CANNES — Fest organizers made good on their promise to surprise attendees at the 60th annual Cannes event, with an opening night that was elegant, eclectic and eccentric — and filled with a generous side order of glitz and good vibes.
The opening night attraction, Wong Kar Wai’s “My Blueberry Nights,” was accompanied by the usual pomp and glamour: Arriving guests drew a paparazzi frenzy before they were greeted at the top of the red-carpet stairs by fest honchos Gilles Jacob, Thierry Fremaux and Catherine Demier, while lines of uniformed guards stood in rigid attendance.
But the after-party was 180 degrees from the usual formal sit-down dinner. Instead, guests were encouraged to roam and schmooze while eating finger food in an ultra-mod setting that featured bright red walls, purple light projections and clear-plastic chairs.
Audience reaction was split on the film, but that was a marked improvement from the grumpy reaction to last year’s more Hollywood-centric opener, “The Da Vinci Code.”
The movie was preceded by a ceremony that included a brief speech by 98-year-old Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira, whom mistress of ceremonies Diane Kruger pointed out is the last living director to have worked in silent films. The vet filmmaker said, in French, that he was “very happy to open this prestigious and still very young film festival.”
That was followed by a surprise screening of David Lynch’s “Absurda,” a three-minute film that was too late to make the cut of the fest’s “To Each His Own Cinema” anniversary omnibus pic. (Fest topper Jacob has decreed that the fest’s jubilee year should honor filmmakers.)
The preshow was followed by a 15-minute interlude in which filmgoers at the Palais sat patiently as workers disassembled the set and vacuumed the stage carpet.
Leading the celeb charge on the red carpet were the pic’s helmer and stars Norah Jones and Jude Law, as well as the jury led by Stephen Frears.
Film biz heavyweights in attendance included Harvey Weinstein, whose company is distributing “Blueberry”; Michael Barker; Tom Bernard; Luc Besson; and Canal Plus chairman Bertrand Meheut.
Also sashaying up the steps were L’Oreal girls Andie MacDowell, Gong Li, Aishwarya Rai and Kerry Washington.
Many more than the usual 30,000 festgoers are in town for the special festivities, making for a tightly packed Cannes this year. On Wednesday night, the streets were packed with diners at sidewalk restaurants and wine bars, with more energy in the air than is usual for opening night.
The pressure is on for events and movies to live up to attendees’ high expectations.
After the gala screening and dinner, guests went to a “Blueberry Nights”-themed party hosted by StudioCanal, complete with Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and other Americana touches.