Cannes gears up for the great finale

2010-05-22 10:14

Cannes is gearing up for its red carpet finale after a 12-day film

festival subdued by bad weather and an Icelandic volcano.

Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton and his jury will hand out

the Palme d’Or tomorrow to one of 19 films submitted by directors as diverse as

Britain’s Mike Leigh, Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami and Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez

Inarritu.

The Palme is the serious side of a festival that likes to liven up

high-brow fare with Hollywood glitz – which this year came from world premieres

of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood and Oliver Stone’s Wall Street sequel.

The festival palace saw stars such as Russell Crowe, Naomi Watts,

Juliette Binoche and Michael Douglas sashay up its fabled red carpet, while

Cannes’ posh hotels hosted countless parties for the rich, the famous and the

freeloading.

But rain and chilly evenings, as well as travel disruption thanks

to Iceland’s Eyjafjöll volcano, meant the 63rd edition of the 12-day festival

was decidedly more low-key than usual.

Critics said Cannes 2010 might not go down as a vintage year.

“But it’s still the top festival in the world, even if this is not

a top year,” said Xan Brooks, a film writer for Britain’s Guardian paper, who

tipped Leigh and French director Xavier Beauvois as top contenders for the

Palme.

Leigh’s Another Year looks undramatic on paper: a year in the life

of a happily married, middle-class couple, played by Jim Broadbent and Ruth

Sheen, who have not-so-happy boozy friends.

But Leigh insisted during his trip to Cannes that the slow-burning

family dramas that have made his name are about finding the fascination in

people’s so-called “ordinary” or “boring” lives.

Who’s hot, and who’s not

The British director faces stiff competition from compatriot Ken

Loach’s Route Irish, an Iraq war drama that probes the murky world of private

security contractors in the war-torn country.

War was a recurrent theme in this year’s festival, with Sean Penn

and Watts starring in Fair Game, the true tale of a CIA agent betrayed by the

George W Bush administration. It was filmed by The Bourne Identity director Doug

Liman.

The film tells how the glamorous spy Valerie Plame was stitched up

by a vengeful White House after her diplomat husband publicly denounced its

claims that Iraq leader Saddam Hussein was working on weapons of mass

destruction.

World War II came to Cannes in the form of Burnt by the Sun 2 by

Russia’s Nikita Mikhalkov, who has delivered a $40 million budget film about the

Nazi invasion of Russia. Mikhalkov himself plays a purged Red Army

general.

A film about Algeria’s bitter struggle for independence from

France, Rachid Bouchareb’s Outside The Law, sparked protests by hundreds of

far-right and other demonstrators, who accused the film of distorting

history.

Riot police with batons and shields lined up outside the festival

hall yesterday to make sure protesters were kept back.

France’s thorny relations with its former colony came up again in

Xavier Beauvois’s Of Gods and Men, a tale of Catholic monks caught up in

Islamist violence in Algeria.

Critics said Kiarostami was also a strong contender with Certified

Copy, which stars Juliette Binoche in the Iranian director’s first film shot in

Europe.

Asia has a strong showing in the race for the Palme, with two

entries from South Korea – Poetry by Lee Chang-dong and Im Sang-soo’s The

Housemaid – and China, Japan and Thailand also represented.

Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s A Screaming Man was the

first African film made south of the Sahara to be selected in 13 years to

compete for the prize.

The festival’s big no-show was film legend Jean-Luc Godard, who

blamed mysterious “problems of a Greek type” for keeping him away from the

premiere of his latest movie, Film Socialism.


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