Bertolucci declares Cannes film festival open

11th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The 64th edition of the Cannes film festival officially opened on Wednesday with a black-tie screening of Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" and a salute to Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci.

"I declare the Cannes festival open," said Bertolucci in Italian and French, after French actress Melanie Laurent, the evening's master of ceremonies, invited him to do the honours.

Minutes earlier, wheelchair-bound Bertolucci, 71, was visibly moved as he was presented with an honorary Palme d'Or for his life's work, before "Midnight in Paris" -- well-received at an earlier press screening -- filled the big screen.

He dedicated his award to Allen "who I can see in his seat with a strange expression I've never seen in his films" and to Robert De Niro, president of this year's Palme d'Or jury, "a big big friend".

"And then I'd like to dedicate this honorary Palme to all Italians who still have the strength and the energy to struggle, to criticise and to be indignant," he added.

De Niro, 67, tasked with his eight fellow jurors to pick this year's Palme d'Or winner from 20 films in competition, was equally touched by the screening of a brisk but thorough review of his life's work, from "Taxi Driver" and "Raging Bull" to "The Mission" and "Analyze This".

"Thank you for inviting me here to the 75th, er, 64th festival," he said in respectable French in response to a lengthy standing ovation. "I hope I will do good work. Thank you."

British jazz pianist Jaime Cullum performed for a medley of New York-themed songs -- a nod to Allen and De Niro's hometown -- that stretched from Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" to Alicia Key's "Empire State of Mind".

© 2011 AFP

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