Welcome to the fest's reel world

CANNES

The Runaways is about the band of the same name which launched the career of Joan Jett (played by Kristen Stewart, far left). Photo / Supplied
The Runaways is about the band of the same name which launched the career of Joan Jett (played by Kristen Stewart, far left). Photo / Supplied

Among the films hot off the projectors at this year's Cannes Film Festival is the 2010 Jury Prize winner A Screaming Man from Chad director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun. The festival also includes a quartet of Korean films which fared well in France - best screenplay winner Poetry by Lee Chang-Dong, Un Certain Regard winner Hahaha by Hong Sang-soo as well as The Housemaid and Like You Know It All.

Certified Copy, a not-quite love story won Juliette Binoche this year's best actress prize.

Also creating a buzz from its Cannes showing was Carlos, the three-part epic biopic about Venezuelan terrorist Ramirez Sanchez - aka Carlos the Jackal. The programme also includes last year's acclaimed Grand Jury Prize Winner, A Prophet, Jacques Audiard's French jail and organised crime drama.

CLASSICS

Among the films offering evidence for the argument about whether they make 'em like they used to ... epic spaghetti western Once Upon A Time In The West which will be screening from a restored print.

The programme also offers a chance to see Michael Powell's 1948 ballet drama classic The Red Shoes on the big screen in all its technicolour glory. And among the black and white golden oldies on offer are Under The Southern Cross - the Hollywood-backed Maori tribal conflict drama filmed round Rotorua, Waitomo and White Island in 1928. The print comes with a new soundtrack by musicians Warren Maxwell, Maaka McGregor and Himiona Grace commissioned by the New Zealand Film Archive.

And getting a live music backing from the Auckland Philharmonia are Buster Keaton comedies Sherlock Jr and One Week which screen on the final weekend of the festival.

COMEDY

The festival offers serious studies of comedians (American: The Bill Hicks Story, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work), comedies about serious subjects (British satire Four Lions about a group of jihadist suicide bombers) and what every previous festival hasn't managed - a Jim Carrey movie. Well, it's not that sort of Jim Carrey movie - I Love You Phillip Morris has ol' rubberface in the based-on-a true-story film about flamboyant con artist Steven Russell with Ewan McGregor playing his titular boyfriend - "one of the last year's most strangely romantic couples," says festival director Bill Gosden.

And of course the Incredibly Strange part of the fest has plenty of films not designed as comedies which turned out that way, like mad bad certified Z-graders Birdemic: Shock and Terror and The Room.

CRIME

Carlos and A Prophet aren't the only films in this year's programme proving it's a big underworld out there.

Melbourne crime family film Animal Kingdom is billed as "the best Australian badass movie since Chopper" and stars the likes of Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton and Guy Pearce in a drama of dubious cops and despicable crims. Prison thriller Cell 211 arrives on the festival screens after cleaning up at the Spanish Oscars and the box office there last year.

And with The Killer Inside Me, prolific genre-hopping director Michael Winterbottom finally delivers an adaptation of Jim Thompson's noir novel about a 1950s smalltown Texas deputy sheriff with a sideline in murder - Casey Affleck plays the killer and the film also stars Kate Hudson and Jessica Alba, though you suspect not for very long. Its graphic violence has already added to Winterbottom's growing reputation for controversy.

FAMOUS

Following a run of French biopics (Piaf, Chanel), it's the turn of another Gallic icon, Serge Gainsbourg, to have his life - and those of the many famous women he courted along the way - dramatised in Gainsbourg. Other notable cultural figures getting the celluloid treatment in the festival include Brit street artist Banksy (Exit Through The Gift Shop), poet Allen Ginsberg (HOWL), artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (The Radiant Child) and Spanish film Agora, spotlights Hypatia, the first female mathematician-philosopher who lived in Alexandria during the 4th century, which features Rachel Weisz in the lead role.

FAMILY

As in life, it's a big theme this year right from the festival's opening night title I Am Love, the sweeping Italian melodrama starring Tilda Swinton as the Russian-born wife of the heir to the family business in a clan of Milanese industrialists.

Elsewhere the programme includes seemingly competing titles in the unrelated movies I Killed My Mother and I'm Glad My Mother is Alive, while the French doco Babies, which documents the first year in the lives of four infants from around the world, might just do for toddlers what March of the Penguins did for Antarctic birdlife.

MUSIC

The always-strong music section of the festival includes The Runaways, a drama about the all-girl teenage band which launched the career of one Joan Jett (who is played by Twilight's Kristen Stewart). Having delivered memorable histories of the Sex Pistols and The Clash's Joe Strummer, director Julien Temple turns his attention to classic English R&B band and punk-precursors Dr Feelgood in Oil City Confidential, while Johnny Depp narrates another cinematic account about the life and times of The Doors in When You're Strange.

WAR & POLITICS

There's politically pointed dramas a-plenty in this year's line-up. Among them Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer which stars Pierce Brosnan as a Tony Blair-like former British prime minster and Ewan McGregor as the writer who has the risky job of penning his memoirs. And among a barrage of timely films about Israel and its precarious place in the world is Ajami, the Oscar nominated drama about three families - Muslim, Jewish and Christian - whose youth are running wild on the mean streets of Tel Aviv. And Lebanon might be set there, but most of what you see in the claustrophobic film is the inside of an Israeli tank on a military incursion into its northern neighbour. The army experience of director writer Samuel Maoz inspired his film which won him the Venice Film Festival's top prize, the Golden Lion.

- NZ Herald

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