U.S. may adjust 2014 corn ethanol target after outcry: sources

The Obama administration is likely to partly backtrack on proposed steep cuts to renewable fuel targets for 2014 when it finalizes a rule due out in June, industry sources said.

Biofuel groups expect the Environmental Protection Agency to send the final proposed targets to the White House as soon as Friday.

The EPA shocked biofuel supporters in November with a draft rule that slashed federal requirements for biofuel use in gasoline and diesel. The agency argued that U.S. energy class="mandelbrot_refrag">markets could not absorb the levels of class="mandelbrot_refrag">renewable fuels that would be required by a 2007 law.

 
 
 

Since then, though, rising projections for gasoline consumption give the agency leeway to raise its corn ethanol target from November's proposal of about 13 billion gallons to about 13.6 billion, a biofuel industry source said.

The more gasoline consumed, the more ethanol that can be absorbed before hitting the "blend wall," the point at which the law would require more ethanol to be used than the 10 percent blend found at most U.S. gas stations.

The rumored adjustment would still leave the corn ethanol target for 2014 far below the 14.4 billion gallons called for by law, and will likely enrage oil companies who lobbied hard for cuts to the targets.

The industry source said administration officials have told stakeholders that "no one is going to be happy" regarding the final rule.

The Renewable Fuel Standard requires increasing amounts of various types of biofuels to be blended into U.S. gasoline and diesel supplies each year through 2022.

Citing the looming blend wall, the EPA issued a proposal last year to cut the overall biofuel use target from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons, the first overall cut in the program's history.

Refiners said the reductions were necessary to prevent crippling compliance costs for their industry and possible fuel shortages.

Tim Cheung, an energy analyst for ClearView Energy, also predicted an ethanol requirement of 13.6 billion gallons. He noted the targets could be raised higher if EPA estimates there will be more consumption of the 85 percent ethanol blend, known as E-85, used in flex-fuel vehicles. An estimated 10.6 million such vehicles are now on U.S. roads.

Biodiesel producers said Wednesday the administration has hinted that it plans to leave the biodiesel target at the proposed 1.28 billion gallons, while slightly raising the overall target for advanced biofuels from 2.2 billion gallons.

"This decision would have lasting, damaging consequences for the jobs and economic activity supported by the U.S. biodiesel industry, while undermining your efforts to boost U.S. energy security through clean, domestic energy production," Joe Jobe, chief executive of the National Biodiesel Board, said in a letter to President class="mandelbrot_refrag">Barack Obama.

Jobe said raising the advanced biofuel target, without increasing the biodiesel requirement, would merely encourage large amounts of imports of Brazilian sugarcane ethanol.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe, editing by Ros Krasny and Andrew Hay)

India hits U.S., China with solar imports anti-dumping duties

class="mandelbrot_refrag">India will impose anti-dumping duties on solar panels imported from the United States, class="mandelbrot_refrag">China, Taiwan and Malaysia to protect domestic solar manufacturers, according to a government statement seen by Reuters on Friday.

The order, almost certain to anger India's trading partners, sets duties of between 11 and 81 U.S. cents per watt and comes after a investigation which started in 2011. The ruling by a quasi-judicial body has to be published by the class="mandelbrot_refrag">Finance Ministry before it takes effect.

The decision adds to India's growing trade disputes just before Narendra Modi takes office as prime minister on Monday.

 
 
 

"Imposition of anti-dumping measures would remove the unfair advantages gained by dumping practices," said India's Anti-Dumping Authority in its order released on Thursday.

Local manufacturers have long complained that U.S., Chinese and Malaysian companies enjoy state subsidies and are selling their products at artificially low prices to capture the Indian market.

class="mandelbrot_refrag">India also believes that anti-dumping duties imposed on Chinese solar producers by the European Union and the United States have further driven down the price of Chinese solar products, to the detriment of Indian suppliers.

India aims to raise its solar power capacity to 20,000 MW by 2022 from 1,700 MW currently. It imported solar products worth nearly 60 billion rupees ($1.03 billion) last year, according to an industry estimate. Domestic manufacturers got less than 2 percent of that class="mandelbrot_refrag">business.

"India's solar manufacturing is now bound to revive and further increase with both local and overseas participation ensuring a robust supply chain," said H.R. Gupta of the Indian Solar Manufacturers' Association.

Under the new duties, importers will have to bear additional costs of between 5 percent and 110 percent while importing solar cells and panels from the United States, Malaysia and class="mandelbrot_refrag">China.

The U.S. Trade Representative has filed two cases against India at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), complaining local content rules discriminate against U.S. solar companies.

A senior USTR official said the United States would look carefully at the new duties given the importance of the U.S. solar industry.

(Reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Ron Popeski)

Chinese woman first to climb Everest after deadly Nepal avalanche

A Chinese woman climbed Mount Everest on Friday, a government official said, the first person to go up from the Nepali side since an April avalanche killed 16 guides and forced hundreds of foreigners to abandon attempts on the world’s highest mountain.

The deadliest accident in the history of Mount Everest triggered a dispute between Sherpa guides who wanted a climbing ban in honor of their colleagues for this season ending this month and the government that refused to close the mountain.

Tourism Ministry official Dipendra Poudel said 40-year-old Wang Jing reached the 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) summit on Friday afternoon in good weather. She climbed with five Sherpa guides along the Southeast Ridge route pioneered by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.

 
 
 

Tourism including mountain climbing contributes four percent to Nepal’s GDP.

More than 4,000 people have climbed Mount Everest since it was first scaled in 1953 while more than 250 have died on the slopes of the mountain which can also be climbed from class="mandelbrot_refrag">China.

The Nepali guides were ferrying supplies for foreign clients when the avalanche struck on April 18 in Khumbu Icefall on a treacherous stretch of a planned route.

RISKS

The disaster highlighted the tremendous risks sherpas take to guide their foreign clients to the top.

