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A closer look at films in the running for the Palme d’Or

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2010-05-10 takes an advance peek at a diverse and intriguing field of films in competition for the coveted Palme d’Or award at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

The films in the running for this year’s coveted Palme d’Or include a French comedy about American burlesque dancers, a remake of a Korean classic, movies headlined by European stars Juliette Binoche and Javier Bardem, two countries in competition for the first time, a ripped-from-the-headlines American political thriller — and no women directors. takes a closer look at the field (in alphabetical order, by director’s name).


“On Tour” (“Tournée”) (Mathieu Amalric, France): Beloved French actor and the most recent James Bond villain, Mathieu Amalric is no stranger to the Croisette, but it’s his first time in competition as a director. The story of a wayward producer (played by Amalric himself) on tour in France with a troupe of American burlesque dancers, the film could potentially be one of the line-up’s more colourful, crowd-pleasing entries.


“Of God and Men” (“Des hommes et des dieux”) (Xavier Beauvois, France): Xavier Beauvois’s bleak drama “N’oublie pas que tu vas mourir” (“Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die”) won the third-place Jury Prize 15 years ago, and his fifth feature-length film also tackles a dark event — the 1996 massacre of seven French Trappist monks in Algeria. A cast of prominent Francophone actors includes Lambert Wilson, Michael Lonsdale, and Roschdy Zem.


“Outside of the Law” (“Hors la loi”) (Rachid Bouchareb, Algeria): French-born Rachid Bouchareb’s last outing at Cannes in 2006 scored the leading men of his Algerian War drama “Days of Glory” (“Indigènes”) a shared acting award. The director’s second bid at a prize stars three of the same high-profile French-Arab performers — Jamel Debbouze, Roschdy Zem and Sami Bouajila — playing Algerian brothers in France during their country’s struggle for independence.


(Jose Haro)

"Biutiful” (Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico): A poster boy for the Mexican New Wave, Alejandro González Iñárritu nabbed Best Director in 2006 for globe-trotting drama “Babel”. The director’s new film — a Spain-set drama about a drug dealer (Javier Bardem) facing off against a childhood friend who’s now a cop — is his first effort without former writing partner Guillermo Arriaga as well as his first in his native tongue since his 2000 feature-length début, “Amores Perros”.



“A Screaming Man” (“Un homme qui crie”) (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, Chad): The first Chadian film ever in competition centers around an ageing swimming champion and his son, and takes place against a backdrop of political tumult that has shaken the country since its independence in 1960. The movie’s 50-year-old, Paris-educated director, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, won the Special Jury prize at Venice in 2006 for his film “Dry Season”, and his presence in this line-up confirms his official arrival in the big leagues of international cinema.


“Housemaid” (Sang-soo Im, South Korea): Remaking a 1960 adultery thriller of the same title, Sang-soo Im is a newcomer to the Croisette and one of two South Korean directors in competition. His film has big shoes to fill; the disturbing, erotically charged original is considered a classic of Asian cinema.



“Certified Copy” (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran): Veteran Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami took home the top Cannes prize in 1997 for “The Taste of Cherry”. His new work promises an intriguing change of pace: it is the first of the director’s films to be made outside his native Iran (it was shot and takes place in Tuscany), it stars beloved French leading lady Juliette Binoche, and its story intertwines themes of art and love — ingredients that give the film a standout pedigree in an already prestigious competition.


“Outrage” (Takeshi Kitano, Japan): The Japanese filmmaker is mostly known around the world — though not universally adored — for highly stylized films blending deadpan humour with violent action. Takeshi Kitano's most recent work has strayed from that vein, but his second Cannes entry (he went home empty-handed for “Kikujiro” in 1999) is a return to more familiar territory: a Tokyo underworld rife with gangsters and guns.



“Poetry” (Chang-dong Lee, South Korea): Chang-dong Lee, a novelist-turned-filmmaker, served on Isabelle Huppert’s jury last year and this time around finds himself on the other side of the judges’ table. Following “Secret Sunshine”, his well received 2007 competition submission which won the Best Actress prize, Lee’s new melodrama about an Alzheimer’s-stricken woman and her troubled grandson could be the first Asian film to grab the top honour since 1997.


