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The BBC's Jon Sopel in Cannes
"Gerard Depardieu arrived with his co-star Uma Thurman"
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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"Glitz, glamour, and just a touch of the eccentric"
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Guardian Film Critic Derek Malcolm
"A film about a gay samurai"
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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 09:33 GMT 10:33 UK
Film world flocks to Cannes
Shoe-shining at Cannes
Best foot forward: Cannes is the world's top film festival
The 53rd Cannes Film Festival has got under way in France - offering star appearances and a diverse mix of movies.

East meets West in the 23 films competing for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or.

Cannes 2000 poster

Seven hail from Asia and nine from Europe, while the US has a team of four.

Competing directors include festival stalwarts such as Ken Loach, James Ivory and Denmark's Lars von Trier.

Up-and-coming French star Virginie Ledoyen - who appeared in The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio - is the mistress of ceremonies for Wednesday's first night of the festival.

Other French performers appearing at Cannes are set to include Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche and Carole Bouquet.

Hollywood names making the trip include Gregory Peck, Uma Thurman, George Clooney and Sean Penn.

Melodrama, costume drama and hard-hitting true-life stories are recurrent themes.

British actors Jeremy Irons and Kristin Scott Thomas are among the 10-member jury, headed by France's celebrated Fifth Element director Luc Besson.

Luc Besson at Cannes
Luc Besson heads this year's jury

Taboo, from Nagisha Osima, is one of two Japanese movies they will have to consider.

It stars Takeshi Kitano, who was at Cannes as a director last year with Kikujiro. The second film from Japan is Eureka from Aoyama Shinji.

Director Amos Gitai has returned to Cannes after his historic first visit in 1999. Last year, Gitai became the first Israeli entry in 25 years with Kadosh. This time, he is showcasing his latest venture - a war film called Kippur.

Elsewhere, 20-year-old Iranian Samira Makhmalbaf is the youngest director to take part in the history of Cannes with her film The Black Picture.

Several of the films in the official selection are set in the remote past. South Korean Im Kwon Taek presents his costume drama Chunhyang.

Samira Makhmalbaf
Samira Makhmalbaf, 20, is Cannes' youngest director

Chinese actor-director Jiang Wen also makes his first Cannes appearance with the World War II drama During That War.

Festival director Gilles Jacob said: "A lot of film-makers nowadays are looking towards the past as a means of commenting on today's society."

Another strong theme is drama mixed with real-life reportage.

Ken Loach, a master of gritty social drama such as Cathy Come Home and My Name is Joe, adopts this format in Bread and Roses, which looks at social dilemmas faced by Latin American immigrants in Los Angeles.

Along similar lines, French director Olivier Assayas focuses on a family of Jewish immigrants in London at the turn of the last century in Les Destinees Sentimentales.

Juliette Binoche
Oscar-winning Binoche is among the stars attending

As usual, Hollywood leaves Cannes to the independents.

This year Neil Labute, Amos Kollek, James Gray and former Palme d'Or winner Joel Cohen are in competition.

The festival's non-competing section is heavy with crowd-pleasers such as musician Dave Stewart's directing debut, Honest.

It stars three members of pop group All Saints as gun-toting bandits.

Opening the festival on Wednesday will be the period movie Vatel, which is showing out of competition.

All Saints
Melanie Blatt stars in Honest with Nicole and Natalie Appleton

The $37m (23m) costume drama by British director Roland Joffe stars Gerard Depardieu and Uma Thurma and tells the true story of France's first celebrity chef.

Already, there has been controversy surrounding the festival - Gilles Jacob's designated successor, Olivier Barrot, left Cannes in mysterious circumstances just three weeks ago.

Barrot, who was due to take over from Jacob next year, told a newspaper he could no longer work with him and the Cannes line-up needed more input from Hollywood to maintain its pre-eminence.

The festival continues until 21 May.

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See also:

09 May 00 | Entertainment
Cannes: Glamour in the sun
09 May 00 | Entertainment
The Palme d'Or line-up
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