Commence Au Festivale

Da Vinci kicks off Cannes Film Festival

Commence Au Festivale

by empire |
Published on

Festivalgoers at the 59th Cannes hit the ground running yesterday with a day that, paradoxically, felt completely frantic even while nothing much was actually happening. Finally, in the evening, it got off to a trotting start with one of the oddest opening nights in recent memory.

Empire watched with barely concealed bemusement as a host of stars trundled up the red carpet: first the nobodies, then an odd collection of minor celebrities (a lot of saucy French stars, the Dardennes brothers, some L’Oreal models), then the jury (including Helena Bonham Carter, Sam Jackson, Tim Roth, Zhang Ziyi and Monica Bellucci), before we got to the main attraction.

Despite all the hoohah, nobody seemed at all fussed about The Da Vinci Code’s apparently sacrilegious message, although they did seem bothered about the leading man’s hair. Tom Hanks (announced as “Tum Onks”) led a weighty charge up the red carpet, followed by director Ron Howard, freaky haired producer Brian Grazer, petite starlet Audrey Tautou, writer Dan Brown and a retinue too numerous to mention. As the group posed at the top of the stairs, Sir Ian McKellen sat on the steps in front of them, leading to great hilarity when the others moved inside without telling him, leaving him sat there on his own for a few awkward moments.

Once inside, master of ceremonies Vincent Cassel hosted a 20-minute preamble that left us fairly agape, complete with guest appearance by Sidney Poitier and an opera singer paying tribute to the works of Jury president Wong Kar-Wei. It added even more time to a film that, at two-and-a-half hours already, could do without the extra weight.

The earlier press screening of DVC hadn’t gone down at all well, but at the official screening the audience was better behaved, giving the cast and crew a standing ovation before they’d even seen it. The reaction afterwards, however, was a slightly muted. Though it has adequate patches that hint at the book’s selling power, The Da Vinci Code really is a monumental misfire, no matter how well intentioned. Everything – from the writing, to the pacing, to the casting – is off-kilter, and it seems odd that such a leaden film would be used to raise the curtain on the world’s best known film festival, especially one that is trying to divest itself of some of the baggage of the past (indeed, a decent opening night film is a very recent phenomenon in Cannes).

The party afterwards was suitably low-key and felt more like a cocktail party than a rave, although nobody told the DJ as he spun his, ahem, banging tunes, including a Hi-NRG mix of the Brokeback Mountain theme. Few stars, DVC or otherwise, made the event, although we’re told that Paul Bettany – lovely man, good actor, what the hell was he thinking when he took the role of Silas? – made the effort. Disappointed by the lack of fireworks, and miffed at the absence of goodie bags, Empire made do with lots of free champagne and enjoyed what advertisers describe as a convivial atmosphere before heading off to hang with the Brits at the Petit Majestic pub.

The talk there was upbeat but not overly excited; it’s fair to say that the 2006 festival is a rum one indeed, and although there are some surefire talking points – Volver (the new Almodóvar), Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette – this year’s edition may actually be a festival of discoveries for the first time in quite a while. John Cameron Mitchell’s sex drama Shortbus is high on the list of under-the-radar possibles (playing out of competition), but buzz has already started on British film Red Road, by Andrea Arnold. Tonight we’ll get a glimpse of the recently wrapped Fast Food Nation, the non-fiction adaptation by Richard Linklater that suggests a cross between Super Size Me and Soylent Green. Expect the verdict tomorrow…

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