Field still wide open half-way through Cannes fest

23rd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

CANNES, France, May 23, 2006 (AFP) - As the Cannes Film Festival hit the halfway mark on Tuesday, the field remained wide open with critics largely divided on which of the 20 films could carry off the coveted Palme d'Or.

CANNES, France, May 23, 2006 (AFP) - As the Cannes Film Festival hit the halfway mark on Tuesday, the field remained wide open with critics largely divided on which of the 20 films could carry off the coveted Palme d'Or.

Several hotly awaited movies have yet to be screened to the audiences and jury, and with everything still to play for, one of them could yet tip the scales in their favour.

US director Sofia Coppola's 'Marie Antoinette', starring Kirsten Dunst as the young queen uprooted from her homeland and filmed in Versailles, promises to be a feast for the eyes.

And no doubt there will be unseemly jostling for places at Wednesday's screenings, as well as for Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's 'Babel' starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett to be shown later Tuesday.

'Babel', set in the Moroccan desert, tackles man's lack of communication in this hi-tech world, and has been filmed in four languages including Arabic.

It is pitted against another Mexican film, the fantastical 'Pan's Labyrinth' by Guillermo del Toro, which has been creating a buzz here, but will not be seen until the eve of Sunday's awards ceremony.

If the critics are anything to go by, Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar seems to be carrying the day so far with his evocative 'Volver', which has handed Penelope Cruz her best performance to date.

But some argue that although it shows Almodovar at the top of his art, it lacks the edge which could hand him the prize.

Coming up close behind in the critics' polls by both trade revues Screen International and Le Film Francais is Ken Loach's gut-wrenching tale 'The Wind That Shakes the Barley' about the early days of Ireland's struggle for independence from Britain.

While it is a powerful film, it is a well-worn path for 'Land and Freedom' director Loach, nominated for the eighth time here, and may not sway the jury, headed this year for the first time by a Chinese director, Hong Kong's Wong Kar-Wai.

Wong has stressed he has no agenda and is looking for movies which engage and move the jury, which could work against Lou Ye's compelling love story 'Summer Palace' set against the backdrop of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Lou's courageous film, a rare attempt to treat the pro-democracy movement, has angered Beijing's censors as it is being shown without their permission, and could reportedly earn Lou a five-year ban from film-making.

Politics also dominates in Nanni Moretti's superb 'The Caiman', a terrifying indictment of former Italian leader Silvio Berlusconi.

Some films such as Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan's 'The Climates' have fiercely divided camps between those who saw it as a fine art house movie and those who panned it for being plodding and self-indulgent. In comparison Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki's 'Lights in the Dusk', a poised study of loneliness, will probably win more fans.

Domestic loyalties ensured that French critics seemed to prefer 'Charlie Says' by Nicole Garcia over its British rival, the nervy thriller 'Red Road' by another woman director Andrea Arnold, while British critics took exactly the opposite view.

But 'Southland Tales', US director Richard Kelly's sprawling sci-fi about the end of the world, seems to have bombed, despite giving 'Buffy the Vampire' star Sarah Michelle Gellar some of the funniest one-liners so far.

Richard Linklater's film version of 'Fast Food Nation', an indictment of the junk food industry, also failed to satisfy appetites.

Thanks to a galaxy of stars and two Hollywood blockbusters — Ron Howard's 'The Da Vinci Code' which recorded a staggering opening weekend raking in some 224 million dollars despite being slammed by critics here, and 'X-Men: The Last Stand' — the southern French resort has been awash with glamour and parties since the festival opened on May 17.

Some films appearing out of competition have also been making waves.

Critics here got a short glimpse of Oliver Stone's 'World Trade Center', which seems set to be a moving homage to the bravery and courage of rescue workers on September 11, 2001.

Meanwhile, this Cannes has been one of the raciest to date, spilling over with sex scenes, so much so that audiences are becoming a tad jaded, sniggering with 'here-we-go-again' weariness as yet more couples writhe on the screen.

Apart from the not-fake sex 'Shortbus' by John Cameron Mitchell, the film also provided perhaps the most memorable clip so far — a man singing the 'Stars and Stripes' into his male lover's nether regions.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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