May 27, 2011

The 64th Cannes Film Festival welcomes Hollywood

If you happen to travel this month to France, you might want to take a train ride to the south of France - to the French Riviera - to Cannes where each year one of the most popular film festivals in the world takes place each May.

The 64th Cannes Film Festival might be over, but the sights, gossip, and "movie-leftovers" would be still in the air of Cannes for another few months. As a matter of fact, the Red Carpet would still be there, and would stay through the year as many tourists come to Cannes to "experience" the film festival's aura. I did it last year when I came to Cannes in June and the Red Carpet on the Croisette - the waterfront of Cannes where the most festival's action happens - was still there. See below:

Me on the Croisette
Me on the Red Carpet
The hand prints of Roman Polanski in the Alley of the Stars (just as you've seen those on the Hollywood Blvd. in Los Angeles, only here - these hand prints are by the filmmakers and actors from around the world)

A hand print by the British actress Charlotte Rampling
The month of May is pretty special – and, hence, hectic – for all the cinematography, glamour and celebrity lovers in the world. It’s the month when the French Riviera gets over-flown by paparazzi, fashion moguls, local Europeans on yachts and the showbiz crowds. May is when The Cannes Film Festival has been taking place in the south of France for the last 64 years.

This year is no different. The festival has been welcoming the Hollywood stars, as well as the stars from around the world who either came to support their films and/or to enjoy the perks of the French-style glamour hosting, or both.

The festival that opened last Monday started off with a new film “Midnight in Paris” from an acclaimed American director, a New Yorker, Woody Allen. Perhaps this year it’s been especially special for the French as the director who is known to shoot films in his beloved New York, but who has recently moved on to Europe, chose the capital of France for his latest romantic flick. (By the way, the film opens in New York on May 20, and after that - across the U.S.A.)

However, many speculate that the reason French chose to open the festival with Allen’s film was because one of the roles in the movie is played by the First Lady of France – Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Yes, that might be one of the reasons, perhaps – an important one in decision making. On the other hand, Woody Allen is a true darling for the European film makers, and with his latest films shot in UK and Spain, he is winning the hearts of the European film goers.

In his latest movie, Woody Allen tells a story about a young writer, portrayed by Owen Wilson, who comes to Paris with his bride to see the places that his favorite writers – F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway - wrote so much about. And he gets lucky – he gets “transported” to Paris in the 20s, where he meets one of the Parisian’s famous residents – Salvador Dali, portrayed by Adrien Brody.

Adrien Brody as Dali in "Midnight in Paris"
To the surprise of many onlookers in the crowd, while most of the cast with the director were present at the premier of “Midnight in Paris”, the First Lady of France was visibly absent. But again, a film – here, a CD – there, still – there is just so much of “showbiz” a First Lady can do.

Carla Bruni - No promises

Besides the excitement around the opening night, there are other people who generated some ado around them on the first night of the festival. The attendees of the festival met the Grand Jury of the festival that includes Robert De Niro, Uma Thurman and Jude Law – a spectacle of its own.

Besides, not a year is the same. Each year the festival tries to surprise its guests and attendees. This year they are presenting a special guest – or should I say – a special film culture. As a guest, Egyptian and Tunisia film cultures will be represented at the festival  – with desire for democracy and freedom, the festival’s organizers wanted to show how cinema moves to the rhythm of world events, even when it’s politics.
And as the director of the festival, Thierry Frémaux, puts it: “Between Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris at the opening of the festival and The Beloved by Christophe Honore closing, Cannes will deploy its charm, its mysteries and traditions. And a lot of  music and Croisette activities – the Hollywood style!”
Fifty films in the Official Selection, dozens of guests every day, hundreds of screenings, thousands of film-buffs. There will be also The Carnival of Animals by Camille Saint-Saens.

Moreover, the festival would surprise the lovers of French and Italian cinema with a special guest - Jean-Paul Belmondo, who is back in Cannes to receive an ovation from the world of cinema and the Jury President Robert De Niro had a chance to meet his own hero - to Bernardo Bertolucci who he presented with a Palme d'Or of Honor award at the opening ceremony. So, there were surprises on the first night, and there will be more to come.

Bernardo Bertolucci receives a Palme d'Or of Honor award at the opening ceremony
Stay tuned for more coverage: more on The Cannes Film Festival, the festival’s films not to miss, after-hours events and soirees, food and lodging, and things to do around the festival to come. (And hopefully I will have some of the exclusive photos from the parties, presented by a good friend, and a party insider, directly from Cannes.)

As for me, I can honestly say that even after the festival ends on May 22nd, it’d be still pretty exciting to walk the festival’s red carpet. I know! I did it last June! I’ve made my acquaintance with the Croisette and the red carpet and made the physical connection with some of the famous movie stars handprints in sidewalk outside the festival’s auditorium – or as the locals call it – the Allée des Stars. See my photogallery for more details.

A hand print of the Russian actress Tatijana Samoilova who received an award for her film in "The Cranes are Flying" in 1957
A hand print by Joe Dassin, a very popular French musician - an icon for many women around the world - Who does not know his Salut, A Toi and "Aux Champs Elysées"?

A hand print by a famous French actress and singer Jeanne Moreau
See full photogallery of the festival on the right hand side of the blog.

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