For the first time since it began just a week ago, the 44th Cannes International Film Festival has one clearly popular favorite for the Palme d'Or, the festival's top prize. It is Spike Lee's Jungle Fever, which was shown here Thursday night in the presence of Lee; two of his stars, Wesley Snipes and Anthony Quinn; and Stevie Wonder, who composed the film's original music. The awards will be announced Monday.
There are no indications yet of how the jury might vote on the 20 films in competition for the Palme d'Or. Roman Polanski, the jury president, is known to take a dim view of the sort of arid studies of boredom and alienation that seem to have dominated this year's festival.
There is also the fact that Lee's comedy-drama is a seriously conceived and executed movie that is vastly entertaining.
Jungle Fever is an interracial love story and a vividly realized panorama of New York City urban life, as filled with character and incident as the director's earlier Do the Right Thing.
Lee dedicates Jungle Fever to Yusuf K. Hawkins, the young black man who was killed two years ago during a racial confrontation in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn.