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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK


Entertainment

Why Cannes counts

Cannes remains one of Europe's most prestigious cultural events

By BBC News Online's Sarah Aldous

Hollywood may be renowned for its glamour and record breaking blockbusters, but few see it as a champion of artistic integrity.

But the Cannes Film Festival welcomes not only starlets and studio executives, but also the serious filmmaker.


The BBC's Rosie Millard finds out what makes Cannes so special
And this perhaps explains why, after more than 50 years, Cannes remains one of the high points in the movie calendar.

Established back in 1939, Cannes has a well-earned reputation for being the most glamorous and romantic festival in the world.


[ image: Brigitte Bardot made her debut at Cannes in 1953]
Brigitte Bardot made her debut at Cannes in 1953
Renowned for its stars, stunts and wild parties, the festival has always oozed sex appeal, with the likes of Sophia Loren, Bridgette Bardot and more recently Madonna and the Spice Girls, all making appearances.

Early on, Cannes became a favourite hunting ground for the paparazzi, with the likes of the young Bridget Bardot, making her debut in a bathing costume at the festival in 1953.

In one of the more infamous incidents in the following year, aspiring actress Simone Sylva whipped off her bra and thrust herself upon a startled Robert Mitchum posing for photographers.

Liz Hurley, Catherine Zeta Jones and Sean Connery will be providing the glitz at the 52nd Cannes festival.

But blockbuster movies and glitter aside, Cannes' main raison d'Ítre is to introduce the latest and hopefully the best in world cinema.


[ image:  ]
Unlike the Oscars, a prize-giving event for films past, Cannes is a showcase for films that will shape our cinema-going year.

In the early days, directors like Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini and Orson Welles helped to consolidate this reputation.

More recently, the Cannes influence can be seen in the example of Roberto Benigni, who won second prize at Cannes in 1998 for Life Is Beautiful and went on to clinch best film and best actor at the 1999 Oscars.

Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction which picked up top prize in 1994, David Lynch's Wild At Heart, the 1990 winner and the 1996 favourite Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies have all confirmed that Cannes still has the movie world in its palm.


[ image: Benigni began his award collection at Cannes in 1998]
Benigni began his award collection at Cannes in 1998
But the Cannes judges, this year led by controversial Canadian director David Cronenberg, do not always award the most prestigious and coveted prize, the Palme d'Or, to a film destined for box office success.

This was the case with last year's winner, the low-key film Eternity and a Day, from Greek director Theo Angelopoulos.

Indeed Cannes has a reputation for showcasing the very latest directions in world cinema, such as this year's strong Asian contingent, led by Japan's Takeshi Kitano.

And whilst American independent productions have a good success rate at the festival, the competition takes place a long way from the US-led mainstream.


[ image: Catherine Zeta Jones co-stars in Entrapment]
Catherine Zeta Jones co-stars in Entrapment
While Hollywood often joins in the publicity game at Cannes, screening already-released films such as this years offering, Entrapment, it tends to shy away from showing premieres or entering the competition side.

And whilst all eyes are on the 22 films competing for the Palme d'Or, the Cannes effect extends well beyond the big names.

The festival is where the film industry meets to do business. Every year hordes of producers, directors, buyers and sellers and unknown hopefuls descend on the seaside town all eager to make the deal of a lifetime.

Many of them will spend their time wheeling and dealing in hotel suites across Cannes, and will leave with contracts and contacts but without having seen a single film in the competition.

Whether this year's extravaganza can match up to the showbiz glitz and film highlights of the past remains the be seen, but, with its clever something-for-everyone strategy, Cannes is still the place to be.



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