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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 May, 2004, 07:37 GMT 08:37 UK
Can Cannes bring back the buzz?
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online entertainment staff

This year's Cannes film festival, combining Hollywood glamour, arthouse excellence and industry dealing, opens on Wednesday.

Troy
Brad Pitt's Troy is among the Hollywood blockbusters being shown
Last year's Cannes was widely proclaimed as one of the dullest in festival history, with a paucity of stars, controversy and films to set the movie world alight.

But this year, there are signs the annual bonanza on the French Riviera could return to form.

A-list stars should be in abundance, with Brad Pitt, Cameron Diaz and Tom Hanks among those with films in the official selection.

Cannes will be a launch pad for Greek epic Troy, in which Pitt plays Achilles, while Shrek 2 - using the voice of Diaz - and The Ladykillers, starring Hanks, are both in the running for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

But the most attention could be given not to a screen idol but to the outspoken documentary-maker Michael Moore, whose new film, Fahrenheit 911, is also among the 18 movies in competition.

CANNES 2004 IN NUMBERS
Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers
57th annual festival
12 days
30,000 film professionals accredited
3,562 films submitted
18 feature films in competition for Palme d'Or
0 are British
"Already, the entire world is going to be watching Cannes because of Michael Moore," according to Steven Gaydos, executive editor of Variety magazine and co-author of Cannes: 50 Years of Sun, Sex and Celluloid.

"It's the most anticipated film of the year now. So I think Cannes is going to benefit from that," he told BBC News Online.

The buzz generated at Cannes could make or break the 46 movies that will get their world premieres at the event.

Thousands of film-makers, executives and journalists will be on the look-out for the next Crouching Tiger or Pulp Fiction - a movie that emerges from the pack and goes on to become a classic.

One contender is Zhang Yimou's martial arts romance House of Flying Daggers, according to Mr Gaydos.

"No-one has seen the movie so nobody really knows what it is but there's a lot of expectation," he adds.

Even if there is not a new Pulp Fiction, its director, Quentin Tarantino, will be heading this year's jury, and will ultimately decide who wins the festival's big prizes.

Kill Bill
Kill Bill director Quentin Tarantino will head the festival jury
"His presence there will be magnetic," Mr Gaydos says. "Lots of stars, big controversy, a celebrated festival president - it all sounds good to me."

And Cannes' artistic director Thierry Fremaux has put genre films like martial arts flicks, horrors and animations - not usually considered "serious" - on a par with the weighty arthouse offerings, Mr Gaydos says.

Mr Fremaux, in his first year solely in charge, has had the job of picking the best films from the 3,562 that were submitted - up more than 1,000 on last year.

The chosen films, which will be shown during the festival fortnight, are "as varied as imaginable", he has said.

"There is nothing to compare between them, if nothing other than a very strong direction resulting in strong stylistic differences."

Last year's choices suffered from a hangover from the end of Mr Fremaux's predecessor's reign, according to Nick James, editor of Sight and Sound magazine.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2 is one of two animations in the running for the Palme d'Or
"It was an atrocious selection last year," Mr James says. "But I'm optimistic that this year is going to be very exciting - I think it feels like a really vibrant mix."

The festival is trying to be more "welcoming" to Americans after some US reviewers had a "paranoid edge" last year, he says.

And there are more new film-makers on this year's list. "Most of the list is usually made up of auteurs who have been around a very long time.

"It feels a lot more flexible this year. And there does also seem to be a rather pronounced disinterest in British films."

The only UK films in this year's selection are Dear Frankie, in the Un Certain Regard section, and three shorts in the Cinefondation - or film school - section.

But Nick James adds: "For me, it's bound to be better than last year. I love Cannes - I'm somebody who has a good time every year, even when the films are bad."




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