Authorities were accused of doing little for the sherpas while it collected considerable sums from foreign climbers. Sherpas were unhappy with the government that paid $400 to the families to meet funeral costs.

The row forced 334 foreign climbers to call off bids and the government agreed to allow them to climb on the same permit if they returned within five years.

Each climber pays $10,000 for the permit which is a key source of revenue for the cash strapped government.

Wang took a helicopter from the base camp to Camp II to avoid the hazardous section of the route damaged by the avalanche which was yet to be fixed with ropes and ladders.

“Wang is the first climber to top Mount Everest this season. This is a historic ascent and a positive thing for Nepal’s mountain tourism,” Poudel told Reuters.

“This is the proof that Mount Everest was not closed after the avalanche and it will never be closed,” he said.

Poudel said Wang had descended to Camp IV at 7,900 meters (25,900 feet) from the summit and was expected to climb down to lower camps at the weekend.

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It was not immediately clear if she would take a helicopter back to the base camp across the portion of the route damaged by the avalanche.

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(Reporting by Gopal Sharma)

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Crews optimistic about weather in fighting Arizona wildfire

Crews fighting a major wind-swept wildfire that has threatened hundreds of Arizona homes in a scenic area could look to the skies with optimism on Friday, buoyed by forecasts of improved weather conditions, a top fire official said.

    About 900 firefighters took to the fire lines amid higher moisture and favorable winds as they continued efforts to hold off a 7,500-acre blaze that threatens 300 homes and businesses in Oak Creek Canyon, a popular class="mandelbrot_refrag">recreation spot about 120 miles (190 km) north of Phoenix.

The so-called Slide Fire, which has not destroyed any homes or caused any major injuries, remained at 5 percent containment on Friday, officials said.

 
 
 

"It looks like the weather is going to cooperate for the next couple of days," Incident Commander Tony Sciacca told a news conference. "One of the promising things ... is that our relative humidity is on the rise and will continue to be.”

But he also cautioned that any precipitation could make the already difficult firefighting more dangerous, with rocks and other debris potentially falling from the canyon slopes.

    Sciacca said crews had "a really good night" defending structures threatened by the blaze and quickly extinguishing several spot fires that sparked.

    The fire broke out on Tuesday, prompting an undetermined number of people to evacuate their homes and cabins along a two-mile stretch in the canyon. The American Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter at a school in nearby Flagstaff.

About 3,000 residents living in two area subdivisions also have been put on notice to be ready to flee their homes if the fire advances closer. Officials said the nearest residence remained more than three miles away on Friday.

     Anxious residents from Kachina Village and Forest Highlands packed a meeting with fire officials on Thursday, with some choosing to leave and not wait for mandatory evacuations.

     "We are working very hard to get those people a little bit more relief and a little bit more comfort about being in their houses," Sciacca told reporters.     

     The fire, believed to have been caused by people, broke out north of Slide Rock State Park, a popular class="mandelbrot_refrag">recreation area.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and James Dalgleish)

Magnitude 6.4 quake strikes off coast of Greece - USGS

A magnitude 6.4 earthquake struck off the coast of northern class="mandelbrot_refrag">Greece on Saturday, some 77 km (48 miles) south-southwest of Alexandroupolis, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

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The USGS said the quake's depth was 10 km (six miles). There were no immediate reports of casualties or serious damage.

Residents in Istanbul in neighboring class="mandelbrot_refrag">Turkey felt a small tremor that lasted around 10 seconds.

No further details were immediately available.

 
 
 

(Reporting by Karolina Tagaris, Editing by Alison Williams/Mark Heinrich)

Hurricane Amanda forms far off Mexican Pacific coast

Hurricane Amanda, the first named big storm of the Pacific hurricane season, formed off the west coast of Mexico on Saturday morning and churned north, where it was projected to gain strength but stay far out at sea.

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Amanda was located 645 miles (1,035 km) southwest of the Mexican port of Manzanillo with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 km/h) and the storm was moving west-northwest at 5 miles per hour (7 km/h), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based center said the storm could become a major hurricane by Sunday, but that there were no coastal watches in effect. class="mandelbrot_refrag">Mexico has no significant oil installations on its Pacific coast.

 
 
 

(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; editing by Gunna Dickson)

Hurricane Amanda strengthens quickly, wheels far off Mexico

Hurricane Amanda rapidly gained strength far off the west coast of Mexico on Saturday evening and churned farther out to sea.

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Amanda reached category 3 strength after becoming the first named hurricane of the Pacific season earlier on Saturday.

It was located 665 miles (1,075 km) southwest of the Mexican port of Manzanillo, with maximum sustained winds of 115 mph (185 km/h), the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.

The Miami-based center said the storm could still gain more power as it turns to the north-northwest on Sunday and then begins to weaken Monday. There were no coastal watches in effect and class="mandelbrot_refrag">Mexico has no significant oil installations on its Pacific coast.

 
 
 

(Reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Gunna Dickson & Kim Coghill)

Black Keys score Billboard No. 1, hold off Jackson and Parton

Grammy-winning rockers the Black Keys debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 weekly album chart on Wednesday, coming in ahead of an album of original songs from late singer Michael Jackson and country music star Dolly Parton's latest album.

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"Turn Blue," the eighth studio album from the Ohio duo, sold 164,000 copies in its first week, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan.

"Xscape," a posthumous collection of eight unreleased tracks from Jackson, sold 157,000 copies, boosted by a high-profile performance featuring a singing and dancing Jackson as a hologram at Sunday's televised Billboard Awards.

 
 
 

Other new debuts in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 include country music group Rascal Flatts at No. 5 with "Rewind," Dolly Parton's "Blue Smoke" at No. 6 and singer-songwriter Tori Amos at No. 7 with "Unrepentant Geraldines." Christian music singer Michael W. Smith rounded out the top 10 with "Sovereign."

For the week ended May 18, overall album sales totaled 4.5 million, down 11 percent from the comparable week in 2013, Billboard said.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Lisa Shumaker)

Cannes autograph-hunters brave sun, rain, long hours for 'dream'

Packed behind security barriers, scorched by the sun and pelted by rain, they are the real stars of the Cannes film festival - the intrepid autograph hunters.

The fans on the front line of the world's largest cinema showcase, perched on stepladders across from the famous red carpet steps, are ecstatic about all the celebrities and the glamour.

"I'm living my dream ... There's no one happier than I am. It's been building up since when I was six or seven," said Martine Santoro, 61, who watched the images from Cannes when she was a child in Paris and vowed to get there one day in person.

 
 
 

A toy piano rigged up on the front of Santoro's stepladder is her homage to this year's festival jury president, "The Piano" director Jane Campion.

The instrument caught Campion's eye on opening night and she came over to sign an autograph, as did Nicole Kidman, there to promote her starring role in "Grace of Monaco".

As the movie legends pass by, the hunters scream and implore, waving notepads and pens.

"Those who want autographs put themselves in front, and those who want photos go behind, it works out nicely. It's the hierarchy of the stepladders," said Marseille resident Jean-Marc Stahl, 64, attending his 19th Cannes.

"Once it starts, and everyone is in place, you can't move around anymore. You're stuck."

CHAMPAGNE

Competition for a good position is fierce. Stahl lined up five days before the festival opened to nab a front-row spot and now takes turns with others to guard against interlopers.

"There are people who show up on Wednesday morning for the opening night and they say, 'Okay, I'm going to put my stuff here' and we say, 'Whoa, wait a minute, no way!'"

In the lulls between celebrity sightings, the autograph hunters relax into their own Cannes party.

"Of course, we have champagne," said Santoro. "And we drink rose at night ... it's very convivial." Before or after the red carpet arrivals? "Both."

Not all of the stars are as accommodating as Kidman.

Actress Kristen Stewart provoked boos, hisses and tears when she turned her back on fans who had come from all over class="mandelbrot_refrag">France to see the "Twilight" star three years ago, Santoro said.

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Action star Bruce Willis pulled the same stunt, said Stahl.

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"One year, he got out of the car and he was scared of the crowd, he took off," Stahl said. "It's crazy because when you see him, he's such a tough guy in films, but no. He got booed."

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Not far from the autograph seekers, standing outside the main festival building is Philippe Durand, holding a small sign in French: "An invite, please."

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The 36-year-old is a member of another Cannes coterie - the small army of movie buffs hoping to persuade passing festival-goers to hand over spare tickets to screenings not open to the public.

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He and his fellow ticket hunters are "rendering a service" to festival organizers, making sure they had full houses for screenings.

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"It's a different concept," said Durand, who traveled from Paris and had managed to see four or five films out of the 18 competing for the main Palme d'Or prize.

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"We're really not into seeing the stars, we just want to see the films."

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(Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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In break from Bollywood, India's Cannes contender tackles Delhi's darker side

A film that breaks with Bollywood and delivers an atypical dose of social realism that left its leading actor feeling depressed during shooting is India's only contender at this season's Cannes festival.

"Titli", by Kanu Behl, which tackles the family violence and poor treatment of women that blight Indian society, is one of 19 films competing in the 'Un Certain Regard' category for emerging directors, with prizes to be handed out on Friday.

Behl's first feature as director follows the quiet and withdrawn Titli - 'butterfly' in Hindi - who is desperate to break from his all-male family of car-jackers living in a suburban slum but finds every exit blocked and every dream destroyed.

 
 
 

    "It is for me a film that takes on the Holy Grail of Indian cinema, which is the family, and says 'Hey look! There's all this happening and why aren't we talking about it?'" Behl, who had previously worked on documentaries, told Reuters TV.

To try to live a better life and earn extra money, Titli's brothers and father arrange a marriage to Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi), an intelligent and attractive girl who also finds her dreams shattered and looks set to spend her life surrounded by violent men.

    The pair contrive to escape their similar situations, away from the ears and eyes of violent brothers.

The film, which maintains a documentary feel, strives to make the viewer "feel the violence and get a sense of why these people are behaving in the way they are," Behl added.

    Actor Shashank Arora, who plays Titli, admitted that the gritty subject matter, rarely seen in Indian cinema, made him feel "very depressed" during the shoot, in which he appears in every scene.

    "There is so much violence back home in class="mandelbrot_refrag">India and there is a lot of harassment against women and that's just the beginning of it and I think we're just skimming the surface with this film," he said.  

"I think we're just beginning to find ourselves and beginning to find the stories that are really Indian and not Bollywood cinema and we're really trying to explore and look within ourselves and find where does this come from, where does this violence stem from."

Eschewing the glamour, frivolity and fairy-tale endings of Bollywood cinema, the backdrop of "Titli" is the teeming slums outside Delhi where millions struggle to survive day to day.

"There are these two separate worlds. There is a world of the 'haves' that are going to the malls in class="mandelbrot_refrag">India who are consuming more and more ... and then there is in that world the 'have nots' who are there to serve these other people," Behl said.

"There are almost like satellite cities all around the big city now where these people go back to and it's about going back to that and living those 12 hours which are so different from the other 12 hours you see every day."

(Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by John Stonestreet)

Dolan's troubled teen wows at Cannes, Loach film disappoints

Whizz-kid Canadian director Xavier Dolan screened a tour-de-force black comedy at Cannes about a disturbed teenager's relationship with his mother, while Ken Loach's "Jimmy's Hall," shown on Thursday, described a communist leader from Ireland's past.

The film by Dolan, 25, won raves from critics after its press screening on Wednesday night. British director Loach's latest, on the other hand, was described by one reviewer as "inert". Only three days are left until the main prizes are awarded on Saturday.

"Mommy" is one of three Canadian films competing for the Palme d'Or, alongside David Cronenberg's critique of Hollywood, "Maps to the Stars", and "The Captive" from Atom Egoyan.

