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Film Studies 101
Feature
Great Cannes Openers
The finest films to open the Cannes Film Festival

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Short of skipping off with Cannes' biggest gong, the Palme d'Or, there are few greater honours for a filmmaker than being asked to open the festival. Cinema's greats from Kurosawa and Fellini to Scorsese and the Coen brothers have all had movies kick off the film-lover's festival of choice. Some have been great (Amarcord), some good (Witness) and some... well, some have been Basic Instinct. We've sorted the wheat from the chaff to look back at a few of the greatest opening nights of Cannes gone by.

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Great Cannes Openers | The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939)
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (1939)

The first Cannes Film Festival wasn't just a celebration of cinema, it was also a cheeky Gallic two fingers to the parade of fascist propaganda that had been the previous year's Venice festival. Fittingly, the inaugural Cannes was rung in with peeling bells - in this case pulled by a hunchbacked Charles Laughton in the 1939 black-and-white adaptation of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame. As moving as William Dieterle's take on Victor Hugo's romantic classic was, Quasimodo and Esmerelda's impossible love was more than a little overshadowed by the outbreak of World War Two. It would be the first and last screening that year: the entire festival was called of a day later. And not even The Da Vinci Code managed that.

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