The French may loathe Americans even more than usual these days, but that hasn't stopped them from inviting and welcoming some of Hollywood's biggest names to France over the next few months. Most notably, they've invited Meg Ryan and Steven Soderbergh to fill two of the nine slots on the jury next month at the Cannes Film Festival. Soderbergh's qualification: He directed ''sex, lies, and videotape,'' which won the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize, in 1989. As for Ryan, she starred in 1995's ''French Kiss,'' for which the French have apparently forgiven her but not her Pepe LePew-accented costar, Kevin Kline.
Other slots on the Cannes jury, headed by French director Patrice Chereau (''Queen Margot''), went to French actors Jean Rochefort and Karin Viard, Bosnian director Danis Tanovic (the Oscar-winning ''No Man's Land''), Chinese director Jiang Wen, Italian screenwriter Erri de Luca, and Bollywood actress and former Miss World Aishwarya Rai.
There will be some other Hollywood names at Cannes, which runs May 14 to 25. The stars of ''Matrix Reloaded'' will be there for a screening timed to the film's worldwide opening on the 15th; in fact, ''Matrix'' villainess Monica Bellucci is the festival's mistress of ceremonies. (Then again, she's an Italian married to a French actor, Vincent Cassel.) Nicole Kidman is expected to come for ''Dogville,'' as is her ex-husband, Tom Cruise, whose girlfriend Penélope Cruz stars in the festival's opening film, the swashbuckler ''Fanfan la Tulipe.'' Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton are not expected at Cannes, but they will be in Paris later this summer to shoot a yet-untitled romantic comedy. It's not exactly détente, but it's not just warmed-over Freedom fries, either.