 
 
 

It is the fifth film by Dolan, who took Cannes by storm in 2009 with three awards for his debut, "I Killed My Mother." As its title suggests, he is sometimes described as being engaged in "therapy through filmmaking" to work out his relationship with his mother.

"I don't know why this is such fertile ground that inspires me, why do I so often talk about the role of mother in society, the role of women in general," said at a news conference.

"I grew up in a single-family home and I saw my mother fighting for things," he said. "And that made me want, through cinema, to take revenge in a sense. You have the right to do anything you want in a film."

The riveting Anne Dorval plays Diane, or "Die", a single mother trying to raise Steve (Antoine Olivier Pilon), a foul-mouthed and mentally unstable teenage son prone to violent outbursts who has just been released from detention.

The film shows Steve, fresh out of a detention center which he has tried to burn to the ground, returning from the mall to proudly present his mother with a necklace that says "Mommy."

But when she accuses him of stealing it, his face falls, a fuse blows and Steve goes ballistic,. He smashes the living room and, in a weeping, breathless rage, takes out his frustration, anger and sense of betrayal on her.

The film is cinematically inventive - using shifting aspect ratios - and is loud and energetic as the indefatigable Die struggles to control her uncontrollable son. Variety chief critic Peter Debruge called it "a funny, heartbreaking and, above all, original work ..."

POWER OF THE CHURCH

The new film by Loach, who won the Palme d'Or in 2006 for "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" based on Ireland's 1922-23 civil war, returns to the rural class="mandelbrot_refrag">Ireland of a decade later, when the divisions caused by the conflict are still raw.

Into this tinderbox steps Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward), a little-known historical figure. He was a communist when there were only 100 in the entire country, bringing back to his native class="mandelbrot_refrag">Ireland a set of views he developed in America during the Great Depression.

At first the once-popular Gralton, tries to stay aloof and live quietly with his widowed mother. But neighbors who had helped him build a now-abandoned dance hall prevail on him to reopen it - and teach them the swing dancing he has learned in America, with music played on a gramophone he has brought back.

This and other actions quickly bring Gralton and his supporters into conflict with the powerful Roman Catholic church and the local landlords. They lead to Gralton's becoming the only citizen of the Irish Republic to be deported from the country - for holding an American passport - without a hearing.

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Screenwriter Paul Laverty said his portrayal of Father Sheridan (Jim Norton), who finds jazz to be the tool of the devil and denounces the communist Gralton from the pulpit, was more nuanced than his research had shown actual church leaders of the time to be.

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"They were almost too crude and too vicious and to write someone like that it just wouldn't have been interesting."

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Loach, known for his leftist views, said that if Gralton were alive "the ideas he fought for at the time, I think they're even more relevant today".

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(Editing by Larry King)

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Ukraine protest film in Cannes has "cast of thousands"

Seeing people shot down as the insurrection in Kiev's Maidan square built to a climax might not be everyone's idea of a movie night out, but watching it filmed on the epic scale of Russian director Sergei Eisenstein's films is breathtaking.

That is exactly what the Ukrainian director Sergei Loznitsa had in mind for his documentary film "Maidan", screened this week at the Cannes International Film Festival.

His film is a fly-on-the-wall view of the Maidan uprising, which started last year and led to President Viktor Yanukovich fleeing the country in February. It has a cast of thousands - the very people who protested in the square day after day, week after week, to oust the Russian-backed Yanukovich.

 
 
 

Loznitsa, whose previous feature films have dealt with fictionalized but gritty topics such as a man during World War Two being accused of collaborating with the Germans, said his inspiration for "Maidan" came from "Strike" by Eisenstein, the Soviet director best known for his epic "Battleship Potemkin" which practically invented the term "cast of thousands".

"The question is how I created drama. Well, there is a great example that exists in our culture, in the culture of Russian cinema, and it’s the film 'Strike' by Eisenstein, where you have these great masses of people in action," Loznitsa told Reuters.

Loznitsa's film takes more than two hours to play out and it has its longeurs, especially at the beginning when the protest in Kiev's main square against Yanukovich's decision to scrap an association agreement with the European Union assumed a lighthearted, carnival atmosphere.

People are shown cooking huge vats of food, carrying around trays of tea to the huge crowd and listening to protest songs.

Anti-government speeches blasted from a central stage over a massive sound system can be heard constantly on the soundtrack but the people making those speeches are almost never seen, which Loznitsa said was by design.

"As far as the politicians were concerned I had the impression that it wasn’t them who were the leaders and in control of events. They had no hand in the turn of events and what inevitably happened," he said.

"The film was going to be about people. I didn’t want to have a number of main protagonists and that’s why I needed long takes, long static takes to show the people.”

The mood of the protesters turns distinctly darker, and the film's pace picks up, as the occupation of the square stretches into February of this year.

A march on parliament by the protesters to demand Yanukovich's ouster provokes battles with police and shortly afterwards riot police move in to clear the square.

It is in these scenes that Loznitsa's fly-on-the-wall viewpoint with a widescope, cinema camera really pays off.

The screen is filled with details as the unflinching lens records a policeman being shot on a rooftop, a protester asking people for a light for his Molotov cocktail and later, during the police effort to crush the protest, several people falling to the ground as they are struck by police bullets.

There is no narration, except for the constant speechifying and ranting over the protesters' sound system, but at various points the screen goes dark and text notices sum up the stage the protest has reached.

One of the last such texts says that during the protests, which led to Yanukovich's flight, more than 100 people were killed, a similar number went missing and hundreds were injured.

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Russian media saw the same events in different terms, portraying protesters as nationalist militants and provocateurs; no heroes in the Eisenstein mould, but an anti-democratic mob.

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"The picture is just information, all reports are just information," Loznitsa said when asked what his film had contributed to the understanding of what happened in class="mandelbrot_refrag">Ukraine.

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"What I add is a proposition to reflect about this event - what it was actually."

