British, French films in frame for top Cannes award

Sat May 22, 2010 7:19pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - The curtain comes down on the 2010 Cannes film festival on Sunday night with British director Mike Leigh and France's Xavier Beauvois firmly in the frame for the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture.

The awards ceremony ends the world's largest cinema showcase where economic uncertainties and the threat of volcanic ash disrupting flights contributed to a relatively low-key, celebrity-light year and capped business on the market.

Stars like Russell Crowe, Michael Douglas, Helen Mirren, Jennifer Lopez, Cate Blanchett, Penelope Cruz and Mick Jagger graced the red carpet and glitzy parties on-shore and off during the 12-day movie marathon, but they were fewer than usual.

The quality of films is equally important, and after a slow start the main competition lineup improved in the view of thousands of reporters and critics who crammed into screenings, press conferences, round tables and interviews.

Among the best liked was Leigh's "Another Year," examining the hidden drama of everyday lives in a London suburb. He has already won the Golden Palm for "Secrets and Lies" in 1996.

"This is Mike Leigh at his best in a long time," said film historian and Cannes veteran Mark Cousins, adding that the family drama could appeal just as much in Asia as in Europe.

Another favorite is "Of Gods and Men," Beauvois' stately retelling of the true story of seven French monks mysteriously murdered in Algeria in 1996.

The film focuses mainly on the rhythms of monastic life and how the men face the growing threat of violent death as civil conflict escalates around them. It has the added appeal of tackling universal themes of faith and religious tolerance.   Continued...

<p>Director Xavier Beauvois arrives to attend a news conference for the film Des hommes et des dieux (Of Gods and Men) in competition at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler</p>