Cannes Crowds Await Jury's Pick For Best Of Fest; Tarantino, Campion Among Contenders

Quentin Tarantino, Jane Campion and other past winners of the Cannes Film Festival’s highest honor were competing with an international cast of up-and-comers for this year’s prize Sunday.

The 62nd Cannes fest was wrapping up with two French films among favorites to win the Palme d’Or, giving the home country of the world’s most prestigious festival the rare prospect of claiming the top prize two years in a row. Last year’s winner, “The Class,” was the first French film to win at Cannes since 1987.

French director Jacques Audiard’s prison drama “A Prophet” and countryman Xavier Giannoli’s ex-con tale “In the Beginning” earned high marks from Cannes critics, establishing them as potential front-runners for the jury headed by French actress Isabelle Huppert.

Campion’s historical romance “Bright Star,” aboutdoomed poet John Keats, also was well-received, positioning her for a Cannes rarity as well. With 1993’s “The Piano,” Campion is the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or. Another win would put her in the elite company of Francis Ford Coppola and four other directors or filmmaking teams who have received the award twice.

Tarantino, who won the award in 1994 with “Pulp Fiction,” was a longshot this time for “Inglourious Basterds,” his World War II saga starring Brad Pitt that received mixed reactions from Cannes crowds.

Other past winners in the running were Ken Loach, who won in 2006 with “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” and directed one of this festival’s most popular entries, the soccer-themed comedy “Looking for Eric,” featuring former football star Eric Cantona; and Lars von Trier, the 2000 winner for “Dancer in the Dark,” whose domestic drama “Antichrist,” with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg acting out brutish scenes of torture and mutilation, was generally reviled by this year’s audiences.

Tarantino, who headed the jury that awarded the 2004 Palme d’Or to Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11,” said the buzz among Cannes crowds holds no sway on the jury, which is shielded from reviews and the thumbs-up, thumbs-down conversations of everyday festival-goers.

Festival juries butt heads over many of the prizes they hand out, but the top winner often is a simple choice, Tarantino said.

“Normally, what happens is, there is that one movie that comes in, and then it becomes easy,” Tarantino said. “You can argue about the best actor, you can argue about this, you can argue about that. But the Palme d’Or should be the easiest one to give out.”

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