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(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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'The Normal Heart' brings early days of AIDS to U.S. living rooms

Mark Ruffalo was puzzled when he was recruited to play Ned Weeks, a thinly fictionalized character based on AIDS activist Larry Kramer in the HBO film adaptation of Kramer's Tony award-winning play "The Normal Heart."

"I was like: 'Me?' " said Ruffalo. The actor, who often plays sensitive roles in films such as "The Kids Are All Right," asked director Ryan Murphy, "Shouldn't a gay person be playing Ned Weeks at this point in time? Aren't we there yet?"

 
 
 

Murphy told him he was "missing the point," that "the whole meaning of this movie" was that it did not matter whether a gay actor plays Kramer.

"He was much more evolved on that than I was," Ruffalo said.

"The Normal Heart," which debuts on HBO on Sunday, also features Jim Parsons of "The Big Bang Theory," Oscar-winner Julia Roberts ("Erin Brockovic,") and Matt Bomer of TV's "White Collar."

The play was first staged in 1985 and revived on Broadway in 2011. The story covers 1981 to 1984, early years of the outbreak when fear and confusion reigned.

Kramer, a former Hollywood screenwriter, became the face of AIDS activism, helping to establish groups such as Gay Men's Health Crisis and the more militant ACT UP. He spent years adapting his story, often consulting with Murphy, now known for the hit TV series "Glee."

Murphy decided the adaptation would not shy away from explicit gay loves scenes or graphic depictions of the illness.

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"I didn't want to make it hazy and romantic, I wanted to make it raw and scary," Murphy told Reuters. "I told Larry my approach was, it's a horror movie."

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Murphy, who married his partner in 2012 and now has a child, was not alone in embracing the film as a passion project.

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Parsons, who reprises his role of a young activist from the Broadway production, said: "As a gay man living in this day and age, it's never been so clear to me whose shoulders I stand on than it is when you take part in a project like this."

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Bomer, who plays a New York Times reporter and Ruffalo's boyfriend, was 14 when he first read the play in school in a Texas Bible belt town near Houston.

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"Two hours later I was weeping and my entire world view had been changed," he recalled.

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The early battles of AIDS activists "catalyzed the gay rights movement and gave me a lot of the rights I have today," said Bomer, who is married to his partner and has three sons.

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Ruffalo said that spending time with Kramer, 78, helped him bring nuance and vulnerability to the role.

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"This whole story is love," he said. "It's not the fighting, it's not the angst, That's the byproduct of a broken heart that comes from being so let down by your beliefs about people, about America and democracy, things that we hold in high regard supposedly, but were so sidetracked during this epidemic."

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Paul McCartney expected to make full recovery from illness

Former Beatle Paul McCartney, who canceled a series of concerts in class="mandelbrot_refrag">Japan and class="mandelbrot_refrag">South Korea, is expected to make a full recovery after being treated in a Tokyo hospital for a viral infection, a spokeswoman for the British musician said on Thursday.

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McCartney, 71, postponed two shows in Tokyo earlier this week due to illness, and on Thursday canceled more concerts due to take place in class="mandelbrot_refrag">Japan this week and class="mandelbrot_refrag">South Korea next week.

"Since contracting a virus last week that led to the postponement of tour dates, Paul received successful medical treatment at a hospital in Tokyo," according to a statement issued by his spokeswoman Perri Cohen.

 
 
 

"He will make a complete recovery and has been ordered to take a few days rest. Paul has been extremely moved by all the messages and well wishes he has received from fans all over the world," she added.

No other details were immediately available.

McCartney, who rarely cancels concerts, said in a statement this week that he hated to disappoint his fans. He came to Japan after a South American tour.

McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr are the two surviving members of the Beatles, which broke up in 1970.

A native of Liverpool who largely taught himself how to play, McCartney has been known for a long and versatile musical life that included a stint with the band "Wings" after the Beatles, followed by a flourishing solo career.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith in London and Elaine Lies in Tokyo Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

Judge reinstates 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author's lawsuit against museum

A federal judge on Thursday reinstated a lawsuit by "To Kill a Mockingbird" author Harper Lee against an Alabama museum she accuses of illegally profiting from her Pulitzer Prize-winning book.

Attorneys for Lee and the Monroe County Heritage Museum announced in February that the two sides reached an out-of-court settlement.

But the agreement has fallen through, according to legal filings from Lee's attorneys. An Alabama judge on Thursday reset a trial date for November 2014.

 
 
 

Norman Stockman, an attorney for Lee, said in the filing that the museum has not complied with the terms and is attempting to add new requests. The museum's lawyer, Sam David Knight, declined to comment. Details of the agreement have not been made public.

The reclusive author sued the museum in October, saying it never paid her a licensing fee for using the novel's title and a mockingbird image on merchandise it sold in its gift shop.

Lee's suit contended the museum earned more than $500,000 in 2011 by selling goods including aprons, kitchen towels, clothing and coasters emblazoned with the title of her sole published work.

The museum is located in Monroeville, the rural town that inspired the setting for Lee's 1960 bestselling classic about racism and injustice.

The tourist attraction includes the old courthouse that served as a model for the courtroom in the book's movie version, which earned Gregory Peck the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of small-town lawyer Atticus Finch.

Museum officials contend that Lee never requested compensation for the souvenirs honoring her literary legacy before filing the lawsuit.

Lee, 88, is in declining health after suffering a stroke and lives in an assisted living facility in Monroeville, according to the suit.

(Editing by Kevin Gray and Ken Wills)

'Star Wars' spin-off to be directed by 'Godzilla' filmmaker

With J.J. Abrams kicking off the first of three new "Star Wars" films, Disney announced on Thursday that "Godzilla" filmmaker Gareth Edwards will direct a separate spin-off installment of the franchise, scheduled for December 2016.

