Curtains go up as Cannes film festival turns 60
Cannes Film Festival opened on Wednesday with a blend of arthouse movie-making and raw star power fitting for cinema's greatest showcase, which turns 60 this year.
Chinese director Wong Kar Wai, best known in the West for In The Mood For Love brought My Blueberry Nights to the palm-lined Riviera resort, his first English language film starring singer Norah Jones in her screen debut and Jude Law.
Hundreds of onlookers and reporters crowded around the famous red carpet to see the stars turn out for the film's world premiere, which kicks off 11 hectic days of networking, deal making and partying among thousands of movie professionals.
Jones, best known as a Grammy award-winning singer who has sold tens of millions of records, said she "jumped blindly" into her first feature, but would not be drawn on whether movies would replace music as her day job.
"I thought, 'Let's have lunch, maybe he wants the music,' and he said: 'Do you want to be in a movie?'," she said of Wong. "I said: 'OK, you're amazing.' I really just jumped in with a good feeling of trust for him," she told reporters.
My Blueberry Nights is one of 22 competition films, but hundreds more, including major Hollywood productions, are screened and touted, luring the likes of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and George Clooney to France's southern coast.
Selectors chose five U.S. productions in the main competition, although two have already been released in their home country to a cool reception.
Quentin Tarantino, adored by the Cannes faithful for his subversive style, presents Death Proof part of a double bill that flopped at the box office.
And David Fincher was included for Zodiac starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr in a drama based on a real-life serial killer.
"Often there is that disconnect between what American critics like and what European critics like, so it could be that the Europeans ... think it (Death Proof) is the bees' knees," said Jay Weissberg, movie critic at trade publication Variety.
Like Tarantino, the Coen Brothers and Gus Van Sant are US directors who have won the coveted Palme d'Or before and are in contention to repeat that success.
They may face stiff competition from two highly regarded Russian film makers -- Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Banishment) and Alexander Sokurov, whose Alexandra is set in Chechnya.
Portraits of life in Iran, Romania, Ukraine, Austria, Mexico, Turkey and Israel also feature in what critics expect to be a vintage lineup.
As ever, out-of-competition films threaten to steal the limelight, with Hollywood sequel Ocean's 13 starring Clooney and Pitt, premiering in Cannes, and Jolie promoting A Mighty Heart based on the true story of slain reporter Daniel Pearl.
But there are no genuine blockbusters launching at the festival this year, unlike 2005's Star Wars sequel and 2006's The Da Vinci Code which went on to gross $758 million at the worldwide box office despite a critical mauling in Cannes.
There are also fewer political films, although Michael Moore's documentary Sicko about the US healthcare system is likely to cause a stir. Leonardo DiCaprio is also in town with 11th Hour an environmental documentary.