REUTERS - The Cannes film festival opens on Wednesday with 3D
animation comedy "Up", but with studios cutting back due
to the recession the "feel good" factor at the famously
extravagant cinema showcase may quickly fade.
Vanity Fair's exclusive party has been cancelled, luxury
yachts moored at the picturesque harbour remain unchartered and
movie executives are sounding a note of caution on the eve of
the world's biggest film festival.
"Like every business now, we really have to be very
careful," said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures
Classics. "Everyone has concerns," he added, before noting that
deals would still be made.
The opening ceremony, underlining 3D's growing importance,
kicks off 12 days of screenings, interviews, red carpets and
late-night revelry in the palm-lined resort, which attracts many
of the most glamorous and powerful figures in the business.
Brad Pitt is expected in Cannes with Quentin Tarantino's
World War Two drama "Inglourious Basterds", one of 20 films
showing in the main competition and vying for the coveted Palme
d'Or for best picture when Cannes winds up on May 24.
The competition also includes by Pedro Almodovar's "Broken
Embraces" starring Penelope Cruz, Ken Loach's "Looking for Eric"
featuring former French soccer star Eric Cantona and Lars von
Trier's horror "Antichrist".
Jane Campion, who won the Palme d'Or with "The Piano" in
1993, brings "Bright Star" based on the romance between 19th
century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.
Ledger's final role
Other highlights include Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" about
the rock festival and Lou Ye's "Spring Fever", made in defiance
of a five-year ban from film making imposed by China for his
previous movie "Summer Palace", also in Cannes.
Out of competition, Terry Gilliam has arguably the biggest
movie in Cannes. "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is the
late Australian actor Heath Ledger's final screen role, which
had to be completed by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.
Hundreds more movies are shown outside the main competition,
many of them on the market which runs throughout the festival
and reinforces Cannes' importance in the world of cinema.
The deal making will go on, as will the parties, but market
players expect the mood to be more subdued than recent years.
On the plus side, Hollywood studios are enjoying a bumper
box office in 2009 despite the global recession and the dollar's
relative strength will boost purchasing power.
But the prospect of a protracted credit crunch, added to
slowing DVD sales and depressed advertising will cast a shadow
over Cannes, both its business and pleasure.
There is also less of a big studio presence this year, with
Hollywood choosing to launch its summer blockbusters elsewhere.
Critics say that may be a good thing, with the media at a
pared-down Cannes more likely to concentrate on the promising
movie line-up than on what the stars get up to.