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Behind the scenes at the Cannes Film Festival

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Behind the scenes at the May 15-26 Cannes Film Festival:

BLOOD 'N' GUTS: Sex may be considered a bit passe at the movies these days. But directors seem to have no qualms about violence.

Scenes of genitals being set alight and other horrors in Mexican film "Heli" on Thursday left some in the audience feeling distinctly queasy.

And there's more bloodcurdling stuff coming up. A trailer shown on Wednesday gave a sneak preview of upcoming films including Ryan Gosling smashing a glass in a man's face in Nicolas Winding Refn's Bangkok underworld "Only God Forgives".

Also trailed were execution-style slayings in Johnnie To's "Blind Detective" and Forest Whitaker being stabbed through the ear in the Cannes closer "Zulu".

BEWILDERED OF CANNES: The prize for the most baffling film of the festival so far goes to Israeli director Ari Folman's "The Congress".

Critic Jessica Kiang writing for the Indiewire website described the film as every "reviewer's nightmare" before calming down and settling on "fascinating muddle".

Simply put, Robin Wright stars as an ageing Hollywood actress who sells the rights to her image and ventures into a future populated with the likes of Muhammad Ali, Che Guevara and Michael Jackson (waiting tables).

Based on Stanislaw Lem's novel "The Futurological Congress", there's a part-way shift from live action to animation and back again. Conclusion? Confusing... but fascinating.

IN THE DIRECTOR'S CHAIR: Scarlett Johansson is to make her directorial debut with a film adaptation of the Truman Capote novel "Summer Crossing".

Set in 1945, the novel tells the story of a 17-year-old debutante who misses a family trip to in favour of a relationship with a valet attendant.

Johansson has been working on the script with writer Tristine Skylar and the Capote estate for "several years", she was quoted as saying by the Hollywood Reporter.

The international rights to the film will be sold at Cannes.

LARS LAUGH? Once a Cannes favourite, controversial Danish director Lars von Trier was ignominiously booted out of the festival in 2011 for making a Nazi joke about himself at a press conference.

On Friday, festival-watchers wondered if he was trying to pave the way to a comeback -- or thumbing his nose at the world's most prestigious movie meet.

His production company Zentropa released a teasing tableau for von Trier's upcoming "Nymphomaniac", an erotic epic whose all-star cast includes Shia Laboeuf, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Uma Thurman rand Willem Dafoe.

The film, due for release in December, has already caused waves for it is rumoured to include real sex, as opposed to simulated scenes, using mainstream actors rather than stand-ins.

The picture released by Zentropa and distribution company Trust Nordisk shows the cast in various fake-erotic positions and von Trier with duct tape across his mouth. But whether this is because he has been gagged -- or just showing that he is keeping his lip zipped --- is unclear.

SO NOW WE KNOW: Justin Timberlake has provoked thought on why Donna Summer recorded a long version of "Love to Love You Baby", the 1975 hit in which the queen of disco groaned ecstatically over a throbbing beat.

Timberlake co-hosted a glitzy bash for movie buyers in Cannes to push "Spinning Gold," a biopic of Neil Bogart, the 1970s record executive who helped drive the rise of disco, The Hollywood Reporter says.

The original version of "Love to Love You Baby" lasted only three minutes, 21 seconds.

But, quipped Timberlake, Bogart convinced Summer to make a 20-minute version, because "women can't have an orgasm in three minutes."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130517/behind-the-scenes-at-the-cannes-film-festival