- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2011

CANNES, France | The latest Cannes Film Festival entry from Belgium’s Dardenne brothers is the story of an abandoned boy, his unlikely savior and his beloved bicycle.

“The Kid With a Bike” tells the alternately brutal and tender tale of 11-year-old Cyril, left in a children’s home by his feckless father; Samantha, a hairdresser who almost by accident becomes his surrogate mother; and the bike he pedals furiously through a chaotic world.

It’s another gritty slice of working-class Belgian life from the filmmaking siblings - and also a fairy tale.

“At one point we nearly called the film ‘A Modern Fairy Tale,’ ” Jean-Pierre Dardenne, one half of the duo, told reporters after the film’s first screening Sunday at Cannes. Cyril is a lost child, “a bit like Pinocchio or Red Riding Hood.”

“He has to undergo certain experiences and loses his illusions,” he said. “There’s the forest, which is a place of temptation, there’s the bad wolf … and then there’s the good fairy.”

Jean-Pierre and his brother, Luc - who jointly write, produce and direct their films - are Cannes royalty.

Two have won the top prize, the Palme d’Or, for “Rosetta” in 1999 and “The Child” in 2005. Two others have won other prizes - “The Son” star Olivier Gourmet won best actor and “Lorna’s Silence” won best script.

The film is powered by the performances of Thomas Doret as the angry, inarticulate but vulnerable Cyril, and Cecile de France - a Belgian actress best known to U.S. audiences as a tsunami survivor obsessed by the afterlife in Clint Eastwood’s “Hereafter” - as Samantha.

The actress said Mr. Eastwood and the Dardennes had almost nothing in common. While Dardenne movies involve meticulous rehearsal and preparation, the American director “doesn’t rehearse, he doesn’t come when we are trying out the costumes, there’s often just one take.”

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