Cannes gets serious

25th May 2007, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 25, 2007 (AFP) - Inside Cannes cinemas, away from the celebrity glam and beachside fun, a steady diet of trauma- and issue-oriented films have left filmgoers squirming in their seats.

CANNES, France, May 25, 2007 (AFP) - Inside Cannes cinemas, away from the celebrity glam and beachside fun, a steady diet of trauma- and issue-oriented films have left filmgoers squirming in their seats.

If movies mirror world trends, then it appears nightmarish crimes, war, and violence against women are at the forefront of events and minds right now.

At the other end of the spectrum, star-power is coming out to fight global warming and human rights abuses in the Sudanese region of Darfur, and moral issues are making a comeback.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio joins the environmentalists in "The 11th Hour", Michael Moore lashes the US health system in "Sicko", while George Clooney and the cast of heist movie "Ocean's Thirteen" made off with millions for Darfur at a Cannes charity bash.

A-list couple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, in town with their children, meanwhile rooted for love and family at the launch of "A Mighty Heart", a film about the beheading of US journalist Daniel Pearl made by Michael Winterbottom.

But weighty messages aside, with almost all of the festival's 22 competition films screened -- the Palme d'Or prize for best film will be awarded Sunday -- the 4,000 critics attending the 12-day fest have been fed an almost daily fare of death and despair.

Among the 'highlights': A four-month foetus thrown on a bathroom floor, the pleas of a dying security guard sliced in two by a train, almost unbearable scenes of degradation in a geriatric ward.

"Import-Export" trails comatose elderly patients in nappies, sleaze Internet sex and rundown Ukrainian apartments with no water -- by Austria's Ulrich Seidl -- for a relentless two hours in a movie with a bare-bone plot about life as an underdog.

Romania's "Four Months Three Weeks and Two Days", directed by Cristian Mungiu, is a devastating and disturbing tough-to-watch tale about back-street abortions under communism, and a favourite to take home the Cannes prize.

Its title makes reference to the age of the aborted foetus finally set to rest in a high-rise rubbish chute. "Don't throw it whole or in pieces down the toilet," the abortionist warned.

An abortion that goes wrong also features in Russian film "The Banishment", by Andrei Zviaguintsev, though in this case the death of the pregnant woman is about a jealous husband left dealing his remorse.

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" is purely and simply about dying. By US filmmaker Julian Schnabel, it is the story of a magazine editor left paralysed by a stroke who bravely went on to dictate what became an international bestseller through his only working muscle: that of his left eye-lid.

Confronting the pain of death and the power of religion dominate "Stellet Licht", by Carlos Reygadas, and South Korean entry "Secret Sunshine" by Lee Chang-dong -- the latter is a story of a grieving wife and mother who turns to God when her son is kidnapped and killed.

Even a French musical about a love threesome, "The Love Songs" by Christophe Honore, which sets out looking like light relief, suddenly turns tragic and delves into death and mourning when its young heroine dies of a massive heart attack.

On the romantic front, a passion developing in a prison visiting room between a death row prisoner who never speaks and a wife slighted by her husband was the theme of the other South Korean movie competing for the Palme -- "Soom" by Kim Ki-duk.

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai, whose road-movie set in the United States "My Blueberry Nights" opened the 2007 filmfest, had a happier love story. But it too features a powerfully sad story about an alcoholic and his estranged wife.

As anticipated, Quentin Tarantino threw up action-packed gore stacked with blood and body parts in "Death Proof" while David Fincher's "Zodiac" is a film about a search for a manic serial killer.

And in their latest movie, "No Country For Old Men", also a front-runner for the top award, US directors Ethan and Joel Coen spotlight a psychopathic and eccentric killer, but wind up ruminating on aging and societal change.

Moral and philosophical musings popped up repeatedly in the 2007 Cannes crop of movies.

A powerful film by hot German-Turkish director Fatih Akin about two families bridging the East-West divide after tragedy strikes raised the issue of forgiveness.

Cult Hungarian director Bela Tarr, in a grindingly slow back-and-white detective flick "The Man From London" based on a Georges Simenon novel, probes a poor man's moral dilemma of "to steal or not to steal."

Gus Van Sant, in different vein, shows a teenager who inadvertently causes a security guard to be cut in two by a passing train, mulling whether to confess in "Paranoid Park". That film, too, wowed critics.

And Russia's Alexander Sukorov and Iranian-born Marjane Satrapi both muse on the human costs of war, though neither film is gloomy and neither contains battleground scenes -- Chechnya in "Alexandra" and the Iran-Iraq war in animated feature "Persepolis."

"For me this story is not about the actual but about the eternal," Sukorov said in production notes.

Copyright AFP

SUbject: French news, Festival de Cannes

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