Celebs lap up Deauville welcome

Thousands greet festival visitors

DEAUVILLE — Stars arriving at the Deauville Festival of American Film from Venice reacted with unfeigned pleasure at the youthful exuberance of the French auds.

Brad Pitt, who arrived with Angelina Jolie, joined “‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” co-star Casey Affleck in eliciting cheers Monday night with the simple French terms “bon soir” and “ca va?”

“I think you’re really going to enjoy this film,” Pitt declared of Andrew Dominik’s 155-minute Western character study, “because these are some of the most comfortable seats I’ve ever experienced in a theater.”

Faced with nearly a thousand applauding viewers when he made his entrance before the 11 a.m. competition screening of “Rocket Science” on Tuesday, scripter-helmer Jeffrey Blitz deadpanned, “I was here last night, and I never thought I’d receive the same welcome as Brad Pitt.”

George Clooney, in town briefly for “Michael Clayton,” was made a Knight in the French Order of Arts and Letters in a Sunday afternoon ceremony — surely the first time a French government minister has ever referred to “Return of the Killer Tomatoes,” an early opus in Clooney’s filmography.

Sometimes facts are more fun than figures. Asked about the budget for Mitchell Lichtenstein’s competish entry “Teeth,” producer Joyce Pierpoline replied, “It’s the most expensive film ever made about vagina dentata.”

Ben Affleck’s helming debut “Gone Baby Gone” was to world preem Wednesday night.

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