At halfway mark Britain's Leigh is Cannes favourite

It may not sound like Cannes glam, but as the festival hits the halfway mark the tale of a happily married middle-aged couple by Britain's Mike Leigh leads the field in the race for the Palme d'Or.

The world's biggest annual film event so far has seen less hype and less Hollywood cash as rain and chill washed out beach parties and Iceland's troublesome volcano added travel chaos.

So the buzz over Leigh's ordinary people mirrors the festival's ordinary problems.

A slew of movies screening at the 63rd Cannes festival play out family and marital dramas, with the Iraq war, France's colonial fall-out in Algeria and the Russian front in World War II providing wider historical themes.

A previous Palme winner for "Secrets and Lies" in 1996, Leigh with his "Another Year" is currently the critics' unanimous choice for the Palme, to be handed out Sunday at the close of the 12-day event.

But as is often the case at Cannes, with festival-goers so far treated to 10 of the 19 films competing for the top prize, critics remain divided over the rest of the field.

Critics cited in trade papers Screen and Le Film Francais both tip Leigh as potential Palme winner to date.

But an international panel of film supremos in Screen believe a 16th-century costume drama by France's Bertrand Tavernier, "The Princess of Montpensier", may be headed for the stars, along with a rare offering from Africa, "A Screaming Man" by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.

French critics on the other hand favour "Biutiful" by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the Mexican director behind "Amores Perros" and "Babel".

His tragic tale of survival in the underbelly of the Spanish city Barcelona, starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem, had trade magazine The Hollywood Reporter in raptures.

"Until 'Biutiful; showed up, the competition appeared to be a rush to the bottom," wrote Kirk Honeycutt. "It's hard to imagine anyone winning best actor honors other than its star, Javier Bardem."

That opinion was not shared by competitor Variety, who slammed the Mexican director's "bleak streak", saying one "can't shake off the sense of a prodigiously gifted film-maker stuck in a grim rut."

The film festival has traditionally mixed hot directors with arthouse fare while bringing small-budget movies from far-off places into the international movie spotlight.

Highly praised by critics was Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami, unloved by authorities at home, who offered his first film shot abroad, "Certified Copy" starring French actress Juliette Binoche.

Binoche, along with Britain's Lesley Manville, who gives a compelling performance as a boozy insecure single in Leigh's film, stand out as leading candidates for Best Actress.

So does Korea's Jeon Do-youn, a previous Cannes winner, for her role in "Housemaid" by Im Sang-soo where class war is played out on a bedside pillow.

US striptease show-stoppers, who had Cannes raving in "On Tour" by French actor-turned-director Mathieu Amalric, could also pull an acting prize.

And acclaimed Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai's father-son drama, "Chongqing Blues" won buckets of praise, in part due to lead actor Wang Xueqi's strong performance.

Dividing critics on the other hand is Japanese master Takeshi Kitano with a a riot of gruesome violence in "Outrage", a Yakuza gangster film where he uses anything from fists to chopsticks and a dentist's drill to cow his enemies.

The Hollywood Reporter dubbed it "arguably his best film in a decade" but the Screen panel gave it a thumbs down, leaving it in second to last place.

Highly-awaited are previous Palme winner Ken Loach with "Route Irish" on the most dangerous stretch of road in Iraq and US director Doug Liman with "Fair Game", based on a real-life Bush-era scandal also linked to the Iraqi war.

Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones