Cannes films pull heartstrings, turn stomachs

A riot of gruesome violence by Japanese master Takeshi Kitano and a tragic tale of survival and poverty in Spain starring Oscar-winner Javier Bardem hit the Cannes festival on Monday.

Bardem stars in Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful", while the cult Japanese hard man Takeshi, 63, directs and acts in "Outrage", in Cannes competition entries tackling two very different types of underworld.

Takeshi drew groans and sniggers from viewers as he used fists, chopsticks and a dentist's drill to cow his enemies during the saga of warring Yakuza gangster clans in which the ultra-violence verges on the comical.

"Biutiful", a rival entry from the acclaimed director of the 2000 film "Amores Perros", tells the story of Uxbal, a terminally-ill father hustling to get by in the murky world of immigrant street vendors and Chinese sweatshops.

Both movies are in the race for the Palme d'Or, the top prize in the world's biggest film festival - against entries by directors including Britain's Mike Leigh, Iran's Abbas Kiarostami and Doug Liman of the United States.

Jean-Luc Godard, one of the inventors of the French New Wave whose new work "Film Socialism" screened on Monday at Cannes, cancelled his appearance at the festival however, his production company said.

Takeshi, known for putting contestants through painful stunts on the television show "Takeshi's Castle" and for the cult movies "Violent Cop" and "Zatoichi", said his work was a "swinging pendulum" from violence to humour.

"The more I think of the hideous depictions in my movies, the more I can come up with the funny scenes," he told a news conference. "The more I can come up with a scene depicting hate, the more it enables me to depict love."

Inarritu meanwhile said his heart-rending peep into the grimy underbelly of the picturesque Spanish city Barcelona reflected the changes and challenges brought about by Europe's shifting population.

"Barcelona is a beautiful city, a queen of Europe. But there is another side to that queen: a vibrant, chaotic, diverse community that is shaping Europe now," he said in a television broadcast by the festival.

"Immigration is growing another culture, a powerful new society... combined with (native) people from the country, (teaching) each other how to survive."

Bardem said making the movie "was very intense... It's not any more about you as an actor - it's about portraying something that is bigger and far more important than you."

Also screening in Cannes on Monday was "Tamara Drewe" by British director Stephen Frears, starring former James Bond girl Gemma Arterton - a dark comedy based on cartoons that originally appeared in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Arterton plays the title role of a journalist who left her home village in the English countryside as an awkward teenager but returns as a smouldering femme fatale, sparking lust, envy and gossip.

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