Cannes braces for A-listers, arthouse, fans, fun

Tue May 13, 2008 9:37am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - The world's biggest film festival kicks off in Cannes on Wednesday, bringing Hollywood A-listers, obscure arthouse directors, international media and fans together for 12 party-packed days on the French Riviera.

Posters are up around the resort town in southern France, marquees line the seafront, yachts are gleaming despite unseasonal drizzle and hotels await their famous guests.

As well as films in the official selection, hundreds more are screened in the bustling market, a key feature that underlines Cannes' importance to the industry.

The main competition of 22 films begins with a star-studded premiere of Brazilian entry "Blindness," appropriate for a festival that is showcasing South American cinema.

The movie directed by Fernando Meirelles of "City of God" renown stars Julianne Moore and Gael Garcia Bernal in a story of a civilization crumbling as it is hit by a blindness epidemic.

At the same time as the morning press screening, a few hundred yards (meters) along the palm-lined Croisette beachfront, the studio behind animation comedy "Kung Fu Panda" has organized a stunt to publicize the picture.

The combination of hard-hitting cinema and brazen blockbuster promotion, which some critics argue is a sellout to Hollywood, is typical of the festival, which ends on May 25 when the coveted Palme d'Or for best film is awarded.

Critics were wary of making early predictions.   Continued...

<p>Workers on the roof of the Festival Palace use ropes to position a giant canvas of the official poster of the 61st Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, May 12, 2008. Cannes film festival, the world's biggest, runs from May 14-25. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>