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Posted: 10:50 a.m. Thursday, April 17, 2014

Tommy Lee Jones leads U.S. films to Cannes 

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By Charles Ealy

American-Statesman staff

Texan Tommy Lee Jones will lead the U.S. contingent at the Cannes Film Festival this year as the director and star of the Western “The Homesman.” His co-stars include Hilary Swank, John Lithgow, Tim Blake Nelson, Meryl Streep and Hailee Steinfeld.

The movie focuses on a claim jumper (Jones) and a pioneer woman (Swank) who team up in the 1850s to escort a wagonload of “madwomen” from the frontier back to the East Coast. It has been called a frontier adventure in reverse. Jones co-wrote the script with Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley Oliver, Glendon Swarthout and Miles Hood Swarthout. It’s based on Glendon Swathout’s award-winning 1988 novel of the same name.

Jones won best actor for his directorial debut, “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” which premiered in Cannes in 2005.

Notably absent from this year’s lineup of competition films is Austin director Terrence Malick, who was expected to bring “Knight of Cups” to the French Riviera. The movie stars Christian Bale and Natalie Portman, and Thierry Fremaux, the director-general of the festival, was asked about Malick’s absence on Thursday morning at a press conference in Paris, where the official selection was announced. Fremaux said that Malick said he “was still tinkering with it.”

New York director Bennett Miller will also be in competition with “Foxcatcher,” at true story that stars Channing Tatum as an Olympic wrestling champion whose brother is murdered by a paranoid schizophrenic in the mid-1990s. Miller is best known as the director of “Moneyball” and “Capote.”

But the big news from Paris focused Thursday on Canada rather than the United States, with three Canadian directors taking  movies to the official competition. They are David Cronenberg, who satirizes Hollywood with “Map to the Stars,” starring Robert Pattinson; Atom Egoyan, who tells the story of a father who tries to track down his kidnapped daughter in “The Captive,” starring Ryan Reynolds and Scott Speedman; and Xavier Dolan, who looks at a troubled family in “Mommy.”

As usual, France was well-represented in the 18-film competition lineup, with the biggest name being the New Wave legend Jean Luc-Godard, who’ll be screening his 3-D “Goodbye to Language.”  Other French directors in completion include “The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius, with “The Search”; and Olivier Assayas, whose “Clouds of Sils Maria” stars Kristen Stewart, Juliette Binoche and Chloe Grace Moretz;

The Belgian team of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne are returning, too, trying to win their third Palme d’Or with “Two Days, One Night.” Britain will be represented by Ken Loach, who’ll screen “Jimmy’s Hall,” and Mike Leigh, whose latest is “Mr. Turner.”

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (“A Night in Anatolia”) will bring “Winter Sleep” to the festival, and members of the press are already buzzing that it’s more than three hours long.

Zhanh Yimou’s “Coming Home,” which stars Gong Li, will play out of competition, as will Olivier Dahan’s “Grace of Monaco,” which stars Nicole Kidman and will open the event.

In the Un Certain Regard sidebar, Ryan Gosling will make his directorial debut with “Lost River,” starring Christina Hendricks. Also in the sidebar are Matthieu Amalric’s “The Blue Room”; “The Salt of the Earth,” directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribero Salgado; and “Eleanor Rigby,” directed by Ned Benson and starring Jessica Chastain.

The festival takes place May 14 through 25. And two more festival sidebars, Directors Fortnight and Critics Week, have yet to announce their selections. So stay tuned.

About Charles Ealy

Charles Ealy writes and edits stories about movies, books and the arts for the Austin American-Statesman.

Send Charles Ealy an email.

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