Cannes 2009: will the Brits bring home the bacon?

Cannes 2009: with a surprisingly large British offering, can we bring home the bacon?

This year, us Brits have lots to be excited about at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival: not only is there a killer international line-up, but we’re well and truly on the radar. This Saturday, the twenty one films which are “in competition”, meaning they’ll compete for a variety of awards – including the coveted P’alme d’Or for Best Picture, go under the spotlight, and three are British.

The last British nominations were in 2006, when Andrea Arnold’s first feature film Red Road won the Prix du Jury, and Ken Loach’s The Wind That Shakes the Barley received the Palme d’Or. Both directors are nominated again this year. Arnold’s second nomination for Fish Tank is praise indeed for the Scottish director – undoubtedly one of our best. Reminiscent of her Oscar-winning short Wasp, Fish Tank tells the story of troubled fifteen-year-old Mia, whose life takes a turn for the better when her mother brings home a new boyfriend. UK Film Council Lottery funding and the BBC have been crucial sponsors for Arnold, and it’s great to see such a worthy outcome from the combined effort.

It’s also great, given the recent official statistic that only 6% of film-makers worldwide are women, to see Jane Campion’s English-made film Bright Star in the running. New Zealand-born Campion, who is best known for The Piano and who already has two Palme d’Ors under her belt, directs an intense love-story in Bright Star: the film charts the tragic romance between English poet John Keats and his girl-next-door Fanny Brawne, who were brutally separated when Keats travelled to Rome suffering from tuberculosis, never to return. Given Keats’ poetry and Campion’s elegant touch, the film promises to be every bit as moody, sensual and moving as award-magnet The Piano.

Whatever you think of his techniques, there’s no denying that Loach is one of our most celebrated political film-makers. He’s received four awards from Cannes to date, and this year he receives yet another nomination for Looking for Eric – a film based on Eric Cantona’s career in British football which has a typically Loachian preoccupation with matehood harking back to My Name is Joe. This time, Loach has left politics behind in favour of an affectionate film about a football fanatic postman which critics are calling his funniest to date.

So, can we win? There’s some seriously hot competition: Pixar’s new offering Up opens Cannes and is the first animated 3D film to be nominated; Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere tracks the horrific treatment of Mussolini’s wife and son as Fascist agents tried to remove all trace of their existence; Lars von Trier’s creepy indie thriller Antichrist brings the psychological torture of a couple mourning their son’s death disturbingly to life, and it’s the Battle of the Titans as Ang Lee and Quentin Tarrantino square up in an unusual big-name clash. Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void has to be a dark horse, but given the jury’s habit of picking surprise winners, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll emerge victorious.

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