The 64th Cannes Film Festival opened Wednesday with Hollywood stars Robert De Niro and Jude Law fuelling excitement at what is commonly regarded as the world’s biggest cinema showcase, kicking off with Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”.
REUTERS - Hollywood heavyweights Robert De Niro and Jude Law fuelled excitement on the French Riviera on Wednesday at the start of the Cannes film festival, which kicks off with Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris”.
The world’s biggest cinema showcase, which ends on May 22, boasts an impressive roll call of major screen stars, revered “auteur” directors and relative newcomers, raising expectations among a 4,000-strong press pack in the glamorous Riviera resort.
Gleaming luxury yachts pack the harbour around the giant cinema complex, five-star hotels are filling up with the rich and famous and Cannes organisers are hoping the 2011 edition lives up to its billing.
“What is exciting this year is ... this clash between established talent and young discoveries, and that is perhaps the heart of the Cannes mission,” festival general delegate Thierry Fremaux told Reuters.
Allen’s romantic comedy stars Owen Wilson and Marion Cotillard as well as French first lady Carla Bruni.
On Tuesday, Bruni announced she had cancelled an appearance in Cannes because of “personal reasons”, feeding widespread rumours in the French press that she may be pregnant.
Nonetheless, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Penelope Cruz, De Niro, Mel Gibson and Johnny Depp are all likely to walk the red carpet, ensuring intense media interest and large crowds of fans keen to catch a glimpse of their screen idols.
Blockbusters “Kung Fu Panda 2” starring Jolie and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” with Depp and Cruz launch in Cannes, as studios return in force after avoiding the notoriously costly trip to France due to the financial crisis over the past couple of years.
De Niro heads this year’s jury, which also includes Uma Thurman and Law, and underlining the pulling power of the festival, pop diva Lady Gaga is widely reported to be putting in a “surprise” appearance on the waterfront on Wednesday.
The darlings of the European festival circuit have also put in a strong appearance—Pedro Almodovar, Nanni Moretti, the Dardenne brothers, Aki Kaurismaki and Lars Von Trier, are all vying for the coveted Palme d’Or prize for best picture.
FACES OF CANNES: 12 PERFORMANCES TO WATCH
Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas reunites with the director who made him famous, Pedro Almodovar, in "The Skin I Live In". Watch for his role as a vengeful surgeon to be a return to form for an actor who has mostly fallen off the radar. (Photo: Jose Haro)
She'll be in only a few scenes, but French First Lady Carla Bruni playing a museum curator in Woody Allen’s "Midnight in Paris" will be one of the most closely watched performances of the festival. Will she win over a skeptical French press? (Photo: All rights reserved)
US actress Jessica Chastain is unknown, but her role as a 1950s Texas housewife in the competition’s most anticipated film, Terrence Malick’s "Tree of Life", catapults her onto the world film scene. This could be a breakout – or a letdown. (Photo: All rights reserved)
The last film Kirsten Dunst headlined at Cannes was Sofia Coppola’s love-it-or-hate-it "Marie Antoinette". This year she stars as a troubled bride in another potentially divisive movie: Lars Von Trier’s science-fiction drama "Melancholia". (Photo: All rights reserved)
Belgian star Cécile De France is an uncommonly high-profile, cheerful-looking choice for the lead in a film by the downbeat Dardenne brothers. Will her role as a woman who bonds with a foster child in "The Kid with the Bike" open new doors? (Photo: All rights reserved)
One of Hollywood’s brightest up-and-comers, Canadian Ryan Gosling stars as a stuntman-turned-getaway-driver in Nicholas Refn’s "Drive". Gosling is known for brooding, Brando-esque performances – which may please jury chair Robert De Niro. (Photo: All rights reserved)
Rising French star Hafsia Herzi has roles in two racy-sounding competition films: Bertrand Bonello’s "L’Apollonide", about a 20th century brothel, and Radu Mihaileanu’s "The Source", about Arab women withholding sex from their husbands. (Photo: All rights reserved)
33-year-old Ebizo Ichikawa is a renowned Kabuki and TV star in his native Japan. Now his burgeoning film career will get a major international boost from a lead role in Takashi Miike’s 3D samurai epic, "Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai". (Photo: All rights reserved)
Cannes regular Sean Penn has a lead in Terrence Malick’s "Tree of Life". But it’s his role as a rock star on the hunt for an ex-Nazi war criminal in Italian Paolo Sorrentino’s "This Must Be the Place" that has piqued early interest. (Photo: All rights reserved)
French actor Denis Podalydès has the juiciest role of all, playing President Nicolas Sarkozy in "The Conquest". If he goes beyond imitation to find the soul of the controversial leader, this will be a long talked-about performance. (Photo: All rights reserved)
There’s already buzz about Tilda Swinton’s performance as a murderer's mother in Lynne Ramsay’s "We Need to Talk About Kevin". The British actress is an eccentric, chameleon-like performer, and could be a frontrunner for an acting prize. (Photo: All rights reserved)
French actor André Wilms plays a shoe-shiner who connects with an African boy in Aki Kaurismaki's "Le Havre". In a selection dominated by younger, Method-inspired actors and starlets, a quiet performance by a veteran could stand out. (Photo: All rights reserved)
So is U.S. veteran Terrence Malick, back in the limelight with only his fifth feature, the eagerly anticipated “The Tree of Life” in which Pitt and Penn star in a family saga set in the American Midwest during the 1950s.
Women directors feature more prominently in the main competition than usual, although they still only account for four of 20 entries.
Scotland’s Lynne Ramsay presents “We Need To Talk About Kevin” and Australian Julia Leigh directs “Sleeping Beauty”, described as a “haunting erotic fairy tale”.
French actress Maiwenn Le Besco brings “Polisse”, about a photographer who has an affair with a policeman, and Japan’s Naomi Kawase presents “Hanezu No Tsuki”.
Belgium’s Dardenne brothers have a chance to become the first directors to scoop the Palme d’Or three times with “The Kid With A Bike” and festival favourite Almodovar will aim to lift his first Golden Palm with “The Skin I Live In”.
Denmark’s Von Trier is in competition with “Melancholia”, starring Kirsten Dunst as a bride celebrating her marriage as a planet threatens to collide with Earth.
And politics will also play its part in the festival, chiefly with “La Conquete” (The Conquest), a biopic about French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election win and the collapse of his previous marriage to Cecilia.
(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; additional reporting by Wilfrid Exbrayat, editing by Paul Casciato)
Date created : 2011-05-11