Star-light Cannes feels pinch, early films shine

Mon May 18, 2009 9:43am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

CANNES, France (Reuters) - Light on A-list stars, extravagant parties and celebrity stunts, this year's Cannes film festival has not escaped the global economic downturn.

That, many say, has been a blessing in disguise, allowing thousands of reporters, executives and Hollywood hopefuls in the French Riviera resort to concentrate on the movies themselves rather than the off-screen distractions.

Reaction to the 20-strong competition has been positive as Cannes hit the halfway stage on Monday, with a French prison drama, Jane Campion's take on John Keats and Ken Loach's picture headlined by soccer star Eric Cantona tipped as the early favorites for the coveted Palme d'Or.

And while there has been little buzz along the palm-lined Croisette waterfront, where Cannes' late-night revelry is concentrated, Danish director Lars von Trier has got people talking with a movie that shocked and offended many who saw it.

"Antichrist," a sexually charged and violent horror starring Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a grieving couple, has stirred the kind of controversy Cannes organizers may welcome.

"Overall it's a good Cannes so far," said film critic and author Mark Cousins, who defended von Trier for making a movie that he found innovative and surprising.

Whether a coincidence or a conscious decision by Hollywood studios to cut back on expensive outlays in Cannes, there have been noticeably fewer stars on the red carpet this year.

"When Mariah Carey is the biggest star by the end of week one, you know you're in trouble," said one seasoned television producer, bemoaning the lack of celebrity wattage.   Continued...

<p>Tunisian model Afef Jnifen (C), Dutch model Doutzen Kroes (R) and U.S. actress Evangeline Lilly arrive for the screening of the film "Vengeance" at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 17, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard</p>