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     Volume 4 Issue 48 | May 27, 2005 |

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The Sand The Sea and The Stars

Belgian brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne took their second Palme d'Or at the closing ceremony of the 58th Cannes Film Festival last week.

Their film, L'Enfant, a story of two young street urchins living off crime to buy food for their new baby, was a critics' favourite to win the most prestigious prize in world film-making, beating off strong competition from 21 films by directors including Jim Jarmusch, Atom Egoyan, David Cronenberg, Wim Wenders and Lars von Trier.

Director Lars Von Trier.

This latest triumph follows the Dardennes' victory in 1999 for Rosetta. The pair, both in their fifties, have become European art-house darlings for their distinctive hand-held style and tough, socially-conscious subject matters.

A fairly safe set of awards marked a return to Cannes tradition of rewarding true auteurs after the controversy of American documentary maker Michael Moore winning last year with Fahrenheit 9/11.

The Grand Prix runner up for best film went to Jim Jarmusch for his wry film Broken Flowers, starring Bill Murray as an ageing Don Juan on an odyssey to find the son he never knew he had.

Hollywood star Tommy Lee Jones won the best actor prize for his performance in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, a Western he directed. It was the second Palme d'Or for the Dardenne brothers, having previously been awarded the prize in 1999 for controversial drama Rosetta.

Israel's Hanna Laslo won the best actress prize for her performance in Free Zone, a drama envisioning a Middle East freed of its borders.

Laslo, who accepted the prize from actor Ralph Fiennes at a gala ceremony, dedicated the prize to her mother, a Holocaust survivor. The special jury prize went to Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai's Shanghai Dreams, which tells of a family's turmoil as it tries to leave the backwater town it was sent to in a state programme to develop rural areas.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada was also named best screenplay, Michael Haneke was best director for Hidden and Wayfarers by Ukraine's Igor Strembitskyy was named best short film. US director Miranda July and Sri Lanka's Vimukthi Jayasundara shared the Golden Camera award for first-time directors. This year's Palme d'Or competition was dominated by arthouse veterans -- in contrast to last year, when Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 won.

Bosnian director Kusturica, one of the judges.

The 21 movies in competition included works by Gus Van Sant, Lars von Trier and Wim Wenders. The Palme d'Or was presented by Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank on Saturday, the final day of the festival.

Before the announcement, Cannes jury head Emir Kusturica said the contenders would be judged on "aesthetics". Mexican actress Salma Hayek and Spanish actor Javier Bardem were on the nine-person panel alongside Bosnian director Kusturica. The Cannes film festival is the world's most prestigious film industry gathering, attracting more than 40,000 movie industry workers every year.

It opened on 11 May with a gala showing of movie Lemming starring Charlotte Gainsbourg and British actress Charlotte Rampling. Out of competition, Revenge of the Sith - the final installment of George Lucas' Star Wars series - was given its world premiere during the festival.

This year's word-of-mouth hit features a risky mix of sex, children and the internet. There are a lot of conversations among Cannes festival-goers that start: "Seen anything good?" Discussions tend to ensue about the big-hitters from the main Palme d'Or competition: Gus Van Sant, Carlos Reygadas, David Cronenberg and the like. But then, chances are someone will pipe up: "And I've seen this really nice film called Me and You and Everyone We Know."

Elizabeth Hurley

Written, directed by and starring a 32-year-old American performance artist called Miranda July, the film, her debut feature, is showing in the Critics' Week section of the festival. And, without a doubt, it is this year's Cannes word-of-mouth hit. Filmed in the suburbs of Los Angeles, Me and You and Everyone We Know interweaves the story of Christine, an artist (played just this side of whimsical by July herself), with that of shoe salesman Richard, who, at the moment of splitting up with his wife, douses his hand with lighter fluid and sets it aflame. He is a man burned, literally and metaphorically.

Along the way we encounter the curious, funny lives of Richard's children - the younger of whom, the six-year-old Robby enters into an online dialogue with a mysterious woman with certain sexual predilections.

Already feted at Sundance, Me and You and Everyone We Know is charming Cannes audiences with its quirky vision, as it interrogates with witty lightness of touch those age-old preoccupations of the struggle to connect with other people, the alchemy of love, and the hunger of loneliness. The interstices between childhood and adulthood are deftly investigated: the children in the film seem at times knowing in their grasp of the world, better able in their naivety to connect with others than the blundering adults - and at others deeply vulnerable.

Perhaps one of the reasons the film seems so fresh is that July - a slight and rather wide-eyed figure, with a mop of curly brown hair - is entirely self-taught, and simply found herself writing her first film one day as she took a train ride through Chicago. Raised in Berkeley, California, she dropped out of university, but "I started writing plays at 16 and putting them on, then making little movies, doing everything my own way, teaching myself in my own room, kind of like Christine."

If that makes her sound like a jack of all trades (and not all her work has been brilliantly received on this side of the Atlantic), she says the disparate strands come from the same place, are part of the same project. "It's all one thing. The differences have more to do with venues and audiences and, yes, craft. Some media are better for bringing out different feelings," she says. "On a particular day, I may not feel like someone who could perform, but someone who could write a short story. I will always do all of these things because that's what makes me happy."

The nature of childhood and childhood sexuality are themes she has explored in previous works. Of the kids in the film, she says: "I am attracted to children like that. When I was growing up, I was in an adult world. My parents didn't really create a children's world for me and my brother. I was childlike and spaced out but I also had an ability to connect in an adult world. It's not that surprising. Children often have a certain maturity."

Despite the fact that the film seems to exemplify the best of American independent film-making, ironically it would never have been made if Britain's FilmFour had not taken the plunge and part-funded it, persuading an American partner to go in with them. Peter Carlton, head of the FilmFour Lab, first heard about the project seven days into starting his job there three years ago. He was deeply impressed by the script; the only problem was that it was American, when strictly speaking he should have been concentrating on British projects. None the less, he thought it was "exactly what British film-making should be", and in the end took the plunge.

This article has been compiled from various sources on the internet.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2005