Eastwood, Israeli movie, favourites as Cannes hits halfway

A gripping Clint Eastwood thriller starring Angelina Jolie and a new-genre animated documentary from Israel are shaping up as critics' favourites for the Palme d'Or prize as the Cannes film festival hits the halfway mark.

Eastwood's wrenching tale about a mother and her missing son picked up more applause from the critics Tuesday than any of the 11 screened since the world's biggest film festival opened May 14.

Based on a real-life California story in the 1920s, the film hits out at police corruption and incompetence, mirroring a trend at the festival for movies that play up tough realities and real-life dramas, and often blur the line between fiction and documentary.

"The quality of the films is pretty good," Kirk Honeycutt, chief critic at Hollywood Reporter, told AFP.

"But they've been pretty relentlessly grim. For a lot of us critics it's been a tough way to go."

Murder, rape, single moms, gangs, and even the seamy insides of a Manila porn theatre were on the menu this week.

Cannes' top prize is announced Sunday, and with politically minded actor Sean Penn heading this year's jury, the bets are out that its nine members will favour messages over pure fiction.

That would give an edge to an Israeli animation on the notorious 1982 massacres of Palestinians living in Beirut's Sabra and Shatila refugee camps, "Waltz With Bashir", in which director Ari Folman unravels his repressed memories of the horror with the help of Sigmund Freud.

"Waltz With Bashir," said Screen magazine, "could easily turn out to be one of the most powerful statements of this Cannes and will leave its mark forever on the ethics of war films in general."

The animated documentary, the first of its kind to win selection for Cannes, is one of the highest-rated contenders for the Palme, according to a panel of critics who mark the films for Screen each day.

It was also ranked best so far by Emmanuel Burdeau, from France's influential "Cahiers du Cinema".

"All in all," he told AFP, "this year's competition films have been pretty good."

Also popular with the panel in the same vein of reality-bites are China's "24 City" chronicling the country's change in the past 50 years through interviews with factory workers; Argentinian movie "Lion's Den" set in a women's prison, and a gritty Italian movie on the mafia, "Gomorrah."

But until the screening of the Eastwood movie, top of the pops for the 11 critics from across the world listed in Screen was a highly-personal drama about family secrets from an auteur director, Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

His "Three Monkeys" is a "brilliant, gorgeously visual film," said The Hollywood Reporter.

French critics in a local film mag however gave a Gallic thumbs up to home-made "A Christmas Tale", a complex family saga featuring Catherine Deneuve and her daughter Chiara Mastroianni.

But still to come before the red-carpet finale is a two-part four-hour epic on Latin American revolutionary "Che" Guevara, filmed by "Ocean's" director Steven Soderbergh, as well as a hotly awaited first film by Charlie Kaufman, writer of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind."

"All eyes are on Che," said Honeycutt, who picked Jolie as well as Argentina's Martina Gusman as the jailed mother in "Lion's Den" as the top contenders for best actress so far.

Julianne Moore in the apocalptic opening film "Blindness" by Brazil's "City of God" film maker Fernando Meirelles also stood out.

Also yet to come are new films by Canada's Atom Egoyan and Germany's Wim Wenders as well as movies from Italy, France, Argentina and Singapore.

Source: http://news.id.msn.com

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