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Six decades of exhilaration at Cannes

Exposed skin is nothing new to this sexagenarian

At 60, Cannes is the grand-mere of film festivals. And like any sharp-eyed sexagenarian, she has seen it all. (Venice may be older, but the proceedings are hardly as sexy.) When Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton reportedly arrive this week, no amount of cavorting on the red carpet or flaunting of their nether regions will be risque enough to make history.

Cannes has been courting scandal ever since its inception.

In 1954, B-movie starlet Simone Sylva — abetted by Robert Mitchum — ripped off her bikini top. In the mad scramble to get a great shot, one photographer broke his arm; another fractured his leg. Sylva was stripped of her “Miss Festival” title and asked to leave Cannes. Undeterred such by consequences, Francoise Deldick took bareback to a new level when she later rode a horse through the lobby of the Carlton hotel topless.

Dancing on tables, too, is old hat on the Croisette. French actress Jeanne Moreau strode down a long table, gingerly stepping over silver ice buckets and bread plates, at a dinner in 1958. Even Sharon Stone couldn’t elicit a gasp when she announced her stance on underwear at an AIDS charity auction: “I don’t wear any,” she purred.

Cannes even lies about her age. The very first festival, scheduled for 1939, was shelved when Hitler invaded Poland. Seven years later, the festival debuted. Yes, that would make Cannes 61 this year, but the 1968 fest was shuttered to support the students striking against the Gaullist regime in Paris.

Perhaps the best way to cause a furor at Cannes this year would be some tongue-waggling at the blasphemous past. Imagine if every male director showed up in a bow tie? (Both Quentin Tarantino and Michael Moore have squared off with the Gendarmerie for eschewing proper black tie attire.) Or better yet, certain young American actresses (and you know who you are) elected to keep their clothes on?

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