(Simon Mein)

“Another Year” (Mike Leigh, Great Britain): One of the UK’s foremost filmmakers, Mike Leigh is internationally known for improvisational, often bittersweet ensemble dramas featuring working-class characters. The plot of his new film is shrouded in secrecy, but Leigh regulars Imelda Staunton, Jim Broadbent, and Lesley Manville figure among the cast. This is Leigh’s fourth time in competition, and with a Best Director prize for “Naked” (1993) and a Palme d’Or for “Secrets and Lies” (1996) under his belt, he is one of the lineup’s undeniable heavyweights.


“Fair Game” (Doug Liman, USA): The sole American entry this year looks to be the competition’s most mainstream entry; director Doug Liman is best known for action (“The Bourne Identity”, the Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie vehicle “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and the recent, critically panned “Jumper”) and comedy (indie favourite “Swingers”). His presence in the Cannes competition at the helm of a political thriller starring Naomi Watts as outed CIA agent Valerie Plame and Sean Penn as her husband represents an unexpected step onto the most highly esteemed of world cinema platforms.



“You, My Joy” (Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine): The first feature-length Ukrainian film ever in competition at Cannes is a realistic drama covering a nightmarish few days in the life of a truck driver. Known mainly for his documentaries, Sergei Loznitsa chose non-professional actors to play key roles in what he has described as a parable about instability in Eastern Europe. Depending on its reception at the festival, this could be an underdog to watch come prize time if the jury chooses to single out new cinematic voices.


“Our Life” (“La Nostra Vita”) (Daniele Luchetti, Italy): The only Italian film in competition tells the story of a grieving factory worker who becomes embroiled in shady financial dealings. Daniele Luchetti, last in competition with 1991’s “The Yes Man”, has said his film is both a character portrait and a portrait of contemporary Italy as a whole — making it a natural fit for Cannes’ tradition of socio-politically minded cinema. “La Nostra Vita” also features two of Italy’s most sought-after young actors, Elio Germano and Riccardo Scamarcio.



“Burnt by the Sun 2” (“Utomlyonnye Solntsem 2”) (Nikita Mikhalkov, Russia): After winning the second-place Grand Jury prize for Stalin-era costume drama “Burnt by the Sun” in 1994, Nikita Mikhalkov is back with a World War II-set sequel. But Mikhalkov — who is president of the Russian Filmmakers Union and is known to have close ties to Vladimir Putin — has recently come under fire from Russian filmmakers who signed a petition denouncing his authoritarianism and nationalism. The controversy might not win Mikhalkov awards this time, but it will likely make for one of the festival’s most politically explosive screenings.

“Tender Son - The Frankenstein Project” (Kormél Mondruczo, Hungary): This late addition to the line-up is a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s classic gothic novel, with a twist: the monster here is a Hungarian adolescent who returns from an institution and struggles to find acceptance within his troubled family. Thirty-five-year-old Mondruczo was in competition two years ago with “Delta”, which won an international critics’ prize.

(Etienne George)

“The Princess of Montpensier” (“La Princesse de Montpensier”) (Bertrand Tavernier, France): A mainstay of Gallic cinema (and winner of the Cannes directing prize in 1984 for “A Sunday in the Country”), Bertrand Tavernier hasn’t had a film in competition in two decades. He’s back with an adaptation of a short story by Madame de La Fayette about a 16th-century princess torn between two men. If it sounds like one of the line-up’s stuffiest entries, a cast headlined by rising French stars Gaspard Ulliel and Mélanie Thierry should add a touch of glamour to the proceedings.

“Chongqing Blues” (Xiaoshuai Wang, China): Winner of the third place Jury prize in 2005 for “Shanghai Dreams”, Wang was originally slated to present his new film in the “Un Certain Regard” section before being bumped up to the main competition. The only Chinese film vying for the Palme d’Or, “Chongqing Blues” is a drama about a man coming to grips with the death of his son.

“Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives” (“Long Boonmee Raleuk Chat”) (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand): Thai provocateur Apichatpong Weerasethakul took home the third-place Jury prize in 2004 for his dark, gay-themed romance “Tropical Malady”. His new film, about a dying man’s last days, sounds more conventional, but the mysterious title and the director’s proclivity for themes of fantasy, nature, and sexuality will make this one of the more eagerly anticipated screenings.


"Route Irish" (Ken Loach, United Kingdom): Loach is back in Cannes! The British director, who scooped the top prize in 2006, has joined the race for the coveted Palme d'Or with the Iraq war film "Route Irish”. Festival organisers decided to add Loach's film on Monday to the 18 films already in competition.

Date created : 2010-04-21

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