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Cannes Film Selections Announced

It promises to be deja vu all over again at Cannes, as directors long favored by the festival's organizers tussle for the top prize, which many of them have won before.

Organizers announced the official selection of films for this year on Thursday, calling up Cannes perennials like Joel and Ethan Coen, David Lynch and Japan's Shohei Imamura.

Among the 23 selected films are five American offerings, four French, two Italian and three Japanese as well as the first film from Bosnia: No Man's Land, by Danis Tanovic. Twelve countries are represented in the official selection, but Britain is notably absent.

Lynch, who won the top prize in 1990 for Wild at Heart, is back with Mulholland Drive. Sean Penn's The Pledge, starring Jack Nicholson, Oscar winner Benicio del Toro and Mickey Rourke, also will compete.

The Coens, who won the Palme d'Or in 1991 with Barton Fink, promise another taste of their unique take on the world in The Man Who Wasn't There, starring Frances McDormand and Billy Bob Thornton.

Last year, the brothers failed to score with O Brother, Where Art Thou? but the film's leading man George Clooney scored with screaming fans on the Croisette. He later won a Golden Globe award for his role.

This year, the faithful stargazers, who camp for hours near the red-carpeted steps on the Croisette, will be treated to appearances by Catherine Deneuve, Antonio Banderas, Gerard Depardieu, John Malkovich, Melanie Griffith and French model-turned-actress Laetitia Casta.

Deneuve, a Cannes regular and first lady of French cinema, stars with Malkovich in Manoel de Oliveira's Je Rentre a la Maison, showing in competition. The veteran Portuguese director won the Jury Prize in 1999 for The Letter.

In an unusual choice, the animated film Shrek also was selected to compete for the festival's highest honor. Directed by Andrew Adamson and Victoria Jenson, the film features the voice of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy.

French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard returns to Cannes with Eloge de L'amour. Japan's Imamura, who won the Palme d'Or for The Ballad of Narayama in 1983, presents Warm Water Under a Red Bridge.

Asian directors return in force after a strong showing last year, with two Taiwanese films and three from Japan. Back for the second consecutive year is Japan's Shinji Aoyama, whose black-and-white epic Eureka won critical acclaim but no awards last year.

Promising to bring Parisian chic to the Riviera is Australian Baz Luhrmann, whose Moulin Rouge, starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, opens the festival and is also competing.

The musical is set in the world-famous Montmartre cabaret in the hedonistic Paris of the 1890s and also stars John Leguizamo as the artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

But the sequined can-can extravaganza may be a rare bright spot in what promises to be, thematically, a rather grim festival. Organizers said the topics include mourning and melancholy, loneliness and violence.

A longer version of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, which won the Palme d'Or in 1979, will be screened out of competition, offering viewers an extra 53 minutes of the epic Vietnam movie.

Also showing out of competition will be Martin Scorsese's My Voyage in Italy and Wayne Wang's erotic The Center of the World.

 LivUllmann, the Norwegian actress and director, is presiding over the main jury that awards the Palme d'Or, won last year by Danish director Lars Von Trier for Dancer in the Dark.

The jury includes actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, Taiwanese director Edward Yang, and Terry Gilliam, director of cult film Brazil and member of the wacky Monty Python troupe.

British actress Charlotte Rampling will open the festival May 9 and present the awards when the nearly two-week extravaganza closes on May 20.