CANNES 2011: THE FEST KICKS OFF









FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WOODY ALLEN’S MIDNIGHT IN PARIS provided just what organizers wanted to open the world’s most glamorous film festival Wednesday: romance, fantasy, laughs and a whole lot of stars, both on screen and strutting the CANNES red carpet.

WOODY was joined by MIDNIGHT IN PARIS cast members OWEN WILSON, RACHEL McADAMS, ADRIEN BRODY and MICHAEL SHEEN. The film is the first WOODY has shot in France.

“Paris is one of my favourite places in the world,” the director said as he headed into his premiere.

Among others attending the festival’s opening night were ANTONIO BANDERAS, in CANNES to show off footage for his upcoming PUSS IN BOOTS animated adventure – and wife MELANIE GRIFFITH – along with costar SALMA HAYEK.

Capitalizing on the horde of international press at CANNES, DREAMWORKS ANIMATION and PARAMOUNT PICTURES brought in ANTONIO and SALMA for a photo event and interviews before the festival opened to promote their film.

The two stars posed on a pier along the Mediterranean atop a giant pair of boots bearing the movie’s title and discussed the film after DREAMWORKS showed off 15 minutes of footage.

“Now we are in three dimensions…If Salma was beautiful in two dimensions, imagine her in three dimensions,” ANTONIO said, observing her through the 3D glasses.

“Look at this. She is amazing. You should see what I am seeing. It is unbelievable. Wow, Salma. You are like good wine. Time goes by, you get better, baby.”

ANGELINA JOLIE and DUSTIN HOFFMAN came to CANNES for interviews on opening day, along with a news conference Thursday, for their DREAMWORKS animated sequel KUNG FU PANDA 2.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS stars OWEN WILSON as a Hollywood screenwriter and wannabe novelist who pines nostalgically for the 1920s Paris of ERNEST HEMINGWAY, GERTRUDE STEIN and F. SCOTT FITZGERALD.

On a series of midnight strolls, he’s transported back to the city during the era of his dreams, where he learns lessons from his idols about finding your place — and time — in life.

Earlier in the day, WOODY said he wanted to create a comprehensive look at the city that he recalled from past big screen takes.

“I wanted to show the city emotionally, the way I felt about it. It didn’t matter to me how real it was or what it reflected. I just wanted it to be the way I saw Paris…Paris through my eyes.”

Opening day of the 12 day cinema showcase also featured an honorary award for Italian director BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI, whose films include 1988 ACADEMY AWARD BEST PICTURE recipient THE LAST EMPEROR.

ROBERT DE NIRO heads the jury that will award prizes among the 20 films in the CANNES main competition. UMA THURMAN and JUDE LAW join him on the nine member jury, which also includes Argentine actor MARTINA GUSMAN, French director OLIVIER ASSAYAS and Hong Kong filmmaker JOHNNIE TO.

Mr. De Niro said he was keeping an open mind about what would make a winner. “I’m not sure what I’m looking for.” He has been visiting CANNES since his first trip in 1976 as the star of TAXI DRIVER, which won the festival’s top prize, the PALME D’OR.

“I’m sitting there watching the movies and we’ll figure it out.”

Other stars on hand before the festival closes MAY 22 include BRAD PITT and SEAN PENN in TERRENCE MALICK’S THE TREE OF LIFE, and JOHNNY DEPP and PENELOPE CRUZ for PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES.

“It’s in Cannes’ DNA to attract stars. It’s important that our red carpet be scarlet,” said festival managing director THIERRY FREMAUX.

“It’s wonderful that we’re going to have Woody Allen and Owen Wilson, Sean Penn, Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz. And to have Asian stars, too. And a lovely jury, led by Bob De Niro. What’s more, all these people are film lovers and are going to turn Cannes into a wonderful party for the cinema.”

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