Crowe, Blanchett storm Cannes film fest
Russell Crowe fired the opening shots at the Cannes film festival Wednesday with "Robin Hood" co-star Cate Blanchett, while Sean Penn and the Rolling Stones were among others due on the red carpet.
Crowe and Blanchett flew in for the film's world premiere late Wednesday, kicking off the 12-day festival which features films by directors such as Woody Allen and Jean-Luc Godard.
Movie fans and industry suits were also massing in the palm-lined French Riviera resort for the launch of the festival, whose heady cocktail of commerce, glamour and art makes it the top film event of the year.
The Australian stars of "Robin Hood" lead the charge against French invaders in Ridley Scott's muddy, bloody epic, but for a glossy blockbuster there is remarkably little overt lovemaking between the two 40-something stars.
The characters had "a very adult love affair... they come to their love slowly," Crowe told a news conference alongside Blanchett, who was dressed in a soft pink jacket and dress.
The movie shifts away from previous film versions of the legend, inventing the archer-turned-outlaw's personal history as a repentant soldier returning from conquests in the Middle East to defend a disunited England.
Crowe played down the notion of geopolitical references in this story.
"At Robin's heart is a simple thing: he is distressed by the unnecessary suffering of other human beings," he said. "I think that is an age-old thought process."
On the other hand, "if Robin was alive today he would be looking at the monopolisation of media as the greatest enemy," he added. Robin might also be "looking at Wall Street... and the subprime mortgage crisis and all that".
Celebrity-spotters set up deck-chairs opposite the Cannes waterfront palace, the hub of the festival which this year probes topical subjects such as the financial crisis and the Iraq war.
Diggers shifted sand on the beach where industry reps set up tents to flog their films and workers started rolling out the red carpet.
Like "Robin Hood", Oliver Stone's "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" screens out of competition, while major arthouse names like Iran's Abbas Kiarostami and Britain's Ken Loach lead the race for the Palme d'Or top prize.
Loach, who scooped the Palme in 2006, made a late entry on Monday into this year's race with "Route Irish," a movie about British security contractors in the Iraq war.
The only US film in competition for the Palme this year, "Fair Game" by "The Bourne Identity" director Doug Liman, starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, looks at the former US government's bid to smear CIA agent Valerie Plame.
Cannes 2010 will also see premieres of films by Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and Japan's Takeshi Kitano. US film-maker Woody Allen, 74, and New Wave icon Jean-Luc Godard, 79, add to the largely veteran line-up.
In the race for the Palme award on May 23, Asia has a strong showing, with two entries from South Korea -- "Poetry" by Lee Chang-dong and Im Sang-soo's "The Housemaid". China and Thailand are also represented.
Crowe, who was born in New Zealand and recently took Australian nationality, was due to walk up the red carpet with Blanchett for the premiere on Wednesday evening.
"I always wanted to be Robin Hood rather than Maid Marion," joked Blanchett.
"She was exactly the same on this movie," Crowe added. "'Give us your leather trousers, Russell,' she'd say."
Meanwhile France on Wednesday called on Iran to immediately release "eminent" jailed filmmaker Jafar Panahi and allow him to take his seat as a member of the Cannes jury.
Panahi, 49, has been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since March 1, reportedly because he was making a film about the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election.
© 2010 AFP