Cannes rolls out the red carpet for opening
Claire Rosemberg is in Cannes for the latest film bonanza. On opening night real world disasters taking place on the other side of the globe peeked in.
The Cannes film festival on Wednesday officially unrolled its red carpet with a star-studded ceremony kicking off the 12-day frenzy of movies, parties and deals.
But as the curtain went up, real world disasters taking place on the other
side of the globe peeked in.
Opening night red-carpet glory was for Brazil's two-time Oscar-nominated
director Fernando Meirelles, whose hard-hitting "Blindness" about a world
where people have lost their sight highlights a near-apocalypse and a
government unable to deal with a human disaster.
Its sombre note struck a chord with Sean Penn, who heads this year's Cannes
jury and who said human disasters such as those unravelling in China and
Myanmar could not be forgotten.
Penn and his co-jurors will award Cannes's coveted Palme d'Or prize for
best film when the festival ends May 25.
Attending the opening ceremony were stars Julianne Moore, Eva Longoria and
Faye Dunaway, who swirled up Cannes' famed red carpet for the premiere of the
hard-hitting Meirelles movie.
Crowds of film-buffs and a jungle of cameras thronged the entrance as a
fleet of black limousines flying the festival's blue flag ferried VIPs and
wannabes in evening wear to the 26-step red carpet for the opening bash.
"And now I declare the 61st festival of Cannes open," said French director
Among other screen names stepping up for the opening soiree of the world's
most prestigious filmfest were Dennis Hopper, Cate Blanchett, Gillian
Anderson, Danny Glover and Gael Garcia Bernal.
A last-minute surprise was 1960s US rock-folk star Richie Havens singing
his 1969 Woodstock festival hit "Freedom" on stage.
"I'm very very glad to be here," jury head Penn told the black-tie crowd.
"We're going to be sending some love-letters to some of these movies," he
added. "Those who don't get them, don't be discouraged."
Speaking to reporters earlier, Penn said the disasters unfolding in Asia would be present at Cannes.
"The earthquake will influence my judgement with almost every movie," he said. "This is part of our global shared emotions and life, these things that are happening. This makes us more raw."
A savvy mix of Hollywood blockbusters and arthouse fare, the festival in
the next days will feature the world release of the latest long-awaited
episode of whip-cracking "Indiana Jones", with now-well-over-60 Harrison Ford
doing his own stunts.
"Blindness" is based on a book by Nobel winner Jose Saramago of Portugal
and raises questions about human nature and the fragility of society.
"It's as if civilisation was built on a thin layer of ice that could crack
at any moment," Meirelles said at a news conference. "It's a metaphor on all
the ills of the 20th century."
Striking a note of contrast, hours before Cannes' twilight gala opening,
Hollywood star Jack Black boated in to be greeted by dozens of giant pandas in
a promotional stunt for Dreamworks' "Kung Fu Panda", also being released here.
Squaring up against the pandas and arthouse directors at this year's Cannes
will be Hollywood heavyweights Clint Eastwood and Steven Soderbergh.
Eastwood is hoping for the Palme d'Or prize with his child-abduction drama
"Changeling" starring Angelina Jolie, while Soderbergh unveils a four-hour
two-part epic on "Che" Guevara.
Other A-list stars due to attend the May 14-25 fest include Jolie, Will
Smith, Dustin Hoffman, Madonna, Woody Allen, Gwyneth Paltrow, Bruce Willis,
Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem.
Cannes swells three-fold to 200,000 for the yearly orgy of glitzy movie
promotion, parties and screenings that brings together industry types,
movie-buffs and celebrity-watchers.
The fest is as much about hard-nosed business as art, with around a billion
dollars worth of movie deals clinched every year, said the head of the Cannes
Film Market Jerome Paillard.
(AFP - expatica May 2008)