Cannes film festival hits halfway short on buzz

Mon May 17, 2010 1:12pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Crowds crammed to see the stars walk the red carpet, champagne flowed, fireworks filled the sky and screenings were packed, yet the Cannes film festival hit halfway on Monday lacking one key ingredient -- buzz.

The world's largest annual cinema showcase opened on May 12 and closes on May 23, when one of 19 movies in the main competition will be named winner of the coveted Palme d'Or.

As important to a successful festival are the hundreds of films shown out of competition and in the giant marketplace where producers and distributors wheel and deal.

With the majority of competition films yet to screen, the early front runner for the top prize is British director Mike Leigh, whose wry family drama "Another Year" was widely praised. He won the main award with "Secrets and Lies" in 1996.

Also popular was Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's "Biutiful," a moving portrayal of a dying father played by Javier Bardem, and a low-budget drama from Chad, "A Screaming Man," set against conflict in the African country.

But most movies eligible for awards have disappointed so far, and what stars there have been in the French Riviera resort have generally failed to shine either on-screen or off.

"I think we're lacking people who know how to play to the media, how to play it up and how to charm on the red carpet and in interviews," said Variety critic Jay Weissberg.

"At the Cannes festival in particular, it needs that interplay between the star and the press and public, and we haven't really had that yet."   Continued...

<p>Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (L) and cast member Javier Bardem pose during a photocall for the film "Biutiful" at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman</p>