Stars hit red carpet for Cannes' big prizes
Stars swanned up the red carpet for the finale of the Cannes film festival on Sunday, with Spanish actor Javier Bardem and French director Xavier Beauvois seen as front-runners for the big prizes.
Hundreds of celebrity-spotters lined the waterfront around the festival hall where US director Tim Burton and his jury were to award the Palme d'Or for best film plus awards for the best director, writer and actors.
Bardem, hotly tipped by critics for a best actor award as the hero of "Biutiful" by Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, was among the stars ascending the red carpet for Sunday's gala ceremony.
He said the film, in which he plays a terminally ill hustler fighting to get by in the underworld of Barcelona, had "a good spirit about people trying to fight for better."
Critics tipped Beauvois as a strong contender for "Of Gods and Men", about Catholic monks threatened by Islamist militants in Algeria.
A surprise early on in the festival was "On Tour", a French film about buxom US burlesque dancers touring in France, starring real-life stripteasers Dirty Martini and others.
"It's a dream come true," said one of the dancers, Julie Atlas Muz, on the red carpet, after the film catapulted the cast from cabaret obscurity to the glitz of Cannes.
Among other contenders entering the ceremony was Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, with his unworldly reincarnation fantasy "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives".
Critics have widely pegged this year's edition of the world's biggest film festival as more low-key than usual, with fewer big stars and hit movies.
But the main competition still drew some big names, including three former Palme winners: Britons Mike Leigh and Ken Loach plus Iran's Abbas Kiarostami with "Certified Copy" starring French actress Juliette Binoche.
Five Asian works were competing on Sunday, including two South Korean films, "The Housemaid" by Im Sang-soo and "Poetry" by Lee Chang-dong.
"Poetry" dazzled hardened Cannes critics and prompted talk of a best actress award for its lead, Yun Jung-hee -- a grande dame of Korean film.
Other Asian entries were "Chongqing Blues" by China's Wang Xiaoshuai and "Outrage" from Japanese master Takeshi Kitano.
The 12-day festival has seen appearances by stars including Michael Douglas, star of the "Wall Street" sequel, and Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe from "Robin Hood", both screening out of competition.
Kate Beckinsale, Burton and seven other jury members spent Sunday in a luxury villa outside town to decide the winners at the world's biggest film event before coming to pose for the cameras on the red carpet.
Cannes had asked Iranian film-maker Jafar Panahi to sit on the jury but he was prevented from attending. He has been in jail in Tehran since March, accused by authorities of planning a film against the country's Islamic leaders.
The French government and the festival demanded Panahi's release and the film-maker himself spoke out against his detention in a letter to Cannes organisers.
Controversy also erupted over "Outside the Law", a violent thriller about Algeria's independence struggle which sparked rowdy demonstrations by protestors who accused director Rachid Bouchareb of rewriting history.
Also arriving for the ceremony was Charlotte Gainsbourg, who won the prize for best actress last year for her role in Lars Von Trier's erotic shocker, "Antichrist".
The French actress was presenting the last film of this year's festival -- "The Tree", a Franco-Australian movie directed by Julie Bertuccelli which screens out of competition.
Last year the Palme went to Austrian director Michael Haneke for "The White Ribbon".
© 2010 AFP