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Tuesday, May 15
by Jimmy Thomson

It’s not the Cannes Film Festival organisers’ fault that I organised our arrival in Nice too late to get to the (temporary) centre of the movie universe by train. And it’s not even down to them that that this morning (Tuesday), we were turned back at Nice station with the news that the trains were on strike.

Questions like ‘why?’ and, more importantly, ‘for how long?’ were met with the same, non-committal, uninformative Gallic shrug. Something to do with the new president, we were told as we were bundled into the back of a cab to take us to the bus station. Ninety minutes later we arrived in Cannes, just moments after a train. Either a bunch of disgruntled journos, led by the movie critic of the Railway Gazette, had commandeered it or the strike was over. Ca va, as they say around here.


Cannes is getting frocked up and buffed off for its annual festival – this being the 60th – and the town is awash with lanyard-dangling critics and reporters. The paparazzi have already staked out their places out with perilously high step ladders and they have taking to photographing each other to while away the hours before the first real celebs roll into town.

And there won’t be any shortage of them with Oceans 13 proving a baker’s dozen all of its own while ubiquitous coffee bar background music crooner Norah Jones kicks off the fame frenzy when she eschews the round-table and one-on-one interviews for a couple of “intimate conversations” in front of 60 hand-picked scribes. Jude Law, her co-star in My Blueberry Nights, and director Wong Kar Wai will join her new best friends. But David Strathairn and Rachel Weisz are “tbc” (to be confirmed) which is Cannes code for “ain’t coming”, while Natalie Portman doesn’t even get a mention.


Blueberry Nights – a road movie about a search for love and a coming of age (is there any other kind?) – is a soft opener for what promises to be a fairly brutal festival. Quentin Tarantino is here with Death Proof, in which sleazy stuntman Kurt Russell stalks a posse of foxy girls. David Fincher (7even) is back on the “serial killer as brain teaser” trail with Zodiac, starring Jake Gyllenhaal. In an almost entirely Aussie-free festival, here’s at least one connection: Jake just happens to be the godfather of fellow Brokeback cowboy Heath Ledger’s daughter Matilda Rose.

Back with the bloodlust, Gus Van Zant is here with Paranoid Park about a skateboarder who accidentally kills a security guard then trundles off to resume his normal innocent pursuit of destroying walls, steps and park benches.
The Coen brothers have the Croisette cooing in anticipation of bloody crime drama No Place For Old Men in which Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones, Woody Harrelson and Kelly MacDonald prove that there’s life in old dogs, even if there’s few new tricks. Meanwhile Mark Wahlberg and Robert Duvall star in We Own The Night, about a war between the Russian mafia and the New York police in which nothing is sacred and no one is safe.

On an even more sombre note, Angeline Jolie is here to promote A Mighty Heart - director Michael Winterbottom’s true story of the abduction and murder in Pakistan of American journalist Daniel Pearl – while Sicko is irrepressible documentary maker Michael Moore’s dissection of America’s fatally flawed health care system.
Also straddling the divide between fact and fiction, Goths and ghouls will love Control, a biopic about the suicide-shortened life of Joy Division lead singer Ian Curtis while U2 fanatics will feel much happier watching the new 3-D film of their heroes in concert.

On a much merrier note, Jerry Seinfeld is creating a buzz with news that he’ll be here to promote The Bee Movie, also starring Chris Rock and Renee Zellwegger, in what appears to be a mixture of computer animation and silly costumes that tells the story of a bee that decides to sue the human race for eating honey. And Ealing Studios St Trinians series is about to be revived with Rupert Everett, Colin Firth and more naught schoolgirls than you can shake a hockey stick at.

In art imitates life imitating art, the Entourage TV cast are due here to stage a not-quite-mock press conference for an episode of the hit comedy in which they visit Cannes.

There’s the usual swathe of quirky foreign comedies and movies so dark you wonder why they were made – a five-year-old witnesses her baby sister being sexually abused, anyone? But that’s all in the immediate future. The not-quite-so-grim realities of reporting the Cannes scene have to be negotiated. Arriving late and laden with luggage at the festival Press Centre, I recalled the opinion of a producer friend that Cannes is where you go to find out how insignificant you really are. The early-arriving smarty-pants, who already had their credentials swinging from their necks, hung around the Palais De Festival like threats of failure (although, in reality, they simply had nothing to do). Once inside it all went very smoothly. The Press Kit arrived in a handy shoulder bag – I bet some are already available on Ebay – in which a guidebook asked us not to take bags into festival venues. Ca va, as they say around here.


Cannes is ready and raring to go. Stages and screens are being completed, the buildings are covered with garish posters and the streets are crammed with expectant movie fans, 6,000 worried journos, stressed-out PR types and palpitating producers.
The bloodbath starts tomorrow – and that’s just the scramble to get into the first film.

Published May 16, 2007

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Photos by Jimmy Thomson

The Bee Movie makes a big splash on the sea view



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