Cannes film festival curtain up with comedy, chaos

Tue May 15, 2012 2:00pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Comedy will dominate the opening of the Cannes film festival on Wednesday, with Wes Anderson's child fantasy "Moonrise Kingdom" in a tussle with Sacha Baron Cohen's anarchic alter ego General Aladeen for the attention of the world's media.

Thousands of journalists and movie executives are in the glamorous Riviera resort for 12 hectic days of screenings, red carpets, parties and dealmaking, and the first day is typical of the diary clashes they face.

Anderson's film, starring Bruce Willis and Bill Murray, is the official opening entry in the main competition, ensuring a splashy launch with a press screening, news briefing, interviews and red carpet gala premiere on Wednesday evening.

Yet just a short stroll away along the famous palm-lined Croisette waterfront, Baron Cohen will also be muscling in on the action with a press conference of his own at the swanky Carlton Hotel to promote his latest picture "The Dictator".

Judging by his outrageous sense of humor and eye for the theatrical, the British comic may steal much of the limelight as he adopts the character of Aladeen, a cruel North African dictator partly inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings.

Amid the pranks and late night parties, however, there is plenty of hard work to be done, with a giant marketplace showcasing hundreds of films and hoping to defy the economic gloom across much of Europe with a spate of sales.

"The economic situation in Europe is not great, but does it mean that we have to forget the dream?" said Thierry Fremaux, general delegate of the festival. "The (economic) crisis is not the crisis of this year," he told Reuters.

"It has been five years that we are in crisis here in Europe," he added, speaking in English. "But we have to manage a way to give the people dreams and to say that even in the 1930s after the big crisis, cinema was in very good shape."   Continued...

A Chopard representative displays the Palme d'Or, the highest prize awarded to competing films, on the eve of the opening of the 65th Cannes Film Festival, May 15, 2012. The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 16 to 27. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann