Returning to its glory days, the Cannes Film Festival is currently in full swing until Sunday, ushering in Hollywood and all its glittering offspring. While British cinema may have taken a back seat this year, there’s still a feast of other filmic treats to get our grubby, popcorn-clogged hands on. Here’s a quick preview of just some of the films competing for the esteemed Palme d’Or prize at this year’s festival.
The Skin I Live In (La Piel Que Habito)
A challenging departure for director, Pedro Almodovar, The Skin I Live In takes inspiration from the novel Tarantula by crime writer Thierry Jonquet, which depicts a plastic surgeon seeking revenge against the man who raped his daughter- understandable, if a bit extreme. But there’s more to Dr. Robert Ledgard (Antonio Banderas) than a simple tit for tat tale.
Years earlier his wife, played by Elena Anaya, had suffered severe burns in a car accident. Ever since Ledgard has been interested in creating a new skin that could withstand anything and could have also saved his wife's face. While this seems a relatively noble act, it's revealed that Banderas’s character has really been using his wife as a human guinea pig for his experiments and a world of control and cruelty ensues at the hands of this psychopathic surgeon.
The Skin I Live In is a Cannes favourite and major contender, and if the trailer is anything to go by this eerie story is sure to make the audiences' skin crawl with anticipation.
The Kid With A Bike (Le Gamin Au Vélo)
Belgian filmmaking duo and Cannes veterans, the Dardenne Brothers, are known for their no-frills yet poignant approach to story-telling. And their latest film starts with 12-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret) in the search for his father, who abandoned him in a children’s home and the retrieval of his most prized possession, his bike. Pursued by youth workers from the home he finds solace in hairdresser, Samantha (Cecile de France), on a chance meeting. Sharing a love of two-wheeled fun as well, Samantha takes on the responsibility of fostering Cyril at weekends and both find it difficult to adjust and deal with troubling situations.
Despite this seemingly simple plot, the film is said to contain an air of unpredictability and an ending which leaves the viewer wondering what’s next for little Cyril. Admirers of the Dardenne Brothers other work, such as Rosetta, L’Enfant and Le Silence de Lorna won’t be disappointed and new audiences will be engaged by its gripping and honest nature.
A far cry from Disney this ‘fairytale’ follows Lucy (Emily Browning), a university student trying to earn money to pay for her tuition fees. Rather than taking the usual route and working in a Wetherspoons like every other student, Lucy becomes embroiled in high-end prostitution, and is seduced by a world of beauty and desire.
The ‘Sleeping Beauty’ aspect comes into play when it’s revealed what Lucy’s duties are. She lies asleep (drugged) allowing clients to do almost anything they want to her unconscious body in a disturbing necrophile-rape fantasy. The plot is driven by Lucy’s fixation on finding out what is being done to her.
Early reviews have commended director Julia Leigh on an elegant and bold debut, and there are also rumours of Emily Browning’s performance putting her in the running for the festival’s best actress prize.
Deadpan Finnish director and courter of controversy, Aki Kaurismäki, brings Le Havre, his long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s Lights in the Dusk to this year’s festival.
The film follows Marcel Marx, bohemian writer turned shoe-shiner who has recently relocated to the French port city of Le Havre. He lives a simple life content moving within the triangle of his work, his wife and his favourite bar.
Things get shaken up when he strikes up an unlikely friendship with a young African immigrant and decides to take on the task of sticking up for him in the face of the state. Much intrigue surrounds this film and it seems those looking forward to Kaurismäki’s return will not be disappointed.
Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamablar Anadolu'da)
Turkish photographer turned director Nuri Bilge Ceylan was celebrated for his startling imagery, and poetic but wry storytelling in his previous Cannes fodder Three Monkeys (2008) and Uzak (2002).
This latest offering Once Upon a Time in Anatolia features the tense 12 hour story of a doctor and prosecutor living in Keskin, in the central Anatolia region of Turkey.
Despite this film being kept so firmly under wraps, the anticipation surrounding this film from both critics and audiences is still big due to Ceylan’s reputation. And as a result of this blind buzz, it’s said to be one of the frontrunners for the Palme d’Or this year.
We Need To Talk About Kevin
The hotly anticipated adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s award winning book, We Need To Talk About Kevin, has director Lynne Ramsay at the helm. Ramsay’s reappearance in the wake of her tremendous Ratcatcher and Morvern Callar is a cause for jubilation.
Tilda Swinton plays Eva, the mother of a teenage boy who has committed a Columbine-style high school massacre. The film explores bold themes about the alienation of parenthood and its potentially devastating effect on love and marriage as Eva grapples with her own feelings of grief and responsibility, at times doubting whether she ever loved her son and brooding over how much of Kevin’s actions she was responsible for.
It seems female directors have been given more limelight at Cannes this year and early reviews praise Ramsay for throwing a new, female light on the traditional high school gun tragedy.
For more details about the Cannes Film Festival 2011 visit their official website here.