Heavyweights of world cinema dominate this year's Cannes Film Festival: Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Pedro Almodovar, Jane Campion, Ken Loach, Lars von Trier. But first, the adventures of a cranky old man and a stowaway kid in a flying house.
Cannes has lightened up for today's opening night as the festival's 62nd edition takes to the sky with Disney and Pixar Animation's "Up," the story of a curmudgeonly widower, voiced by Edward Asner, who sets off to South America in a house carried aloft by thousands of helium balloons.
It's the first animated movie to open Cannes. Also for the first time, the fashionable audience in gowns and tuxedos will all be wearing glasses -- the 3-D kind. "Up" is the only 3-D movie ever to open the world's most prestigious film festival.
Opening night is a far cry from last year's, when Cannes started with the dreary plague drama "Blindness," casting a lingering pall over the 12-day festival. The overall lineup was gloomy and generally unremarkable, loaded with tales from new and lesser-known filmmakers.
This time, Cannes has swung back to the tried and true with a main competition described by Hollywood trade paper Variety as the "biggest heavyweight auteur smackdown in recent years."
While organizers deliberately chose a lighter movie to open things, the big-name lineup was at least partly a coincidence, said festival director Thierry Fremaux.
"If it is a year of big names, it is not a year of discoveries. Last year was a year of discoveries. Maybe next year will be again," Fremaux said.
The 20 directors with films in competition include four past winners of the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.
Tarantino returns with "Inglourious Basterds," starring Brad Pitt in a "Dirty Dozen"-style World War II saga, while Campion's period drama "Bright Star" has Ben Whishaw as British poet John Keats.
Von Trier's "Antichrist" features Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg in the story of a troubled marriage that turns far worse during a trip to the woods, and Loach is back with "Looking for Eric," in which former soccer star Eric Cantona plays himself as the personal hero of a postman whose life is spinning downhill.
Also in competition, Lee offers "Taking Woodstock," with Emile Hirsch and Liev Schreiber in a music-soaked romp centered on the 1969 rock fest, while Almodovar reteams with Penelope Cruz for "Broken Embraces," the story of a writer recounting a tragedy that cost him his sight and the love of his life.
The festival will draw thousands of celebrity gawkers to the French Riviera, and there will be no bigger star this year than Pitt for "Inglourious Basterds."
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First published on May 13, 2009 at 12:00 am