LONDON (Reuters) - The stars will still turn up and the movie line-up looks good but the tone of the Cannes film festival will be more black and white than technicolor in 2009.
The credit crunch means Hollywood studios are tightening their belts and conspicuous consumption is temporarily out of fashion. Deal-making will go on but is likely to be more circumspect.
“You can feel people are more conservative, more selective,” said Helen Lee Kim, president of Mandate International. “They are being more careful and not taking those big jumps as they might have last year.”
The annual celebration of cinema in the south of France, famed for its wild beach parties, giant yachts and red carpets, opens on Wednesday with the premiere of “Up,” an animated comedy from Disney that underlines the growing importance of 3D.
Then it is down to the serious business of the competition comprising 20 films by an impressive array of directors — Jane Campion, Ang Lee, Ken Loach, Lars Von Trier, Michael Haneke, Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino.
Each day, two competition films are screened to critics and journalists before their red carpet premieres in the Grand Theater Lumiere, while directors and stars juggle interview schedules and photo calls with late-night partying.
Hundreds more movies are shown outside the main competition, many of them on the bustling market which is a less visible, yet vital part of Cannes’ status as the world’s top film festival.
On the plus side, Hollywood studios are enjoying a bumper box office in 2009 despite the global recession, and the dollar’s relative strength will boost purchasing power.
But the protracted credit crunch, added to slowing DVD sales and depressed advertising, will cast a shadow over Cannes, both in terms of business and pleasure.
PARTIES Canceled, YACHTS EMPTY
Vanity Fair magazine, which last year held one of the festival’s glitziest parties, is not coming to Cannes while demand for luxury yachts at the harbor has been slow.
“Normally we’re very busy during the festival, but all the corporate clients, the Americans, have reduced their budgets terribly and we’re getting very little demand from companies,” said Philippe Trombetta, who runs Class Yacht Charter, a luxury yacht-chartering business in Cannes.
“We’re having a lot of trouble getting contracts for the festival.” He charges up to 90,000 euros ($118,500) a day for his biggest yacht, not including champagne or diesel.
Hollywood is choosing to launch its summer blockbusters elsewhere but that, say the critics, may be a good thing.
“The general reaction among critics has been that it could be a very good year,” said Jay Weissberg of trade paper Variety.
“We’ve all been hoping Cannes would pull something out of the bag to make us feel good again. On paper they have.”
Previous winners of the coveted Palme d’Or, which goes to the best competition film selected by a jury, include Tarantino, who presents his World War Two drama “Inglourious Basterds” starring Brad Pitt.
Campion, who won with “The Piano” in 1993, brings “Bright Star” based on the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne, while Lars von Trier, whose “Dancer in the Dark” triumphed in 2000, shows horror movie “Antichrist.”
Ken Loach’s “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” picked up the Palme d’Or in 2006 and he is back in contention this year with “Looking for Eric” featuring French soccer star Eric Cantona.
Out of competition, Terry Gilliam has arguably the biggest movie in Cannes. “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” is the late Australian actor Heath Ledger’s final screen role which had to be completed by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.
Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles and James Mackenzie in Paris; editing by Robert Woodward