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Past winners in Cannes fray

Saibal Chatterjee does a round up of the big films vying for the top slot.

india Updated: May 17, 2006 19:45 IST

Italy’s Nanni Moretti won the Palme d’Or for The Son’s Room in 2001. Maverick Spaniard Pedro Almodovar bagged the Best Director prize in 1999 for All About My Mother. British veteran Ken Loach was the winner of the Prize for Best Script in 2002 with Sweet Sixteen. Finnish master Aki Kaurismaki won the Grand Prix in 2002 for The Man Without a Past.

All these European greats are back in the main feature film Competition at the 59th Cannes Film Festival with their latest films, a fact that promises to make the fare on show one of the finest in years.

Moretti, who enjoys cult status in Italy and around the world, figures in this year’s Competition with Il Caimano, a trenchant political satire that rips the outgoing Italian Prime Minister and media magnate Silvio Berlusconi apart.

Almodovar’s film, Volver, is about a woman who returns to her village after death to sort out things that she couldn’t quite tackle during her lifetime. Featuring Carmen Maura, Penelope Cruz and Lola Duenas, the film is set in the director’s home region of La Mancha and abounds in touches that are both personal and universal.

Penelope Cruz starrer Volver is about a woman who returns to her village after death to sort out things that she couldn’t quite tackle during her lifetime.

Loach returns to Cannes with

The Wind that Shakes the Barley

, his first period films since 1995’s

Land and Freedom.

The new film delves into the drama of the run-up to the Irish civil war of the early 1920s and depicts the complexities of war and history from the ground level.

Aki Kaurismaki’s Lights of the Suburb, the concluding part of his “unemployment trilogy”, narrates a characteristically minimalist tale of love and betrayal in the suburbs of Helsinki.

Yet another past Cannes winner competing this year is Turkey’s Nuri Bilge Ceylan with Iklimler  (Climates). His evocative Uzak (Distant) won the Grand Prix in 2003.

This year’s main Competition line-up isn’t, however, as top-heavy as it was in 2005, when the principal awards were cornered entirely by established names – Palme d’Or for the Dardenne brothers’ L’enfant, Grand Prix for Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers and Best Director for Michael Haneke’s Hidden.       

The 20-film Competition line-up this year also includes the works of what the festival’s artistic director, Thierry Fremaux, calls the “rising generation” – Sofia Coppola, Paolo Sorrentino, Rachid Bouchareb, Alejandro Gonzalez-Innaritu, Lou Ye, Richard Linklater and French director Xavier Giannoli – and that could make the race for the Palme d’Or truly worth watching.

Among the Competition entries with an outside chance of causing an upset or two is Chinese director Lou Ye’s Summer Palace. The story of a country girl who discovers sexual freedom and political turmoil in Beijing University, Ye’s film is the only Asian feature in this year’s Competition.

Also in with a chance is Algerian screenwriter and director Rachid Bouchareb, who will vie for the top prize with Indigenes, the story of four North African soldiers who fought for France at the end of World War II.

Yet another Competition film that will be watched with keen interest is Mexican director Guillermo del Toro’s Spanish-language Pan’s Labyrinth, the tale of a girl who creates an imaginary world to shield herself from the harsh realities of post-fascist Spain.

As the emerging stars of world cinema take on the mastery of formidable creative forces that have set their own standards, the Competition at the 59th Cannes Film Festival promises to be at once keen and fascinating.