Mon, May 27, 2002 - Page 11 News List

Cannes awaits photo finish

In a strong field, Chinese-language films have little prospect for the top awards at the film festival, but the top contenders face a fierce fight


Excitement reigns as the Cannes Film Festival draws to a close with a strong field of 21 films from 15 countries. The quality of the films this year almost proves that Cannes remains the more respected film festival in the world.

It is a tough job for the Cannes judges to come up with a winner, especially in the Best Director category and the Golden Palm, awarded for best film. At least four directors, Ken Loach, David Cronenberg, Aki Kaurismaki and Roman Polanski, have a good chance of winning. Belgium brothers, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Russian Alexandre Sokourov have also received considerable acclaim.

Directors Loach, Polanski and Cronenberg are all former winners of the Golden Palm, and response to their latest works during the festival proved again that they are masterful auteurs in filmmaking.

Loach, who is known for his social/political criticism in his films, this year shifted towarded drama in Sweet Sixteen, a story about an unemployed boy in Glasgow who wholeheartedly helps his drug-addict mom to get out of prison, only to receive a bitter betral from the adult.

Brilliant characters, powerful acting and masterful direction have made this simple story a powerful work of social realism. First-time teenage actor Martin Compston's performance has put him in the running for Best Actor.

Another mother-son relationship, rather more Freudian in this case, is David Cronenberg's Spider. Ralph Finnes (who starred in The English Patient) plays a man who suffers from psychosis. Believing that his plumber father killed his mother to move in with a prostitute step-mom, he weaves a web of revenge in the streets of East London.

Cronenberg is less provocative in terms of subject matter and genre (compared with Crash and Naked Lunch) in Spider, focusing more on the unconscious and a sense of a hunted past. Finnes is widely tipped as a winner in the Best Actor category.

A second film dealing with a man coping with his past is A Man Without a Past by Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki, a cold romance told in a sublime way. A romance is extracted from a string of miserable happenings that occur to a nameless man, who loses his memory after being beaten up.

Roman Polanski also changed his style slightly this year with The Pianist, which tells the story of a pianist, Wladislaw Szpilman, a Jew who experiences suffering and humiliation in the Warsaw ghetto, escapes deportation and shelters in the ruins of the city. He survives with the help of a German officer who is touched by his music. It is a simple memoir-style story that neatly blends Szpilman's life, suffering and art.

Films by English auteur Mike Leigh and American documentary maker Michael Moore stood out as strong contenders early in the festival.

French director Olivier Assayas' Demonlover, a story of cyber-sex and corporate war, on the other hand, was massively critized by the French media for obvious flaws in story-telling.

Israeli director Amos Gitai's lament about the first group of European Jewish refugees to arrive in Palestine in May, 1948, titled Kedma, and Italian Marco Belloccio's The Hour of Religion failed to make much impact on the critics and the general audience.

Mike Leigh's All or Nothing, tells a story about dysfunctional families in London's housing estates where alcoholism and teenage pregnancy create a vicious cycle. But in Leigh's story, a family is reunited and gets a taste of human warmth after a son's sudden illness. The film gently combines drama, irony and sincerity with superb performances and beautiful photography.

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