11 buzz films

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The world premiere of Ron Howard's shrouded-in-secrecy "The Da Vinci Code" has created something of a smokescreen effect at the 59th Cannes Film Festival, which opens here Wednesday evening.

Usually in the days and hours leading up to the festival, tongues are wagging about controversial titles, possible surprises and potential flops in the competition and the sidebars.

This year, however, the worldwide polemic over "The Da Vinci Code" has most Cannes attendees hungering for a taste of the big-budget Hollywood production, which was shot in part at Paris' famed Louvre Museum.

The film, which will screen tonight for critics in Cannes, officially opens the festival Wednesday night with plenty of fanfare. A special Da Vinci Code Eurostar train will head out from London's Waterloo Station on Wednesday morning, carrying cast, crew and journalists to Cannes, where its arrival is sure to greeted by a throng of festival-goers.

Of course, once the "DaVinci Code" frenzy subsides, attentions will turn the more serious goings on at the festival.

Several films in both the main competition and the Un Certain Regard and Directors' Fortnight sections have good advance buzz — or have at least piqued strong curiosity — including works from Cannes habitués Pedro Almodovar and Nicole Garcia along with newbies Richard Linklater and Richard Kelly.

Here's a look at 11 films that have generated plenty of advance word of mouth.

"The Da Vinci Code"About the film: The adaptation of Dan Brown's controversial thriller centers on a quest for the real story behind Jesus and Mary Magdalene's relationship. Directed by: Ron Howard. Starring: Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany, Ian McKellen. Why it's hot: More than 40 million copies of the book have been sold, and the furor about the film from religious groups is peaking right on schedule.

"Fast Food Nation"About the film: Richard Linklater presents a fictionalized retelling of Eric Schlosser's best-selling book, which detailed the dark side of America's eating habits. Directed by: Richard Linklater. Starring: Ethan Hawke, Greg Kinnear, Avril Lavigne, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette. Why it's hot: In France, where locals gobbled up Morgan Spurlock's McDonald's lambaste "Super Size Me," they love to poke fun at America's penchant for grease. The film marks the competition debut of respected indie filmmaker Linklater, who is also the first director to have a concurrent film in Un Certain Regard.

"Selon Charlie"About the film: The story of six men and a little boy whose destinies intertwine in a French seaside town. Directed by: Nicole Garcia. Starring: Benoit Poelvoorde, Vincent Lindon, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Benoit Magimel. Why it's hot: Garcia, who is also an actress, has earned her reputation as a respected director. Her last turn behind the camera, "L'Adversaire," played at Cannes in 2002, and the new film has been garnering buzz for over a year because of its prestigious ensemble cast.

"Pan's Labyrinth"About the film: A fantasy thriller about a little girl struggling to come to grips with life in post-war Fascist Spain. Directed by: Guillermo Del Toro. Starring: Sergi Lopez, Ivana Baquero, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil. Why it's hot: Del Toro is a Cannes neophyte in competition terms, but he generated plenty of interest in this colorful production during a trip to the 2005 festival. Plus, Mexican directors seem to be especially hot this year (see "Babel").

"Volver"About the film: A multi-generational story about women and their mothers. Directed by: Pedro Almodovar. Starring: Penelope Cruz, Carmen Maura, Yohanna Cobo, Blanca Portillo. Why it's hot: Almodovar is a Cannes icon – "All About My Mother" took home prizes in 1999 while his "Bad Education" opened the festival in 2004. The film has done well in its native Spain, where Cruz has garnered some of the best reviews of her career.

"Marie Antoinette"About the film: A unique look at the life of France's most famous queen. Directed by: Sofia Coppola. Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Rip Torn, Judy Davis. Why it's hot: Coppola's third outing as director gets her a first time slot in the main competition ("The Virgin Suicides" ran in the Directors Fortnight in 1999). Everyone wants to know what she has up her sleeve this time, especially since she shot the film last year in Paris and Versailles, where cast and crew were embraced by the natives. This stylized look at an important part of France's history could be the cool favorite this year in Cannes.

"Days Of Glory"About the film: Set during World War II, this is the story of North African soldiers who fought alongside Americans against the Nazis. Directed by: Rachid Bouchareb. Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem, Samy Bouajila, Sami Naceri. Why it's hot: Director and producer Bouchareb (competition title "Flanders" is one of his productions) takes a look at a part of history that had been all but buried in France. Given the current socio-political climate in the country, it's a timely work.

"Southland Tales"About the film: Los Angeles, 2008. A heat-wave and terror bring chaos to the city. Directed by: Richard Kelly. Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, The Rock, Seann William Scott, Mandy Moore, Miranda Richardson. Why it's hot: "Donnie Darko" director Kelly's long-awaited second turn has fans expecting an interesting experience – and the cast should make for a sexy walk up the red carpet.

"Babel"About the film: Four stories set on three continents have a common thread after tragedy strikes in Morocco. Directed by: Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu. Starring: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho. Why it's hot: The competition's other Mexican director (he and Del Toro also happen to be friends) shot his film in Maghreb, Japan and Mexico with a high-wattage international cast. The film is written by Guillermo Arriaga, who won a Palme d'Or last year for his screenplay of "The Three Burials Of Melquiades Estrada."

"Azur and Asmar"About the film: This Director's Fortnight entry is an animated tale of two loving-turned-rival brothers on a magical, mysterious quest in North Africa. Directed by: Michel Ocelot. Starring: Cyril Mourali, Karim M'Riba, Hiam Abbass, Patrick Timsit. Why it's hot: Ocelot was behind the two very successful "Kirikou" films and is known for bringing an exotic take to the cartoon genre.

"A Scanner Darkly"About the film: This Un Certain Regard entry is an animated sci-fi mystery with spying its central theme is set in a futuristic Orange County. Directed by: Richard Linklater. Starring: Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder. Why it's hot: Linklater's second official selection this year is shot in a similar style to 2001's "Waking Life" and is based on the Philip K. Dick story. Cannes-goers are excited to see how Linklater scored a historical first with two berths. Plus, the topic of spying in the U.S. couldn't be more current.

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