Saturday marks the final day for screening entries at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. The coveted Palme d'Or will be awarded on Sunday evening, with twenty films in the running.
AFP - Tokyo's neon-lit streets provide the setting for two of the last films lining up for Cannes gold Sunday: a love tale about a contract-killer and a hypnotic, drug-fuelled trip to the afterlife.
French director Gaspar Noe -- who sparked walk-outs in Cannes with his last film featuring an excruciating rape scene -- divided the critics again with his psychedelic new offering, "Enter the Void."
Special-effects burst from the screen in Noe's trip through night-time Tokyo, which follows a young American drug dealer's journey after death as he watches over his stripper sister trying to cope with his violent demise.
Noe's film takes in its stride Eastern concepts about sex and reincarnation, with repeated references to "The Tibetan Book of the Dead."
For most of the film, the camera hovers above Tokyo -- using cranes and helicopters -- as the main character's spirit lifts out of his body to retrace his life, floating through buildings, bodies and time.
Sex scenes are explicit and plentiful, one of them shot from inside a vagina, while another sequence provides a close-up of an aborted foetus.
Some critics were put off by the film's length -- at almost three hours -- its meandering storyline and the repetition of psychedelic sequences and strobe effects following a gala screening Friday.
But others were impressed, with the New York Times critic calling it "an exceptional work."
"This is the work of an artist who's trying to show us something we haven’t seen before," the Times wrote.
Screen described "Enter The Void" as "a wild, hallucinatory mindfuck for adults."
"If audiences care to, they can lose themselves in Noe's images and trip on his imagination. If they don't, they will be bored to tears."
Questioned about the spiritual content of the film, Noe told a press conference he was a hard-and-fast atheist, but was drawn by the challenge of representing a spiritual journey in images.
While Noe's movie is shot almost entirely at night, Isabel Coixet's new film, "Map of the Sounds of Tokyo", takes the viewer on a pre-dawn trip around the Japanese capital.
The Spanish director tells the story of a young woman's double life as a contract killer and a worker on the Tokyo fishmarkets -- and who falls in love with one of her targets.
Shot against a moody jazz backdrop, the film offers a rich portrait of Tokyo, from the slicing of tuna and splash of hoses at a fishmarket, to interior design details, a sex hotel in pastiche-Paris style or a karaoke bar.
But critics at a press screening Friday were unconvinced by the storyline, and it earned boos mixed with a smattering of applause.
Both films are among 20 from the world's top directors lined up for the Palme d'Or, to be announced at a gala ceremony Sunday night closing the world's biggest annual movie event.
Frontrunners for the Palme include Austrian director Michael Haneke's stark and chilling black-and-white portrait of a Protestant German village on the eve of World War I, "The White Ribbon."
Another bleak flick, French prison drama "The Prophet" by Jacques Audiard, is being rated by far the top candidate to scoop the Palme d'Or award.
Also well-liked by a foreign critics' panel in trade magazine Screen are Jane Campion's "Bright Star", Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" and "Looking for Eric" by Ken Loach.
Date created : 2009-05-23