It's the magic hour on the Croisette, the celebrated seaside promenade in Cannes, when the sea goes purple and the pale lights blink on. Down on the private beaches, the lounge chairs have been carted off and white-jacketed waiters are busy laying out champagne glasses under the canvas tents for a final round of parties. As the limos pull up to the entrance, hundreds of gawking fans, packed behind the barricades, break into wild applauses and cheers at the sight of their favorite stars. Meanwhile, throngs of movie-industry glitterati—tuxedo-clad execs and young glamour-pusses in spiky heels and floaty gowns— head toward the Palais des Festivals to the nightly screenings of the 72nd Cannes Film Festival, which kicked off on May 14.
This evening, Saturday May 25, the Palme D’Or ceremony (one of the most internationally viewed televised event, in par with the World Cup and the Olympics) will mark the end of what has been a particularly diverse festival that featured a selection of films from 39 countries. Out of 2000 films submitted, only 20 selections are retained each year for the official competition. This year was also marked by a strong feminine presence, with four women directors in competition with the likes of Cannes veterans from British auteur Ken Loach to the Belgian Dardenne brothers.
Who will win the Palm d’Or? Among the buzzy favorites in the official lineup is Pedro Almodovar’s gorgeously shot semi-autobiographic drama, Pain and Glory, starring Antonio Banderas (who plays the director’s thinly-veiled alter ego) and a radiant Penelope Cruz, who co-stars as a young mother during the director’s childhood years.
Another contender is Quentin Tarantino’s stylish nostalgic epic, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, starring Leonardo Di Caprio, a faded TV actor, and Brad Pitt, his stunt double and pal, set in 1969 Los Angeles. “It’s a memory piece,” Tarantino said, summing up his latest oeuvre at the press conference. American actress Margot Robbie portrays Sharon Tate, whose murder by Charles Manson is also the backdrop of the film’s distinctive setting in Tinsel town.
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Among other titles high on the list of critical acclaim is Les Misérables, a simmering realistic drama set in the housing projects of the Parisian suburbs by debut French director, Lady Lys, a story about a trio an anti-crime squad cops which has already been snatched up for international distribution.
Equally, South Korean director Bong Joon Ho wowed audiences with his tragi-comedy, Parasite, a tale about an unemployed family who work their way into the lives of a wealthy family, which triggers unanticipated consequences.
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Perhaps one of the most lyrical favorites is Céline Sciamma’s historical 18th century romance set in Brittany, Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Set in a castle in Brittany, the film depicts a recalcitrant bride-to-be, played by French actress Adèle Haenel, who falls in love with a female artist who has been commissioned to paint her portrait.
Haenel, who appeared in three features in this year’s festival, also played a slightly screwy barmaid in the Director’s Fortnight Deerskin, a quirky comedy by French director Quentin Dupieux, starring Oscar-award winner, Jean Dujardin, who becomes obsessed with his vintage fringed suede jacket.
Let the voting begin
The bets are on for the Jury’s final choices at the closing ceremony today, presided by Alejandro Inarritu, which unfailingly tend to surprise. And perhaps more than ever, the Cannes Festival has the power to boost first-time directors and unknown actors into the international limelight. Outsiders, take heart: as Audrey Hepburn once famously said: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible!’”
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