Cannes winner-to-be still anyone's guess

26th May 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 26, 2006 (AFP) - With the Cannes Film Festival all but wrapped, it is still anyone's guess who is going to carry off the top prizes and it might just be that the organisers have left the best to last.

CANNES, France, May 26, 2006 (AFP) - With the Cannes Film Festival all but wrapped, it is still anyone's guess who is going to carry off the top prizes and it might just be that the organisers have left the best to last.

Twenty films are in competition here for the Palme d'Or which will be awarded by the jury at a glittering prize ceremony on Sunday, with four films still to be screened on Friday and Saturday.

A strong field for the 59th festival, but with no real standout entry, has left critics divided over which way the jury, headed for the first time by a Chinese director, Hong Kong's Wong Kar-Wai, is likely to go.

After a diet of troubling, at times bleak films dealing with loneliness, war and politics, Cannes audiences gave a rousing welcome to 'The Singer' on Friday in which French film legend Gérard Depardieu shows off his hitherto little-known singing talents.

Depardieu gives a finely tuned performance as an ageing crooner struggling with dignity to retain his place in a world of karaoke and pop.

Director Xavier Giannoli's delicate portrait manages to avoid the sugary sentimentality of the songs, and Depardieu won warm applause as he reappeared on screen again singing as the credits rolled.

"This is not a nostaglic film. It even talks about the death of Mick Jagger. It's not a film about remembering, it takes place in France now, today," Giannoli told journalists.

Whether it will win the hearts of Wong and his eight fellow jury members remains to be seen though.

"There weren't any great films in Cannes this year," wrote Todd McCarthy in Friday's daily Variety at Cannes, adding 2006 would go down as a middling year.

And like many other Cannes veterans, he complained that, despite a huge number of stars walking the seafront red carpet, the atmosphere had been more muted than in previous years.

Fewer people, fewer parties and less general mayhem. "This year's Cannes was the Zen festival," wrote The Hollywood Reporter.

A clutch of films still remain critics' favourites, such as Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's homage to women, 'Volver', which has been a strong favourite since the start.

But both 'Babel' from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarittu — a masterful patchwork showing how one dangerous childish prank touches the lives of four families around the world — and Sofia Coppola's frothy, hip 'Marie-Antoinette' are breathing down its neck in the polls.

Loneliness and miscommunication have been dominant themes, from the woman with the tragic past in Andrea Arnold's gripping debut feature 'Red Road', to the ugly, shuffling loan shark in Paolo Sorrentino's black comedy 'The Family Friend'.

War was also central to many films. 'Days of Glory' from France's Rachid Bouchareb casts a rare spotlight on the forgotten soldiers from the French African colonies who helped liberate France in World War II.

Ken Loach's powerful 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' focuses on the early days of the Irish civil war, while some indeterminate war, which we take to be Iraq, is the backdrop for 'Flanders' from Bruno Dumont.

Politics is there, too, of course, from the direct attack on Italy's former premier Silvio Berlusconi in Nanni Moretti's 'The Caiman', to the more subtle intertwining of a love story and the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Lou Ye's 'Summer Palace' and Richard Linklater's uneven expose 'Fast Food Nation'.

Even Armaggedon gets a look-in in Richard Kelly's disappointing 'Southland Tales', which the US director is reportedly recutting after it was received with a whimper rather than a bang here.

"Ironically the wow factor appears to be all that is missing in a year that hindsight may judge to have been better than average," wrote Screen International.

"Too many films have been guilty of biting off more than they can chew."

Audiences here are still eagerly awaiting 'Pan's Labyrinth' from Guillermo del Toro which promises some surprises.

Excitement has also been building about 'Cronica de una Fuga' (Chronicle of an Escape) an Argentinian political thriller, which will be the last film screened in competition and could yet walk off with the Cannes crown.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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