Cannes' magic to shine through despite recession
By Andrew McCathie
Cannes, May 7 (DPA) When the global movie business turns up in Cannes next week for the world's leading film festival, it is likely to find the 11-day movie marathon rather short of its traditional glamour and glitz.
With the economic crisis having cut a swathe through the world film industry over the last year, filmmakers from Hollywood through to Bollywood have faced cost-cutting, studio layoffs and an ever more cautious army of producers and movie financiers.
Already signs have emerged that the movie business and its sponsors have scaled back plans for the lavish parties and extravagant promotional events that used to be a feature of the festival.
But while the champagne might be flowing a little less generously this year, a strong line up of films in the race for Cannes' coveted Palme d'Or means that the festival has not lost any of its shine.
Now in its 62nd year, this year's main competition for top honours in Cannes includes films from the world's leading directors, such as America's Quentin Tarantino's wartime drama "Inglorious Barsterds" and Spain's Pedro Almodovar's "Los Abrazos Rotos" (Broken Embraces).
Oscar-winning Almodovar's drama set in the wake of the death of a movie producer forms part of an impressive contingent of European movies that have been lined up for the festival.
A large slew of Asian movies also appear in this year's festival, such as "Spring Fever" by Chinese director Lou Le about an erotic threesome and famed Korean director Park Chan-Wood's "Bak-Jwi" (Thirst), which tells a dark and violent tale of a priest who turns into a vampire.
Marking out the growing international interest in Palestinian cinema, Nazareth-born director Elia Suleiman's "The Time That Remains" has also been selected for the main competition. The film looks at the life of a Palestinian family over about seven decades.
The 3-D animated film "Up" about a cranky old man who attaches balloons to his house to try to fly him away to a new adventure by American Peter Docter opens the festival May 13.
American glossy magazine Vanity Fair might have called off its annual flashy black-tie party at the luxury Eden Roc hotel in Antibes, festival yacht rentals might have dropped off and the numbers attending the festival might also be down.
Hollywood's traditional glamour offensive in Cannes might also be rather muted this year as the US movie industry has scaled back and a comparatively small number of American films has been selected for the festival.
However, Cannes is still likely to celebrate movie-making and the cult of the celebrity this year with considerable style and flair.
Unlike the film festival in Venice, which is held in early autumn, or Berlin, which is mounted during the gloom of winter, Cannes celebrates moviemaking just as summer dawns on the French Riviera - complete with yachts bobbing on a glistening Mediterranean.
"Cinema has a heart and it beats very clearly once a year in no other place other than in Cannes," said Wim Wenders after his latest movie was screened at the festival last year.
There are several festivals around the world, said Wenders, "but the beating heart takes place in Cannes".
Cannes this year might come in the wake of a weak Venice and a dismal Berlin, confirming for many commentators that 2008 was a bad year for cinema.
But while Venice and Berlin might have suffered from the growing importance of the Toronto and Sundance festivals, Cannes still retains the overwhelming power to drive global film trends and to create cinematic buzz as cities such as Bucharest, Tel Aviv, Seoul and Beijing move to centre stage in world cinema.
Many nations even seem to try to hold back their films from other festivals to try their luck with Cannes' selection panel.
But then almost everyone in the world of cinema - from Gary Cooper, Alfred Hitchcock, Sophia Loren through to Jean Cocteau and of course Brigitte Bardot - has at one point found the lure of Cannes irresistible.
The festival has also become a major fashion event with designers around the world administering the final touches on their creations for a showing on Cannes' famous red carpet.
A cache of stars is heading to the Cote d'Azur and its famous beachfront for gala screenings of their latest movies.
A-listers in Cannes this year are likely to include Penelope Cruz, Gerard Depardieu, Jude Law, Colin Farrell, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt.
More importantly, a less lavish array of parties is not likely to dampen the enthusiasm of moviegoers on the Croisette, the beachfront boulevard lined with wedding cake hotels that cuts through the heart of the festival.
Indeed, in the end it might leave more room to focus on the movies.