Gregg Kilday
April 26, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Woody Harrelson and Patricia Arquette will be there; Robert Redford won’t. Cannes — still the world’s preeminent film festival — opens its 12-day run May 9, and with the final selection of films due this week, these are Make Nice With a French Official days for movie distributors, to whom a Cannes win guarantees a gusher of publicity.

”The festival could be more exciting than usual, at least in terms of brand-name directors,” predicts Newsweek film critic David Ansen, a regular attendee. A brand name Francis Ford Coppola — heads the prize jury, and three strong contenders are already slated: Robert Altman’s jazz-soaked ’30s thriller Kansas City, which may make Harry Belafonte a star all over again; Bernardo Bertolucci’s love story Stealing Beauty, with Jeremy Irons and ingenue of the moment Liv Tyler; and Joel Coen’s current U.S. hit, Fargo.

Other likely contenders include 1994 winner Chen Kaige’s Temptress Moon; David Cronenberg’s cult creep-out Crash, starring Holly Hunter and James Spader; and Stephen Frears’ The Van, completing his Roddy Doyle trilogy, although at press time it still wasn’t ready for consideration. The only major studio expected to compete is Warner Bros., with Michael Cimino’s Sunchaser, hoping the story of an oncological surgeon (Harrelson) abducted by an ailing gang member might generate some Côte d’Azur heat.

For glam value, Sharon Stone’s Diabolique had been rumored for the festival’s out-of-competition opening night. That was before the remake of the French classic debuted. Now bets are on Patrice Leconte’s Ridicule, set in the court of Louis XVI. Festival organizers reportedly sought Up Close & Personal for closing night, but Flirting With Disaster was drafted to fill the slot when Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer didn’t RSVP in the affirmative. Disaster‘s Arquette may not be the equal of a Pfeiffer or a Stone, but with husband Nicolas Cage alongside, she’s bound to set the paparazzi swarming the steps of the Palais.

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