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The yet-to-be-titled "Star Wars" film, which is being written by "The Book of Eli" screenwriter Gary Whitta, is being described as a stand-alone movie in addition to the next three installments beginning with Abrams's "Star Wars: Episode VII," to be released in December 2015.

British director Edwards made his feature film debut with his re-imagining of "Godzilla," which stormed the North American box office with $93.2 million in sales over the past weekend.

 
 
 

class="mandelbrot_refrag">Walt Disney Co purchased "Star Wars" creator George Lucas's production company LucasFilm for $4.05 billion in 2012 and announced it would release spin-off films between the releases of three new films in the popular sci-fi series.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Ken Wills)

'American Idol' finale audience hits new low of 10.6 million

The finale of Fox's singing competition show "American Idol" drew the lowest viewership in its 13-year history, with 10.6 million viewers, 25 percent below last year's audience, according to ratings figures compiled by Nielsen on Thursday.

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"Idol," which crowned North Carolina singer Caleb Johnson the winner in a two-hour finale on Wednesday night, was once an industry powerhouse for Fox, watched by more than 30 million viewers at its peak.

But it has steadily declined in ratings in recent years, averaging around 8 million viewers per episode over the latest season, despite featuring celebrity judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.

 
 
 

The 18-49 demographic that advertisers covet accounted for 3.4 million of the viewers for this year's finale, down from last year's 6 million.

Early Nielsen ratings data on Thursday from Fox said total viewership for the "Idol" finale was 10.1 million, with 3.3 million in the 18-49 demographic.

Last year, the finale garnered 14.2 million viewers, the first time the show's end failed to draw 20 million people, despite bringing in high-priced celebrity judges Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Urban to boost sagging ratings.

Its biggest competitor in the singing contest space, NBC's "The Voice," drew 11.6 million viewers during its Tuesday finale, down from the 15.3 million during its spring finale last year.

"The Voice," which airs in both the spring and fall each year, continues to be a ratings hit for the Comcast Corp-owned network and has outpaced "Idol," averaging about 13.8 million viewers per episode this season.

"Idol" will be scaled back for its next season from approximately 50 hours to 37 hours, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc's Fox class="mandelbrot_refrag">Broadcasting entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said earlier this month.

Last year, longtime "Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe was fired from the show because of low ratings and replaced by Swedish Per Blankens.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Mary Milliken, Andre Grenon and Mohammad Zargham)

Cannes glitterati step up for AIDS charity gala

Sharon Stone showed up in a daring dress, John Travolta flew in on his plane, and even Eurovision winner Conchita Wurst made an appearance to support the Cannes film festival's largest charity ball to raise money for AIDS research.

At the 21st annual event organized by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, the film world's glitterati assembled on Thursday night to raise $38 million for charity, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein announced.

The amfAR gala, held at the luxurious five-star Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, perched over the blue water of the French Riviera not far from Cannes, is the biggest fundraising event at the world's largest and most prestigious film festival. The benefit was first hosted by Elizabeth Taylor.

 
 
 

With celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Kylie Minogue, Dita Von Teese, Adrien Brody, Paris Hilton and even Catherine Deneuve in attendance, the event was the place to be as the prestigious film festival began to wind down, with top prizes to be awarded on May 25.

AmfAR has raised some $120 million (71.17 million pounds) in the 20 years it has thrown the gala during the Cannes film festival. The go-to event relies on celebrity power and high-profile donations, and the 900-person guest list on Thursday included models, actors and the who's-who of the film world.

Champagne, a Pablo Picasso sketch, a motorcycle and a trip on a yacht were auctioned at the high-profile event, as DiCaprio puffed on an electronic cigarette, surrounded by two bodyguards, and Lana Del Rey and Robin Thicke performed to the crowd.

Raising the most money, at 11 million euros (8.89 million pounds), was the auction of a gilded skeleton of a woolly mammoth in a class="mandelbrot_refrag">steel and glass box, by artist Damien Hirst.

The winning bidder, Ukrainian businessman Leonard Blavatnik told Reuters he was not sure where he would put the massive beast.

"I don't know yet. It was unexpected," said Blavatnik, who sat next to Cannes jury president Jane Campion at the event and was congratulated by Justin Bieber after his win.

A Picasso sketch went for 380,000 euros, an Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe was sold for 350,000 euros, a cellar of champagne found its winning bid at 150,000 euros, and a pair of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld gloves found a bidder at 10,000 euros.

"Ladies, ladies, ladies, look at my necklace," cooed Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, ex-supermodel and former first lady of class="mandelbrot_refrag">France, introducing a Bulgari serpentine necklace, which ultimately was auctioned for 400,000 euros.

A bevy of designers donated dresses they had created in red for the event - from Gucci and Lanvin to Louis Vuitton and Roberto Cavalli. The 42 designer dresses were auctioned for 3.5 million euros.

"It's not expensive, believe me," said the winning bidder in a thick Russian accent, who did not want to give his name.

The event drew the tried and true of Hollywood, as well as new faces like Conchita Wurst, the bearded Austrian winner of Eurovision Song Contest.

"It's really lovely," said Wurst of the event. "This is the life I always wanted."

Burlesque star Dita Von Teese wore a black dress dotted with pink roses, and socialite Paris Hilton walked through the cocktail party before the event dragging an enormous long pink train that tripped up many a tuxedoed guest.

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Travolta, in a blue tuxedo and attending with wife Kelly Preston, said he had just arrived by plane.

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"I have a Challenger jet. I fly five times a week," said the "Pulp Fiction" star.

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Stone, who at one point admonished the noisy crowd to "stop doing deals" during the auction, nevertheless thanked them for supporting AIDS research for the past 20 years.

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"I know all of you have lost someone to AIDS," she said. "Now we are at the beginning of the end of AIDS."

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(Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Japanese fans welcome news of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney's recovery

Japanese fans on Friday welcomed news that former Beatle Paul McCartney is expected to make a full recovery from the viral infection that landed him in a Tokyo hospital for treatment.

