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Cannes view depends on where you’re sitting

LONDON – Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, the success or failure of this year’s Cannes Film Fest will be measured in a dozen ways — all depending on whose eyes are focused on the Croisette.

With last year’s fest widely criticized by Hollywood and the mainstream media for its overly arty take, this year’s event has taken a more accessible turn.

The fest claims 5,000 accredited press, and the art-centric view of critics from Roger Ebert to Variety‘s Todd McCarthy is now sharply juxtaposed with that of the media hordes trying to get a photo of Michael Jackson at a hotel window or a word with Angelina Jolie through the smoked glass of a Mercedes.

Cannes has transformed over the years from a simple two-tent show of artsy fest and a prole market into a complicated circus that includes high-art films, low-brow huckstering and high-profile product launches touting everything from music channels to luxury yachts.

This year, fest artistic director Thierry Fremaux could conceivably deliver a Cannes for the cinematic ages and still get a drubbing from someone disappointed that Scarlett Johansson blew off the debut of a new perfume. Or he could deliver a paucity of arthouse gems and still be acclaimed the genius of the Croisette. Or. Or. Or…

At the risk of being proven wrong in just a fortnight, I think Fremaux could come out of Cannes smelling like a rose this year — at least to the mass media and marketeers. Here’s why:

  • The Tarantino is God Factor: One thing all journalists know, whether they’re highbrow film critics or supermarket tabloid scribes, Tarantino is cool. With Quentin running the jury, the aura of a hipper, younger Cannes has already been established. And nobody wants to challenge QT as an arbiter of hipster movie buff cachet.

  • The Michael Moore Shall Smite George Bush Factor: Do you know anybody who won’t buy a ticket to see Michael Moore denouncing every bete noire from Michael Eisner to Dick Cheney?

With “Farenheit 911” bowing in Cannes only days after the Stateside firestorm Moore and Co. have cleverly whipped up, Cannes is not only relevant but essential to everyone except maybe Condoleeza Rice.

  • The Blockbusters Rock, Hello Brad Pitt Factor: This Cannes has mass-appeal pics like “Dawn of the Dead,” “Shrek 2” and “Troy” on its roster, and their stars in attendance, so the paparazzi will, indeed, get their money shots and the cosmetics firms will bask in the reflected glow of the stars.

So will this Cannes please everyone? Not likely.

But don’t be surprised ifthe dissenting wails of cranky auteurists just don’t resonate the way they used to.

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