Hitman film and AIDS drama tipped to win at Cannes

The Cannes film festival ends Sunday with a movie about a hammer-wielding hitman, a rousing story of AIDS activists and a parable of Putin's Russia among the favourites to lift its top prize, the Palme d'Or.

Hitman film and AIDS drama tipped to win at Cannes
Photo: AFP

After 12 days of screenings and starry celebrations of the festival's 70th anniversary — which were somewhat muted by the Manchester bombing — it is now up to the nine-member celebrity jury led by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar to decide which movie will triumph.

Rarely has the race looked so open, with many critics complaining there was no standout film to get behind among the 19 in the official competition.

That shifted Saturday when the final film, Lynne Ramsay's “You Were Never Really Here”, had many reaching for superlatives.

Two critics told the Scottish director at a post-screening news conference that her film about a traumatised hitman who saves a young girl from a prostitution ring was a “masterpiece”.

Its star Joaquin Phoenix was also being talked of as a contender for best actor.

If Ramsay were to win she would be only the second woman director ever to take home the Palme d'Or.

(From L) actor Alex Manette, actress Ekaterina Samsonov, director Lynne Ramsay, and actors Joaquin Phoenix and John Doman pose before the screening of 'You Were Never Really Here'. Photo: AFP

New Zealander Jane Campion won for “The Piano” in 1993. But as Hollywood star Salma Hayek pointed out Tuesday in Cannes, Campion “only got half the Palme d'Or, not even a full one”, having to share it with Chinese director Chen Kaige for “Farewell My Concubine”.

With US star and Cannes jury member Jessica Chastain sporting a Dior “We Should All Be Feminists” T-shirt, and the lack of women directors dominating debate at the festival, a Ramsay win would send a strong signal.

The Glasgow-born director's main competition comes from the stirring French drama about AIDS activists “120 Beats Per Minute” by Robin Campillo, who co-wrote the script for the Palme d'Or-winning “The Class” in 2008.

“Loveless”, a harrowing tale of a Russian couple who want rid of their child from “Leviathan” director Andrey Zvyagintsev, is also thought to be in the reckoning.

Nor was the Swedish satire “The Square”, which sends up the art world and political correctness, short of admirers.

Overall, however, critics were frustrated by the main race, preferring instead to swoon over films such as “Ava”, “The Rider” and “Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts” in the sidebar Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week sections.

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“I don't think it has been a vintage Cannes, certainly in terms of the main competition,” Xan Brooks of Britain's The Observer told AFP.

“It has felt a little cautious and conservative. It's almost as if the increased security on the doors of the Palais (where the films are shown) has barred some of the more raucous, rude, rowdy contenders that might have otherwise managed to find their way through.”

Jonathan Romney, of Screen International and the Independent on Sunday, was equally downbeat.

“There were a lot of names to get excited about this year but unfortunately we have been left disappointed.

“Good directors have not come up with their best,” he said.

But for Philippe Rouyer, of the French magazine Positif, there were plenty of gems outside the main competition, such as young Russian Kantemir Balagov's debut “Tesnota” (Closeness), which also caught Romney's eye.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw was much more sanguine, calling “120 Beats Per Minute” “terrific” and “Loveless” “brilliant and compelling”.

“Some professed themselves marginally let down, but I have been hugely enthusiastic about quite a few films,” he added.

What was unanimous, however, was the acclaim for 79-year-old veteran Agnes Varda, who got the festival's very best reviews for her out-of-competition documentary with the street artist JR, “Faces Places”. 


Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.