Cannes: From Maradona to Madonna and the rain in between

May 23rd, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Madonna
By Andrew McCathie
Cannes (France), May 23 (DPA) The Cannes Film Festival is entering its final days with a tight race developing for the top honours at an event which has largely sidestepped escapism to explore the darker side of life. From Mafia exposes and the dreams of breaking out of Sao Paulo’s slums through to fake immigrant marriages in Europe and a low-budget look at the chaotic life of a Filipino family living in a porn cinema, the world’s leading film festival has been engrossed this year in hard-edged social commentary.

Indeed, the only light relief has been provided by a clutch of largely US films including Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” showing the Spanish city at its best, the animated “Kung Fu Panda” about an unlikely hero and of course the much-hyped latest Indiana Jones’ movie.

But then what the 61st Cannes festival appears to be about is returning to its art-house cinema roots.

Among the favourites this year for Cannes’ coveted Palme d’Or are a groundbreaking animated documentary about a massacre in the Middle East, a story about secrets and lies in a working-class Turkish family and a film focusing on the human fallout from China’s dash into the future.

Hollywood movies were a little short on the ground compared with previous years. Nevertheless, the Cannes glamour offensive largely came from the US movie business with Danny Glover, Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Angelina Jolie (with partner Brad Pitt in tow) turning up for screenings.

For Jolie this included veteran US director Clint Eastwood’s well-received “The Exchange”, in which the 32-year actress plays a mother whose determination to track down her young son after he vanished triggered a major shakeout in the police and political establishment in 1920’s Los Angeles.

Besides appearances from sporting stars Mike Tyson and Diego Maradona to support bio pics charting the high and lows of their very public lives, pop star Madonna was also in town to promote her documentary about the plight of orphaned children in Malawi.

But apart from the A-list celebrities for the 12-day movie marathon and the buzz about the movies being screened, the news out of Cannes this year has been the rain.

Torrential downpours have turned the festival’s red carpet into a rather soggy walk of fame at times and washed out some of the fest’s lavish beachside and hilltop parties.

It might be the current uncertain economic climate and the weak dollar dampening US buyer interest, but business also did not seem to have been as brisk this year in Cannes’ film market, which is a key part of the festival and where everything from children’s movies through to serious-minded documentaries and porn changes hands.

The festival, which winds up with a gala award-winning ceremony Sunday, has also been fired up by some true star confessions.

While Cate Blanchett, who plays an almost comic book dominatrix-style Soviet scientist in US director Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”, said she would love to have played Indy. Jolie said she would like to step into Eastwood’s tough cop Dirty Harry role.

In the meantime, Maradona confessed he would cut off the “hand of god” that secured one of his most famous goals to see Pretty Woman star Julia Roberts wandering along Cannes’ palm-lined beachfront.

But as Cannes enters its last days and the sun starts to break through the clouds, the talk along the Crossette, the boulevard that cuts through the festival, is about which of the 22 films in the movie derby’s main competition the nine-strong jury headed up by US actor-turned-director Sean Penn will award top honours to.

The favourites include Israel’s Ari Folman’s animated documentary “Waltz with Bashir” which is about the events surrounding the Sabra and Shatila massacre, Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s family drama “Three Monkeys (Uc Maymum)” and China’’s Jia Zhangke’s “24 City” on his nation’s rapid and convulsive change.

However, film festival juries are notoriously difficult to predict and the field of contenders also includes Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s “Lorna’s Silence” which looks at a young Albanian woman caught up in the arranged marriage business.

Italian director Matteo Garrone’s almost apocalyptic “Gomorrah” about a world under the Mafia thumb might also stand a chance along with “Linha de Passe” from Brazilian directors Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas telling the story of four brothers in the mega city of Sao Paulo.

Host nation France might also be hoping to end its long-running losing streak with Arnaud Desplechin’s “Un Conte de Noel (A Christmas Tale)” about a family torn apart from a child’s death.

Also keenly awaited among the final screenings in the coming days are Canadian-Armenian filmmaker Atom Egoyan’s “Adoration” about teenagers on the internet and Germany’s Wim Wenders’ musical road movie “The Palermo Shooting”.

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