Cannes 2010: Our picks of the programme

The Cannes Film Festival needs little introduction. Even if the proposed news agency boycott of the 2010 festival goes ahead, it will do little to stifle the inevitable media frenzy that waits to descend. This year’s event will play host to the latest work from some of cinema’s greatest auteurs including Woody Allen, Jean-Luc Godard and Mike Leigh. Yet away from the trademark glitz, glamour and high profile film premieres set to flood the south of France this May, the recently released nominee list for the coveted Palme d’Or prize has shown that Cannes is still more than capable of throwing up a few surprises (even with the absence of Lars von Trier).

Palme d’Or Nominees
Tournée (Mathieu Amalric)
French actor/director Mathieu Amalric (perhaps best known to UK audiences for his turn as Bond villain Dominic Greene in 2008’s Quantum of Solace) receives his first Cannes nomination for Tournée, which follows a group of French burlesque performers as they tour the US.

Des Hommes et des Dieux (Xavier Beauvois)
Much like fellow countryman Amalric, Xavier Beauvois is equally comfortable in front of the camera as he is behind it. The French director/actor/screenwriter brings his latest film Des Hommes et des Dieux (‘Of Gods and Men’) to Cannes. The film, based on true events, explores the murder of 7 French Trappist monks by an Algerian group in 1996. Beauvois received his first Palme d’Or nomination for his 1995 film N’oublie pas que tu vas mourir (‘Don’t Forget You’re Going to Die’).

Hors la Loi (Rachid Bouchareb)
The second nominee to use Franco-Algerian relations as its subject matter (this time from an Algerian director), Rachid Bouchareb’s Hors la Loi (‘Outside the Law‘) looks set to evoke memories of Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 political piece La battaglia di Algeri (‘The Battle of Algiers‘).

Biutiful (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Live Flesh and No Country for Old Men star Javier Bardem heads up this crime tale by director Alejandro González Iñárritu. Iñárritu is known for his multi-strand plots (see Amorres Perros, 21 Grams and Babel) and Biutiful looks set to continue this tradition, as protagonist Uxbal’s (Bardem) illegal activities leads him into direct conflict with a childhood friend, now a police officer.

Un Homme Qui Crie (Mahamat-Saleh Haroun)
Chadian director Haroun presents his latest work Un Homme Qui Crie (‘The Man who Screamed‘), which follows Adam, a recently unemployed pool attendent in the country’s capital N’Djamena. Set against the backdrop of violent civil war, Haroun explores the powerful bond between a father and his son, and the forces that may ultimately tear them apart.

Housemaid (Im Sangsoo)
A remake of the 1960 thriller of the same name, Im Sangsoo directs the tale of a man and his fateful affair with the household’s maid. Like many of this years nominees, Im is no stranger to acting having made appearances in internationally-renowned South Korean exports Oldboy and Shiri.

Copie Conforme (Abbas Kiarostami)
Tehran-born filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami is somewhat of a Cannes veteran, with three previous Palme d’Or nominations. The Iranian’s film Ta’m e guilass (‘Taste of Cherry’) shared the award with Shohei Imamura’s Unagi (‘The Eel’) in 1997. Kiarostami returns to the festival with his latest effort, Copie Conforme (‘The Certified Copy‘), his first film shot outside Iran. It follows the romance between an English writer (William Shimell) and his French lover (Juliette Binoche).

Outrage (Takeshi Kitano)
Any international film festival would be brightened by an appearance from Japan’s Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano. The Zatoichi director/star will bring his latest film Autoreiji (‘Outrage‘) to Cannes, his first nomination at the festival since 1999’s Kikujiro no natsu. Kitano’s latest feature (and the director’s 15th of his career) will explore the criminal underworld of Japan’s Yakuza.

Poetry (Lee Chang-dong)
South Korea’s second representative in this year’s Palme d’Or line-up, Lee Chang-don’s Poetry is the directors 2nd contender for the festival’s top prize in 4 years, following 2007’s Milyang (‘Secret Sunshine‘). Significantly, the film marks the screen return of Korean actress Jeong-hie Yun after she officially retired from acting in 1974. She stars as an elderly woman desperately attempting to come to terms with the death of her husband, as she herself faces the end of her life.

Another Year (Mike Leigh)
Already (predictably) viewed by many in the UK press as this year’s front-runner, Another Year’s strong cast (including Jim Broadbent and Lesley Manville) certainly gives Mike Leigh’s latest film a good chance of coming away with the top award. Leigh is indeed a rare thing; a British director held in high esteem at Cannes, and few would bet against him securing a second Palme d’Or win (his first came in 1996 with the excellent Secrets & Lies).

Fair Game (Doug Liman)
Aside from the host of high profile premieres set to steal most of the festivals press coverage (including Oliver Stone’s Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps and Ridley Scott’s historical epic Robin Hood), Hollywood’s presence within this year’s actual award contest is small at best. The sole US entry in the Palme d’Or nominations is Doug Liman, a director best known for action films The Bourne Identity, Mr and Mrs Smith and Jumper. His latest film, Fair Game, sees Naomi Watts and Sean Penn (last seen together in fellow nominee Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 21 Grams) take centre stage in this taught political thriller.

You, My Joy (Sergei Loznitsa)
Ukrainian documentary film-maker Sergei Loznitsa receives his first nomination at Cannes for his film You, My Joy, which once again evokes the director’s dreamlike, melancholic aesthetic.

La Nostra Vita (Daniele Luchetti)
Italian director Daniele Luchetti gets a nomination for his latest comedy, which follows the life of a Rome factory worker. With so many of this year’s nominees revelling in dark, difficult subject matter, Luchetti’s film could well provide the breath of fresh air that turns voter’s heads.

Utomlyonnye Solntsem 2 (Nikita Mikhalkov)
The only sequel in the running for the Palme d’Or, Mikhalkov’s Utomlyonnye Solnstem 2 (‘Burnt by the Sun 2’) follows on from the director’s 1994 drama (set in 1930s Stalinist Russia), which won the Oscar for ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ at the 1995 Academy Awards.

La Princesse de Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier)
French director Bertrand Tavernier returns to French subject matter following his 2009 film In the Electric Mist, with period-drama La Princesse de Montpensier.

Loong Boonmee Ralek Chaat (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Loong Boonmee Ralek Chaat (‘Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives‘) is a continuation of director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Primitive Project, exploring ideas of extinction and recollection whilst revealing Thailand’s many ‘ghosts’.

The 63rd Cannes Film Festival runs from the 12-23 May 2010