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Volver, Babel tipped to win Palme d'Or trophy

With the Cannes film festival in its last days, two films have emerged as critics' favourites out of the 20 competing movies.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 11:47 IST

With the Cannes film festival in its last days, two films have emerged as critics' favourites out of a field of 20 competing for the prestigious Palme d'Or trophy.

Volver by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, which stars Penelope Cruz in a career-topping performance, had the edge in the race onThursday.

But Babel, a three-story movie crafted by the Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who made the acclaimed 21 Grams, was close on its heels.

Of course, Cannes juries are notoriously unpredictable and often hand the top prize to an outside contender. This year the panel is headed by Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai and includes actresses Monica Bellucci, Helena Bonham Carter and Zhang Ziyi, and actors Samuel L. Jackson and Tim Roth.

The Palme d'Or will be awarded late Sunday in a glittering ceremony.

Other films that have been well-received over the course of the festival, which started last Wednesday, include: Caiman, a harsh profile of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi by previous Cannes winner Nanni Moretti; Climates, a slow-moving, subtle relationship piece by and starring Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan; and Lights in the Dusk, a study of loneliness by Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki.

Summer Palace by Chinese director You Le, a film that created political heat in Beijing because of its sex scenes and context of the 1989 student uprising in Tiananmen Square, was also noted highly, as was Red Road, a British thriller by first-time feature director Andrea Arnold that saves its jolts for the end.

As in every festival, there was a dud that left critics and audiences nonplussed.

This year, that raspberry went to Southland Tales, a futuristic satire on the United States by Richard Kelly (who made the cult film Donnie Darko) and starring The Rock and "Buffy" lead Sarah Michelle Gellar in a confused, sophomoric countdown to Armageddon.

The much-awaited Marie Antoinette, the latest film by Lost in Translation director Sofia Coppola, drew sharply mixed reactions at screenings on Wednesday, with the audience either applauding or booing loudly.

Some of the many films shown outside the competition created a buzz. Among them was an Australian black comedy, Suburban Mayhem, about a girl who quite literally gets away with murder, and Shortbus, a US film that pushed the limits of provocation by showing unsimulated sex scenes.

The Da Vinci Code and X-Men: The Last Stand, the two big Hollywood films that premiered at Cannes, were case studies in contrast when it came to the critics.

The first was soundly panned as being heavyhanded and inert, while the second was praised as a good summer blockbuster that rounds out the popular X-Men" trilogy. Box-office success was assured in both cases, however.

As always, the festival has packed a whirlwind party scene and been heavy on star-power.

Bruce Willis, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry and Cate Blanchett all walked the red carpet. Brad Pitt didn't show to talk about his part in "Babel" -- but did send a message saying he was with girlfriend Angelina Jolie as they await the imminent arrival of their baby.

First Published: May 25, 2006 11:47 IST