Puss-In-Boots © Getty Images

As the madness on the Croisette starts in earnest, Chris Sullivan gives us the lowdown on what happened on the first day...

The wind is up in the South of France as the 64th Cannes Film Festival kicks off. Thousands of journos are frantically running about carrying a look of concern like a badge of pride, and an army of fans are unfolding their portable chairs in front of the red carpet in preparation for their celebrity fix.

Curiously, said carpet is still covered in plastic while myriad workers bang things with hammers, camera crews tape down electrical wire and the security team psyche themselves up for 12 days of their traditional truculence. It’s like a homecoming parade the day before they’ve come home.

But the jury is here, led by Robert De Niro who is beaming from ear to ear as he stands arm in arm with fellow jurists Uma Thurman, Martina Gusman, Nansun Shi and Linn Ullmann - oh, and Jude Law.

Meanwhile, Antonio Banderas is having a gas clowning around with his co-star Salma Hayek as they journey by boat and stop off at a handy Croisette jetty replete with a 22-foot-high pair of black boots to announce their forthcoming movie Puss In Boots.

 

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By contrast, Woody Allen is also here dressed up in a chambray workshirt and chinos looking sheepish, while Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, the stars of his Cannes Film Festival-opening Midnight In Paris, try to include him in their photocall hug.

But Allen shouldn’t look so glum. His film is a gentle homage to the City Of Lights that's entertaining, snappy and funny and features cracking performances from the aforementioned stars (even though Wilson is yet another in a long line of on-screen Woody cyphers). And then there’s Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, who is her usual magnificent self, and the reliably excellent Kathy Bates.

It's a ‘dramedy’ that sees Wilson playing a successful Hollywood screenwriter who, while on vacation in Gay Paree, with his irritating fiancée Inez (McAdams) harbours notions of the city as a sanctuary for expat creative types.

Working on his first novel, he takes a midnight stroll and is met by the carousing and drunken F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway who take him for a drive back in time to the mythical Parisian jazz age of the 20s where he meets Gertrude Stein (Bates) and Salvador Dali (Adrien Brody), checks out the club scene and falls in love with Picasso’s gal, Adriana (Cottilard).

It’s a love letter to the Paris that Allen has always longed for, a highly romanticised metropolis which he saw in the pictures.

“I didn’t go to Paris until 1965,” said Allen. ”When I went there, it was the Paris I knew only from the movies. It’s how I showed people New York when I did Manhattan.”

Despite his success, Allen is typically self-effacing and diffident. “I’ve never considered myself an artist,” he said. ”I’ve aspired to be an artist but I’ve never had the depth or the substance or the gift to be an artist. If Kurosawa was an artist, and Bergman was an artist and Buñuel and Fellini, then it’s clear as a bell that I’m not.”

Cut to tonight and all the above and more are on board for the film’s premiere on the carpet. De Niro got an ovation but I don’t know whether it was for his heading the jury or grabbing the ladies. “I hope I can do a good job,” he said. "You already did," said I.
 

 

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