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Red carpet welcome

Gerson Da Cunha does a daily lowdown from the Mecca of movie festivals.

entertainment Updated: May 14, 2009 17:23 IST
Gerson Da Cunha

Opening this evening is something akin to the World Cup of world cinema, the Festival de Cannes. As you would expect therefore, maximum stars are here, or are soon expected, at this 62nd repeat of an annually astonishing event.

Stars descend
The likes of Quentin Tarantino, Ken Loach, Jane Campion, Ang Lee, Michael Haneke and Pedro Almodovar, to choose only the biggest of the brightest, will tramp up the front of the hulking Palais on that crimson carpet.

Martin Scorsese will run his wonderful Cannes Classics, among them the 1948 masterpiece The Red Shoes by Michael Powell and Emiric Pressburger. Chinese director Lou Ye’s Spring Fever, secretly shot in Nanjing, is here despite a Chinese Government ban on him.

Glamour is as essential a Cannes component as the auteur characteristics of its films. Brad Pitt, Penelope Cruz, Monica Bellucci will ascend the red carpet, to say nothing of the galaxy of stars in the films that will be screened and the L’Oreal models (festival sponsors), among whom is our very own Aishwariya Rai Bachchan. Off camera, as it were, but not much, will be Bill Clinton and Sharon Stone at an AIDS gala they sponsor annually in May.

The Festival will bring nearly 20,000 cinema folk (4,000 journalists) in a riotous invasion of this slightly prim seaside town, where Napoleon once bivouacked after Elba. The attendance is shadowed by the economic recession. But the trusty team of Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux shrug off the fear in Gallic fashion. Hotel bookings are only a panic, not the annual frenzy, yacht bookings are down but not out (hot ticket: the yachts-man Mallya event in his villa).

Indian cinema has, you might say, a surrogate presence here in two senses: first, in the after-tremors of the Slumdog Multi-quake. Though not an Indian film, it has yanked India back near centre stage on the world cine map. Secondly, there are no Indian films here, yes, but the durably wonderful Sharmila Tagore is a member of the International Jury, arbiters of the exalted Competition, and on the Jury of Un Certain Regard, is journalist and programmer Uma da Cunha. The two Juries are chaired respectively by the stunning Isabelle Huppert and Italian director Paolo Sorrentino.

The profile of India’s attendance follows the stereotype of the last few years: no artistic presence, but major attendance in the Festival’s Marché (Market) which does offer artistic property and an important profile in the short film sector. Subhash Ghai’s Whistling Woods showcases its students’ work through an array of nine films.

Cannes’ streets are getting a last douche, the red carpet is receiving its final bangs and the National Guard preens magnificently in this about-to-become centre of world filmdom for the next 11 days.