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McCartney, 71, called off his sold-out class="mandelbrot_refrag">Japan tour this week after postponing several concerts, much to the disappointment of fans - some of whom had paid 100,000 yen ($980) to see him. He later canceled a concert set for class="mandelbrot_refrag">South Korea next week.

"The shock was huge when I heard the two concerts which I had bought tickets for were both canceled," said Shinichi Noguchi, 40, who had come to the Tokyo hotel where McCartney was believed to be staying.

 
 
 

"It's good to hear he's recovering and I'll be happy if he can come to class="mandelbrot_refrag">Japan again in the near future."

McCartney spokeswoman Perri Cohen said in a statement on Thursday that McCartney had been treated successfully at a Tokyo hospital for the viral infection, which he came down with a day after his arrival in Japan last week.

"He will make a complete recovery and has been ordered to take a few days rest. Paul has been extremely moved by all the messages and well wishes he has received from fans all over the world," she added.

McCartney, who rarely cancels concerts, said in a statement earlier this week that he hated to disappoint his fans. He came to Japan after a South American tour.

"I hope he fully recovers and will give us a concert in the near future," said Fumio Ito, 66. "Fingers crossed."

The dearth of news about McCartney's condition on Thursday prompted concern among fans around the world, particularly when the only new comment posted on his Twitter account was an old photo of him with a ram.

"We want to know about Paul's health!" one fan tweeted.

McCartney and drummer Ringo Starr are the two surviving members of the super-successful Beatles, which broke up in 1970.

A native of Liverpool who largely taught himself how to play, McCartney has been known for a long and versatile musical life that included a stint with the band "Wings" after the Beatles, followed by a flourishing solo career.

His song "Yesterday" is one of the most covered songs of all time.

In 1980, on arriving in Japan for a tour with "Wings", McCartney was arrested and jailed for some nine days after customs officials found marijuana in his luggage. He was then deported without being charged.

(Reporting by Hyun Oh and Elaine Lies; Editing by Ron Popeski)

'Gang Related' explores Los Angeles' darker side

Los Angeles' gangs and police clash in gritty new Fox drama series "Gang Related", an exploration of the city's darker side with a hero that isn't quite what he seems as he treads the line between family and the law.

"Gang Related," premiering on Thursday, centers on Detective Ryan Lopez, played by Ramon Rodriguez, a gang member who is part of the Los Angeles Police Department's gang task force, and forced to hide his ties to the gang family he was brought up in.

The Fox class="mandelbrot_refrag">Broadcasting series is created by Chris Morgan, the writer of the last five "Fast & Furious" car-racing films, who said he wanted to explore the origins of gang culture in Los Angeles, a theme that he believes has larger resonance.

 
 
 

"If you look at the history of our country, we actually are founded on gangs," Morgan told Reuters. "People have come to America searching for the American dream, and a lot of the times because of their background or their ethnicity, they were shut out."

In the show, a young orphaned Ryan is rescued and taken in by mob boss Javier Acosta (Cliff Curtis), who becomes a father figure to him, telling him to get trained in the military and infiltrate the police forces in order to report back to him.

But after his cop partner is killed by a member of his own gang, Ryan finds his allegiances fraying, and he begins to play a dangerous game to do what he thinks is right, a path that holds many challenges said actor Rodriguez.

"My heart broke for him because he doesn't get to be vulnerable often," the actor said. "I think everything he's done wears on his soul and conscience, and he carries a very big burden, and I would never want to deal with that."

To prepare for his role, Rodriguez went on ride-alongs with Los Angeles police and learned that many of the areas that were formerly dominated by black gangs, have now been overtaken by Mexican or South Americans, something that Javier echoes in the pilot when he menacingly utters "Brown is the new Black."

Set against the backdrop of a Los Angeles that isn't often showcased in Hollywood fare, "Gang Related" delves into neighborhoods such as Korea Town and East Los Angeles to show gang communities formed by minorities.

The show's producer Brian Grazer said the city plays a key character in the arc of the show's series.

"The concept of the show is born out of LA and it's such a secular city and because of the topography of it, it hasn't really been shot in a cool way in a long time," he said.

"Ultimately what the show is supposed to do is create empathy and understanding of both sides. Why people go into gangs, why people get trapped into gangs, and how difficult it is to get out," he added.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Director Boorman's 'Queen and Country' at Cannes could be his last

John Boorman had always intended to make a sequel to Oscar-nominated "Hope and Glory", his 1987 semi-autobiography set in suburban London during World War Two, and it could very well be the 81-year-old director's last film, he said.

"Queen and Country", which premiered in the Director's Fortnight category at the Cannes film festival this week, fast-forwards the action of "Hope and Glory" to 1952, following the now 18-year-old protagonist Billy Rohan as he is conscripted to fight in the Korean War.

"I'm not sure I'll do any more," Boorman, who walks with a cane, told Reuters TV.

 
 
 

"Old age is a series of retreats. Many of the things, the pleasures of my life have been withdrawn. I played tennis all my life which I can't do anymore. You know, film-making is one of the few things I'm able to do, I'm still able to do."

But old age does have its advantages, said the director of "Deliverance" and "Point Blank", citing a conversation with legendary director Sir David Lean just before he died in 1991.

    "He said, 'I hope I get well enough to make this film' - you know, he was trying to make "Nostromo" which he didn't of course make. But he said, 'I hope ... because I'm just about beginning to get the hang of it'," Boorman said.

"I thought that was so wonderful and I think that most directors feel that ... you need to live to quite a great age in order to grasp everything that's required to make a film, to hold a whole film in your head."

With "Queen and Country", he used his signature directing style of shooting very little and rehearsing carefully.

"I always say, 'Everything we shoot will go in the film,' so you've got to be right, ready and at the top of your game."

    "When I made "Point Blank" at MGM I shot the least footage of film in their history and John class="mandelbrot_refrag">Ford used to do that, shoot very little, because his aim was to shoot the film in such a way so that the studio couldn't recut it," he said.

