Ang Lee brings 'peace and love' to Cannes


June 18, 2010 Updated May 16, 2009 at 1:11 PM EDT

Oscar-winning director Ang Lee Saturday offered Cannes' glitzy festival-goers a message of "peace and love" with a warmly acclaimed movie on the iconic hippie Woodstock festival, vying for the Palme d'Or award.

"It is the innocence of a young generation departing from the establishment and trying to find a fair way of living with people and with nature," Lee said of the 1969 festival that gathered half a million people for three days of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll.

"I think they planted the seed of some of what is happening today," the "Brokeback Mountain" 2005 Oscar-winner said at a media conference.

His funny and moving film "Taking Woodstock" recounts how a problem-saddled Jewish family running a down-at-heels motel in a rural community gets involved with the promoters of the epoch-making festival.

Based on a real-life memoir by New York writer Elliot Tiber, the movie counterposes the heady rebellious freedom-seeking times with the story of the motel-owner's son, struggling to come out of the closet and break out on his own.

Asked if he hoped to pick up the coveted Cannes Palme for the film, Lee said: "I'm happy to be here and this movie's about happiness. If they like it I'll be happy."

He added: "I have to go with the flow."

One of 20 movies lined up to scoop the Cannes prize, "Taking Woodstock" was premiered Saturday along with another hot contender, French director Jacques Audiard's "The Prophet".

The first of four French movies in competition for the Palme also delighted critics, winning a huge round of applause despite its two-and-a-half hour length.

The stark film by the maker of "Read My Lips" (2001) and "The Beat That My Heart Skipped" (2005) focuses on life in a jail but "is not a documentary-style movie aimed at denouncing prisons," Audiard told the press.

An illiterate, small-time criminal is "The Prophet" in the film, a 19-year-old with North African Arab roots but with no family or friends who learns the hard way about the Corsican gangs who rule the jail.

A quick and smart learner, he toughens up and figures out how to get his own way. Young actor Tahar Rahim, playing his first feature, delivers a star performance.

"The film is a metaphor about society, where being inside jail is no different from being outside," Audiard said.

It also depicts the changing face of France and its problems in dealing with ethnic diversity.

On Friday, Jane Campion, the sole woman ever to have won the Palme stepped into the battle to scoop the prize with "Bright Star", a Romeo-and-Juliet romance about poet John Keats.

Cult Korean director Park Chan-Wook dished up blood-curdling "Thirst", about a do-good priest turned vampire and his secret affair with a friend's wife.

Also screened so far have been outlawed Chinese film director Lou Ye's "Spring Fever" -- a torrid and graphic gay sex movie -- and "Fish Tank" by Britain's Andrea Arnold, a social drama about teenagers.

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