The 63rd Cannes Film Festival opened on Wednesday 12 May with Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. The reception was mixed, but those who liked it (including your humble correspondent) liked it a great deal.
In keeping with the title character's belief that purchasing power among the lower classes can be increased by redistributing wealth, it was reported today that hotel prices during the festival merely tripled whereas they usually quadruple.
Completed in time for this year's fest is a luxury suite in the new wing of the Barriere Majestic hotel that includes its own private swimming pool. The suite's windows overlook the red carpeted stairs, which means that one could have a splendid view of two thousand people in formal attire while clad in one's pajamas or nothing at all.
Of course, anybody with a television in a locality that telecasts the prelude to formal screenings could enjoy the same effect -- minus the swimming pool.
Robin Hood stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett declared the fest open simultaneously: he in English and she in French. That's an unusual honor -- most years the master or mistress of ceremonies recites the official words "I hereby declare open the however many Cannes Film Festival." Host Kristin Scott Thomas introduced the jury whose members will deliberate under president Tim Burton.
It started to rain just about when the opening ceremony and showing of Robin Hood finished. But as impediments involving water go, some standard precipitation is far preferable to the freak 6-meter high waves that just a week ago -- and for the first time since 1959 -- wreaked havoc with waterfront restaurants and recreational facilities along the Riviera. Some of the beach front restaurants of Nice are still a shambles but somehow Cannes recovered in time for the festival. (As recently as 4 days ago it was still unsafe to land at the local heliport.)
Certain flights are being delayed due to volcanic ash, meaning that would-be attendees may have made it as far as Paris only to be denied their planned connecting flight to the south of France.
Speaking of late arrivals, Ken Loach's most recent opus was such a last-minute addition to the Competition that it does not figure in the catalogue. That state of affairs proved lucky for Abbas Kiarostami whose Taste of Cherry shared the Palme d'Or in 1997 with Shohei Imamura's The Eel. It was so uncertain as to whether both Kiarostami and his film would be permitted to travel from Iran to France that Taste of Cherry did not figure in that year's catalogue.
Kiarostami is back in Competition this year with Copie Conforme (Certfied Copy) starring Juliette Binoche, who is shown painting with light on this year's official poster.
Making films may be "just" entertainment in Hollywood and most civilised countries, but making -- or being suspected of planning to make -- the "wrong" film still carries severe consequences for some. Burton and his fellow judges will maintain an empty seat for multiple award-winning Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who was invited to serve on the Cannes jury but is currently in prison on the whim of his country's regime.
If archery, mead and fair-minded cunning could still get results, maybe a contemporary Persian Robin Hood could inspire Iran to draw up its own Magna Carta.