"That was always somewhat on my mind too, that it could only be made one way."

"Queen and Country" features actors Callum Turner, David Thewlis, Richard E. Grant and Sinead Cusack.

(Editing by Louise Ireland and Alexandria Sage)

Movie star dog has its day at Cannes

A gentle Labrador mix named Body won the "Palm Dog" award on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, a pat on the head from canine-lovers and film critics for the outstanding movie performance by a pooch.

Body starred in "Feher Isten" (White God) by Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo, which features more than 250 dogs.

The lead character is "Hagen" - a role shared by Body and a second hound named Luc - who is abandoned by his family and picked up by a man who trains him to be fighting dog.

 
 
 

At the film's festival premiere earlier in the festival, Body attended a photocall, walked the red carpet and was invited onstage - wearing a bowtie.

The Palm Dog award is a play on the Palme d'Or, the Cannes festival's top prize.

"What an honor, what a historical hound!" said Palm Dog organizer Toby Rose, who called the film a cross between "Inglorious Barksterds" and "Ben Fur."

It had been a golden year for dogs on film, Rose said.

"This Cannes has seen a raging outbreak of dog-risma," Rose said, citing Jean-Luc Godard's real-life dog, Roxy Mieville, who stars in his film "Adieu au Langage" (Goodbye to Language) and Yves Saint Laurent's French Bulldog Moujik in "Saint Laurent" by director Bertrand Bonello.

The supporting role of Moujik takes a tragic turn as the dog consumes the party drugs intended for his master and dies.

In another canine cameo, a fuzzy English sheepdog appears in David Cronenberg's critique of Hollywood, "Maps to the Stars" and is accidentally shot by a teenage movie star.

"It was the biggest and best range of dog performances I think I've ever known," Rose told Reuters TV.

But in terms of the number of canines on screen at any one time, "White God" takes the biscuit.

In its opening scene, a pack of 250 barking dogs, none of them created by computer simulation, chase after the protagonist, barking and snarling.

Most of the dogs used in the film were rescued in real life from an animal shelter, then adopted by cast members and friends after the shoot.

Although Body was not on hand to accept the award, director Mundruczo accepted the stuffed bone prize on his behalf, saying it was an "uplifting" experience working with his canine stars.

"They live in Los Angeles," he said of Body and Luc, promising to send the bone to their trainer.

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(Additional reporting by Rollo Ross; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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Binoche at Cannes confronts questions of the aging actress

Juliette Binoche confronts an issue every actress eventually faces in Olivier Assayas's "Clouds of Sils Maria" - what happens when the casting call you get is for the older woman and no longer the starlet?

Men, as Harrison class="mandelbrot_refrag">Ford, Arnold Schwarzenneger and Sylvester Stallone proved by bringing the roadshow to promote their "The Expendables 3" over-the-hill mercenaries franchise to Cannes last weekend, can continue to play the same action heroes into their 60s or even 70s.

But a woman can't play a starlet after a certain age, nor should she want to, Binoche, who reached global stardom in such films as "The English Patient" and "Chocolat" said at a post-screening news conference.

 
 
 

The film was the last of the 18 in competition for the top Palme d'Or prize to be screened before the main awards are announced on Saturday.

"Imagine if for 40 years you played the part of 20-year-old, you'd get very bored," Binoche said. "Of course you can't play the same parts all the time."

In the film, Binoche plays Maria Enders, an actress whose career resembles her own and who now is in her 40s.

Enders's first big success was playing an aggressive young woman who is employed by a middle-aged woman executive who runs a company. She seduces the older woman and destroys her.

Assayas's film shows Binoche's character being asked 20 years later to play the older woman, while an aggressive, media-savvy young American actress (Chloe Grace Moretz of the "Kickass" films) will take the role of the younger one.

Enders has a great deal of difficulty coping with doing the role of the older woman but as the film progresses she finally comes to term with it, and realizes she can bring to the part something no younger actress could.

"I think the more experience you have, the more you focus on the really important questions, you open up, you mature, you become more skilled, more honed," Binoche said.

"Think about (Canadian pianist) Glenn Gould, when he played Bach at the beginning and at the end of his career he didn't play Bach the same way.

"In other words, something happens inside yourself, within yourself. You're more aware of certain things because life shapes you. Fortunately we do change, we evolve."

FRENCH CINEMA IS "RAW"

Moretz said that unlike the character she portrays, who finds a way to humiliate Binoche's character even while smiling at her, she had relished the prospect of working with Binoche and Assayas, whose films she has admired for years.

"Obviously to work with Olivier, not on any project but specifically a French project with Juliette, would be so special," she said.

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"I think there's something so much more innovative about French cinema than American because it's alive and there's something that is very raw about it that we can't capture in America yet."

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(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Ralph Boulton)

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Hungarian dog film takes prize for innovative film at Cannes

The Hungarian film "Feher Isten" (White God), starring a pack of stray dogs that terrorizes the capital Budapest and directed by Kornel Mundruczo, won the top prize in the "Un Certain Regard" forum of the Cannes International Film Festival on Friday.

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The runner-up, winning the jury prize, was "Turist" by Swedish director Ruben Ostlund. It is about the disintegration of a marriage after a husband abandons his wife and children on a terrace and flees when he falsely believes they are all about to be killed by an avalanche.

Jury President for the "Un Certain Regard" festival was Argentine director Pablo Trapero.

 
 
 

The forum, "A Particular Outlook" in English, is for young, innovative filmmakers or directors that runs alongside the main Cannes competition, whose winners will be announced on Saturday.

Other films competing for the prize were the directorial debut of Hollywood A-list actor Ryan Gosling, "Lost River", the only Indian film in the competition, "Titli", by Kanu Behl, and "Jauja" starring Viggo Mortensen from Argentina's Lisandro Alonso.

(Writing by Michael Roddy; Editing by Angus MacSwan)