While Cannes Film Festival selector Thierry Fremaux is said to have been given freer rein this year by festival president Gilles Jacob, there seems a good chance that many familiar, arthouse heroes will be strutting the Croisette than ever before.
Despite selectors from all of the festival's sections said to be running behind schedule at the moment - it would appear that this year's festival (May 15-26) will bear witness to the rise of Korean, Thai and Chinese cinema, coupled with a what looks certain to be a revival of British fortunes after an absence from last year's competition. As always, a heavy presence of French and American filmmakers seems likely. The competition jury president this year is David Lynch.
The Critics Week is to return to the slimmer shape of three years ago, with just seven films, no documentaries and a focus on experimental European features. The Director's Fortnight (Quinzaine), under the auspices of MariePierre Macia for the second time, is said to be close to announcing a preliminary list of half a dozen selections in the next week or two.
In addition, there is talk of mounting an official Cannes retrospective devoted to actor Anthony Quinn, who died shortly after completing Avenging Angelo opposite Sylvester Stallone
Fremaux and Jacob have apparently given their scouts room to pick films from further afield and to judge even the most established auteurs on their film's merits, not the director's venerability. But, as was seen at last year's leading festivals, many of the old masters are on form.
The competition line up could easily include previous prize winners Steven Soderbergh, Mike Leigh, the Dardennes brothers, Manoel De Oliveira, Abbas Kiarostami, David Cronenberg, Thomas Vinterberg and Atom Egoyan (for details see tip sheet below).
They could be joined on the Croisette - in or out of competition by the likes of Ken Loach, Neil Jordan, Gus Van Sant, Brian De Palma, Marco Bellocchio, Olivier Assayas, Stephen Daldry, Catherine Breillat, Tonie Marshall, Gaspar Noe, John Sayles, Sergei Bodrov, Julie Taymor, Wong Kar-Wai, Roman Polanski and even Woody Allen, whose latest, a comic ode to filmmaking with references to French cinema, seems tailor-made for an Opening or Closing Night slot.
Other directors with strong chances of appearing in the festival include Russia's Valery Todorovsky, Korea's Park Kwangsu and Jang Sun-woo, Japan's Tsukamoto Shinji and India's Deepa Mehta.
But festival watchers may have to wait until later events for the official unveiling of such auteurist hot tickets as Zhang Yimou's Hero, Sam Mendes' The Road To Perdition, Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things, Theo Angelopoulos' The Weeping Field, Phillip Noyce's The Quiet American, Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven and Lee Changdong's Oasis, all which are unlikely to be ready. Martin Scorsese's Gangs Of New York is now tipped to get a Lord Of The Ring's style footage screening during Cannes this year; and Pedro Almodovar has decided to by-pass Cannes altogether and show his Talk To Her in Spanish and Italian cinemas first.
Meanwhile, on the market side, Cannes is bracing itself for some buoyant trading despite all the extra security measures being planned. The common consensus among buyers and sellers is that the Croisette will benefit from the official unveiling, either as part of the festival or the market, of all those films that were hurriedly shot before the deadline for last year's actors' and writers strikes.
While rights to many of those could have been bought at earlier events such as the AFM and Berlin, buyers' new-found caution kept many from committing major offers to unfinished and untested pictures. They would rather see the film unspool first, preferably in front of an audience of the festival-going public and media opinion-shapers, before making their bids.
That said, Cannes' organisers appear keen now to downplay their attendant film market activities in favour of focusing the limelight on the conventional festival activities as part of a new branding exercise. So, while the Cannes Market is growing and becoming concentrated in the modern facilities provided by the Riviera, it is seeing its separate identity de-emphasised and its promotional budget pared back. The MITIC technology sidebar has been abandoned completed
French promotional body, Unifrance Film International is set to move out of the Ambassades salons and will relocate instead to the Gare Maritime, which is used during the MIP events. The space will instead be used by the festival for additional guest facilities and the security features which have had to be expanded since the events of Sept 11.
Here is Screen International's tip-sheet for what could show up at Cannes this year (or indeed subsequent international film festivals); much of it is no more than guesswork based on the directors' pedigree and the known completion dates of their new work. For the purposes of this list - and because so many films are now international co-productions - the films' respective nationalities have been determined by their directors' country of origin.
CANNES 2002 CONTENDERS
Le Fils (JeanPierre & Luc Dardennes)
Max (Menno Meyjes)
Spider (David Cronenberg)
Ararat (Atom Egoyan)
Springtime In A Small Town (Tian Zhuangzhuang)
The Chinese Seamstress (Dai Sijie)
Unknown Pleasure (Jia Zhang-ke)
The Best Of Times (Chang Tso-chi)
The Pianist (Roman Polanski)
Au Plus Pres De Paradis (Tonie Marshall)
L'Adversaire (Nicole Garcia)
Demon Lover (Olivier Assayas)
La Repentie (Laetitia Masson)
Irreversible (Gaspar Noe)
Scenes Intimes (Catherine Breillat)
Two (Werner Schroeter)
2046 (Wong Kar-Wai)
Water (Deepa Mehta)
L'Ora De Religione (Marco Bellocchio)
The Bankers Of God (Guiseppe Ferrara) Un Certain Regard
Untitled (Abbas Kiarostami)
The Honest Thief (Neil Jordan) out of competition
East Of Harlem (Jim Sheridan)
Drunken Painting Master (Im Kwon-taek)
On The Occasion Of Remembering The Turning Gate (Hong Sang-soo)
Revenge Is Mine (Park Chan-wook) Quinzaine
Cafe Cortado (Arturo Ripstein)
It's All About Love (Thomas Vinterberg)
The Sea (Baltasar Kormakur)
The Seagull's Laughter (Agust Gudmundsson)
Innocence (Kristian Levring)
Vagabond (Aki Kaurismaki)
I Am Dina (Ole Bornedal)
Joia De Familia (Manoel De Oliveira)
The Bear's Kiss (Sergei Bodrov)
The Russian Ark aka Waterloo (Alexander Sokurov)
Vojna (Alexei Balabanov)
The Eye (Danny Pang)
Monrak Transistor (Penek Ratanaruang) Quinzaine
Untitled (Nouri Bouzid)
All Or Nothing (Mike Leigh)
Sweet Sixteen (Ken Loach)
Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay)