Soiree mixes H'wood lavishness, Cannes eccentricity

CANNES — How you say “razzle-dazzle” in French?

After MGM’s “De-Lovely” screened as the Cannes Film Festival’s closing-night attraction, the studio invited 2,500 intimate friends to a whoop-de-doo bash on the beach whose cost several insiders estimated at $2.5 million-$3 million.

In a series of specially built party areas extending from the Majestic Beach toward the lighthouse area near the city’s old harbor, the fete mixed Hollywood lavishness and Cannes eccentricity. Nowhere else in the world could you see black-tie partygoers sitting in the sand eating fish stew and ravioli de champignons as they looked out over the water at a 15-minute fireworks display, with loudspeakers booming out themes from “The Pink Panther” and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.”

And where else could you see a VIP room that offered Gilles Jacob, George Lucas and Alanis Morissette a chance to rub elbows?

MGM’s Chris McGurk acknowledged that the delightful, delicious, delovely event was symbolic. The Irwin Winkler-helmed film “defines the kind of movie we want to be involved in,” and it’s the perfect pic to celebrate the studio’s 80th anniversary, “since it represents the best of MGM’s past and our future.”

Before the Palais screening of “De-Lovely,” the audience saw a 10-minute montage of rapid clips from the MGM-UA library, an astonishing array including works from talents as diverse as David Lean, Buster Keaton and the Three Stooges. Significantly (but subtly), the montage also included moments from “De-Lovely.”

Referring to the studio’s dominance of musicals in the 1940s and 1950s, Winkler mused that his pic is “a musical biography, but we tried to give it a fresh approach.”

Winkler also said that the party was “very much a part of MGM’s statement.” (Aside from celebrating its history, the statement is clear: MGM plans to stick around, and in a big way.)

Among the revelers were MGM honchos Danny Rossett and Michael Nathanson. Also partying were the pic’s stars Kevin Kline and Ashley Judd, as well as Morissette, Sheryl Crow and Natalie Cole, all of whom appear in the pic — and all of whom performed Cole Porter standards on a huge across-the-water stage built specially for the occasion.

Other partygoers spotted included Geoffrey Rush, Stephen Hopkins and Lawrence Bender.

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