CANNES: Drama Queens (and Kings) Reign

Large gray clouds loom over Le Grand Cannes. It adds to the drama, the chaos, the delayed plane flights … But that isn’t stopping our favorite heroes — Gene Hackman and Morgan Freeman — from bursting on the scene today for the out-of-competition screening of “Under Suspicion.” Yes, the Cannes Film Festival gets serious today with the unfolding of some tres (there’s that French again) tough dramas.

A rundown:

British director Ken Loach is famous for getting to the emotional heart of prickly social issues and is very popular in Europe (with many American fans, too.) “Bread and Roses,” his in-competition entry here, is an against-all-odds true story is based in Los Angeles (which he shoots in sequence!), and the first film he’s set in America.

In the same deep vein, “The King Is Alive” takes place in Africa and is directed by the Danish Kristian Levring. Two of its stars, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Janet McTeer, were escorted from their lavish ateliers at the Martinez Hotel along the famous Boulevard de la Croisette.

Today’s screening of “Jacky” is the first of seven Asians films selected this year. China, Japan, Taiwan and Korea are all represented. In “Jacky,” the title character is a smart, but lazy 25-year-old Chinese kid living in Amsterdam who gets kicked out of his comfortable parental nest when a Chinese bride is found for him. (Slackers are global!)

What’s more dramatic than the never-ending battle of the sexes? Not much. That’s the treacherous territory Neil LaBute (“In the Company of Men”) lays bare in “Nurse Betty.” In it, Morgan Freeman co-stars with the pixyish Renee Zellweger, funnyman Chris Rock and the engaging Greg Kinnear.

Overall, nearly 1,400 films were submitted for screening here at Cannes, but only 681 features chosen. (Who says statistics couldn’t be dramatic?) Of those, a mere 23 are actually competing for the Palme d’Or. This means just being here makes you a winner — which might explain the constant popping sounds of the opening of champagne bottles at all times, day and night. Every morning the cork litter is swept away.