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May 16, 2007

Cannes Film Festival turns 60

 
May 16, 2007

CANNES, France: The paint is almost dry, the red carpet is being unfurled, and the stars are ready to glitter.

The 60th annual Cannes Film Festival opens on Wednesday (today) as a celebration of celluloid and celebrity, with a lineup ranging from George Clooney and Angelina Jolie to Michael Moore and Quentin Tarantino.

Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai a long-standing Cannes favourite opens the festival on Wednesday with ``My Blueberry Nights,’’ his first English-language film and the acting debut of singer Norah Jones, who stars as a heartbroken waitress alongside Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz.

Wong is joined by several other returning Cannes veterans four of the 22 directors competing for the coveted Palme d’Or have won the top prize before. Tarantino’s gory ``Death Proof’’ is in the running, as are the Coen brothers’ Rio Grande thriller ``No Country for Old Men,’’ Gus Van Sant’s ``Paranoid Park’’ and ``Promise Me This,’’ from Sarajevo-born Emir Kusturica.

A further 13 entries are by directors who have never been in the main competition before. Cannes President Gilles Jacob said he strove to ``mix heritage and modernity, great filmmakers and start ups.’’ Moore will not be taking home a second Palme d’Or to match the one he won for ``Fahrenheit 9/11’’ in 2004. ``Sicko,’’ his documentary taking the pulse of the US health care system, is getting its world premiere in an out-of-competition slot. But it has already generated more attention than any film in the festival, thanks to a US Treasury Department investigation into a trip Moore took to Cuba accompanied by a group of ailing Sept 11 rescue workers during the making of the film.

The investigation spurred producers to spirit the negative of the film outside of the United States in case the government tried to seize it, said Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Co. is releasing ``Sicko.’’

“It

was like a middle-of-the-night operation from a spy novel, moving your negative to another country,’’ he said. Between Wednesday and May 27, the red carpet on Cannes’ beachfront Croisette will glitter with celebrities. Clooney is due to promote caper three quel ``Ocean’s Thirteen,’’ Leonardo Di Capriobrings environmental documentary “The 11th Hour,’’ and celebrity super-couple Brad Pitt and Jolie are expected to be on hand he for “Ocean’s Thirteen,’’ she for “A Mighty Heart,’’ in which she plays the widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl.

Cannes takes world cinema seriously. The competition includes films from Russia, Romania, France, South Korea and Japan. Among the most-anticipated films are ``Persepolis,’’ an animated adaptation of Marjane Satrapi’s graphic novel about growing up after Iran’s Islamic revolution; ``The Edge of Heaven’’ by Turkish-German director Fatih Akin; ``The Man From London’’ by Hungary’s Bela Tarr;and Mexican director Carlos Reygadas’ Mennonite melodrama ``Stellet Licht’’ (Silent Light).

“Cannes has always tried to blend high art and blockbuster films,’’ said Mike Goodridge, US editor of trade magazine Screen International. That winning formula and a glamorous Riviera location have made it, he said, ``the ultimate film festival.’’

Cannes has always been special. Founded in 1939 as an alternative to the fascist-dominated Venice Film Festival in Mussolini’s Italy and almost immediately cancelled due to the outbreak of World War II Cannes came to symbolise international glamour in the years after the war. Grace Kelly graced the corridors of the elegant Carlton hotel, and Brigitte Bardot caused a sensation on the red carpet.

Cannes manages to blend glitz and artistic credibility in a way no other film festival does. Past winners of the top prize include some of the most acclaimed films of all time ``Rome, Open City,’’ ``Taxi Driver,’’ ``Apocalypse Now’’ as well as a few that are best forgotten.

The 12-day film feast includes some lighter fare, from DreamWorks’ animated ``Bee Movie’’ to self-explanatory rockumentary``U23D.’’ Then there are the hundreds of out-of-competition shorts, shoestring features and student films, including the memorably named`` The Golden Nazi Vampire of Absam: Part II The Secret of Kottlitz Castle.’’