Close call in Cannes as prison drama edges ahead

Fri May 22, 2009 12:15pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - France could be heading for a rare double at the Cannes film festival, with Jacques Audiard's powerful prison drama "A Prophet" narrow favorite to win the coveted Palme d'Or at an awards ceremony on Sunday.

The host nation triumphed in 2008 with "The Class," and "A Prophet "shows Audiard to be the biggest beast in new French cinema," according to the Guardian's film critic Peter Bradshaw.

Yet with two of 20 competition films yet to be screened, and as the Riviera resort winds down 10 days into the 12-day movie marathon, the is no runaway contender as in 2007 and 2008.

Any one of eight or more movies could win, critics say, in a year where expectations of a classic Cannes based on the roll call of revered directors selected did not quite match the reality of what made it to the big screen.

New Zealand-born Jane Campion, who won the Golden Palm in 1993 with "The Piano," is a frontrunner with her biopic of John Keats and Fanny Brawne in "Bright Star" as is Spain's Pedro Almodovar and his "Broken Embraces" starring Penelope Cruz.

Austrian Michael Haneke won rave reviews for his eerie and thought-provoking "The White Ribbon," Italian entry "Vincere" about Mussolini was broadly popular and Ken Loach, winner in 2006, won cheers with his upbeat and touching "Looking for Eric" featuring soccer star Eric Cantona.

Two more French pictures -- the whimsical "Wild Grass" by Alain Resnais and "In the Beginning" by Xavier Giannoli -- would prove popular winners for many.

And even "Antichrist," Lars von Trier's controversial movie featuring scenes of graphic sex and genital self-mutilation, is seen as an outside bet even though it offended and angered many who watched it.   Continued...

<p>A general view shows people attending the amfAR's Cinema Against AIDS 2009 event in Antibes during the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 21, 2009. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau</p>