the financiers and audiences for making a "useless" and "unengaging" film.

"I thought that I was compelled by something beautiful that I could share with other people," Screen International reported him as saying.

"I'm disappointed that people aren't responding to it in that way. I can only apologise to the people who feel they've wasted their time."




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