Celebs to revel in Cannes schizo-glitz

Hotel du Cap in Antibes to serve as remote backdrop

LONDON — A vast, three-day media junket for “Lord of the Rings,” including a 20-minute screening of footage and climaxing May 13 in a party at a “top-secret” chateau location — known to all the Cannes locals as the Chateau Castellaras — atop a hill in a private village for 1,000 invitees, looks set to be the highlight of the “other” Cannes this year.

You know, the one where you don’t have to pretend to care about the beautifully crafted Japanese films in competition, or the wearisome Gallic navel-gazing in the Directors Fortnight.

This is the Cannes that the rest of the world is really interested in — the hype and hoopla, the stars and the parties, the sneak peaks at blockbuster movies, and of course the alternative festival, otherwise known as the market, which takes place in the cinemas along the Rue d’Antibes.

This year’s Cannes promises to be a particularly schizophrenic experience. The Hollywood studios have been welcomed back into the official selection, just at the moment when looming strikes and the threat of U.S. recession are making it hard to justify extravagant parties and trans-Atlantic trips by execs.

Exclusivity rather than ostentation seems to be the watchword, with several major events removing themselves to hard-to-reach locations far outside town, and planning to severely restrict the guest list.

The Hotel du Cap in Antibes is the spiritual home of the “other” Cannes, where stars and studio execs pay suitcases full of cash to keep their distance from the hoi polloi on the Croisette. Vanity Fair is throwing a Saturday night (May 12) bash there, and William Morris and INStyle magazine are co-hosting a soiree there as well May 16.

The annual MTV party (also May 12) has moved from the Palm Beach Casino to Pierre Cardin’s spectacular art deco villa miles away west toward St. Tropez on the outskirts of a private village, in an attempt to avoid the 12:30 a.m. Croisette curfew that closed the party down early last year.

The annual Cure by the Shore charity bash May 19 has also relocated to Monaco.

New Line is bringing the entire “Lord of the Rings” cast (except Cate Blanchett, who’s filming) and director Peter Jackson, and jetting in planeloads of journalists from around the world to meet them.

DreamWorks, too, is understood to be inviting just 150 lucky bigwigs to its “Shrek” party on May 12, in what looks set to be a hugely overcrowded party weekend.

Fox however does not look to be going the exclusive route for its large-scale fest opener “Moulin Rouge,” building its own temporary structure for the event on the Pantiero a stretch of esplanade overlooking the port adjacent to the Palais des Festivals.

For the Brits and the Australians, the market will be the only festival this year, their movies completely shut out of the official sections. That means there will be several world premieres of British and Australian movies in the market, with attendant cast and hoopla.

FilmFour is hosting a special event to preem John McKay’s toyboy comedy “Crush,” which Andie MacDowell will attend. Beyond Intl. has a private screening of “Lantana,” starring Geoffrey Rush and Barbara Hershey, from “Piano” producer Jan Chapman.

Expect also a private screening of Jan Sverak’s “Dark Blue World.”

Capitol will bow Sandra Goldbacher’s “Me Without You.” The Isle of Man Film Commission is hosting a soiree for the pic, with Trudi Styler and possibly Anna Friel in attendence.

The Brits are taking a different tack this year for corporate entertaining. Neither BBC Films, FilmFour nor Pathe Pictures is hosting the usual lunches, with the BBC switching to an evening cocktail and FilmFour opting for a series of more select receptions at its new villa.