CANNES, France (AP) — Love is in the air at the Cannes Film Festival, as the jury sits down Sunday to choose its prizewinners.
There's love in the face of death in Michael Haneke's "Amour," love in conflict with faith in Christian Mungiu's "Beyond the Hills" and love against the odds in Jacques Audiard's "Rust and Bone" — three favorites to take the top prize, the Palme d'Or.
The jury, which is led by Italian director Nanni Moretti and includes actors Ewan McGregor and Diane Kruger, director Alexander Payne and fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, will announce the prize winners at a ceremony later.
For filmmakers, it means a frustrating wait. Directors and actors getting prizes are tipped off that they should show up to the ceremony, but are not told what they have won.
"We knew we would have an award, we didn't know what, which one," said Laurent Cantet, who won the top prize in 2008 for "The Class."
"You wait and wait and wait. At the end there is only one left but the Palme d'Or."
This year, critics and bookmakers put Haneke out in front with the tightly controlled but deeply felt "Amour." The Austrian director won the Palme three years ago for "The White Ribbon."
Three other previous winners are in the competition — Romania's Mungiu, Britain's Ken Loach, with whisky-tasting comedy "The Angels' Share," and Iran's Abbas Kiarostami with the Tokyo-set "Like Someone in Love."
But in the movies, weighty themes dominated as the French Riviera froth was subdued by several days of unseasonable rain and cold.
Other contenders in what's considered a strong lineup of 22 films — if one lacking in surprises — include Thomas Vinterberg's Danish witch hunt drama "The Hunt" and Ukrainian Sergei Loznitsa's bleak wartime drama "In the Fog."
The nine jurors will pick the recipients of the Palme d'Or, the second-place Grand Prize and the third-place Jury Prize, as well as male and female acting winners.
The jury could choose to reward Hollywood royalty. Pitt plays a cynical mob enforcer in Andrew Dominik's "Killing Them Softly" — one of a handful of Cannes films examining the soul of America — and Kidman is unrecognizable as a Southern femme fatale in Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy."
Other powerful performances include Marion Cotillard's tragedy-struck killer-whale trainer in "Rust and Bone," Mads Mikkelsen's hunted Dane in "The Hunt," newcomer Paul Brannigan's scrappy Glasgow lad in "The Angels' Share" and Denis Lavant, as a performer who takes on a host of bizarre personas in "Holy Motors."
There's strong sentiment in favor of Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuel Riva — two French film legends, both in their 80s — as an elderly couple facing death in "Amour."
If past festivals have proved anything, it's that predictions are impossible.
This year's wild card is French filmmaker Leos Carax's "Holy Motors," a film so strange and unpredictable it prompted one journalist to ask the director: "is there a French word for bonkers?"
It was greeted at its press screening with whoops and wild cheers, as well as scattered boos.
The wild reception shows how unpredictable and disorienting Cannes can be.
Director Daniels said he was astonished to learn films routinely get booed at Cannes. There was a smattering of boos at the "The Paperboy" press screening — and a 16-minute standing ovation at the gala premiere that evening.
"I'm still confused by it all," the director said — but, he said, it's an exciting confusion.
"It's terribly humbling to be here, and terrifying at the same time, because you want to deliver."
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