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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 16:04 GMT 17:04 UK
Reporter's log: Cannes Film Festival
By Darren Waters
BBC News entertainment reporter in Cannes

The biggest stars and most powerful producers of the film world are on the French Riviera for the 59th Cannes film festival.

The BBC's Darren Waters reports from Cannes on the atmosphere of one of the world's most prestigious film events.

WEDNESDAY 24 MAY 1730 LOCAL TIME (1630 BST)

My Cannes festival is at an end.

As I leave behind the Croisette, the screening rooms, the endless flyers for films no-one will ever see, the great films everyone should see and the crowds of people, here are my highlights and lowlights.

Most honest/nave quote:
"It's great to be here. I don't get out much. I don't watch much films. I'm not much of a cineaste."
Helena Bonham Carter

Best quote:
"If you could tell George Bush you've just seen this great film about Republicans."
Screen writer Paul Laverty, who wrote Irish Republicanism film The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Worst press conference:
X-Men III, when a Chilean 'journalist' stood up and told Halle Berry he had endured a 20-hour flight and resulting haemorrhoids just in order to meet her.

When he was told to ask a question he said: "Why do you act?"

Best press conference:
Babel immediately following a screening which had left many journalists gasping for superlatives.

Director Alejandro Gonzalex Innaritu seemed modest, charming and intelligent. A rare feat at Cannes.

Best film:
Babel. Go and see it.

Worst film:
Southland Tales. Richard Kelly - Why? Why?

Best actress:
Penelope Cruz is marvellous in Pedro Almodovar's Volver. No, really.

Best actor:
Boubker Ait El Cid. This young boy was tremendous as the Moroccan peasant child who causes tragedy in Babel.

Worst actor and actress:
The Rock and Sarah Michelle Gellar in Southland Tales.

It is worrying to think that The Scorpion King and Scooby Doo may be remembered as career highlights for this pair.

The quintessential Cannes moment:
Discovering my hotel is shared with a troupe of female lap dancers attending the parallel erotica festival.

WEDNESDAY 24 MAY 1315 LOCAL TIME (1215 BST)

I swear Kirsten Dunst gave me the filthiest look after I asked Sofia Coppola to respond to the boos that were heard after the first screening of her new film Marie-Antoinette.

As an admirer of Ms Dunst I felt slightly shamefaced.

I also asked the director whether she felt it was a bit ironic spending a reported $40m to make a movie about decadence and excess.

"I think in relation to film budgets that's not a decadent film budget," she said.

British actor Steve Coogan leapt to the defence of his director.

"$40m, or whatever it is, might be a lot of money if you work for the BBC - speaking as someone who has worked for the BBC.

"It is small change to us guys," he said, I hope, ironically.

I had been nervous about asking the questions, not least because there was a big, brooding Italian-looking type standing protectively at the side of the stage.

It was, of course, Francis Ford Coppola and I didn't want Sofia's father leaping from the steps to clip me around the ear.

In fact, the great director sat quietly throughout the press conference and it was warming to see his dignified support.

Quiet and dignified despite the garish socks he was wearing - one bright red, one bright yellow.

WEDNESDAY 24 MAY 1030 LOCAL TIME (0930 BST)

Dust off your wigs - the New Romantics are back.

Marie-Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola, is a return to the decadent, dandy 1980s - a costume drama filed with coiffured excess but empty of meaning.

Dressed up like the cast of the Adam and the Ants video, Prince Charming, the film is an unashamedly contemporary take on France during the reign of Louis XV and stars Kirsten Dunst.

It is a rather naive film and lacks the touching intimacy of Coppola's last work, Lost in Translation.

A social comedy of sorts, it tries to say something about the excess of the period, and presumably about the excess of our own celebrity-filled times.

But making a movie costing a reported $40m is an ironic way to make a statement of that sort.

WEDNESDAY 24 MAY 0800 LOCAL TIME (0700 BST)

More queues, more people than ever asking for spare tickets - Marie-Antoinette has clearly struck a chord a people even before a minute of footage has been shown.

Inside the main cinema at the Palais du Festivals the fallout from Babel continues.

Journalists from all parts of the world are reading papers from all corners of the world - at least those they can lay their hands on in this part of France.

I've been canvassing journalists and critics to find out which films have moved them and which moved them out of the cinema prematurely.

I'll be reporting on their views later in the festival.

TUESDAY 23 MAY 1630 LOCAL TIME (1530 BST)

With the sheer volume of films on offer at Cannes, it is a fool's errand to try and ascertain any trend or pattern.

A man in the Bollywood stand in the Cannes Market section
Bollywood films are under-represented at Cannes
Having said that... Asian films continue to be a powerful force in world cinema. There may be no Asian films in the main competition but in virtually every other corner of the festival, Asian cinema is strongly represented.

The real and continuing absence from a competition perspective is Indian cinema.

Still considered by some to be at the pulp end of the market, Bollywood and Indian cinema in general is still looking for a flag bearer - a figure like Wong Kar Wai perhaps, the celebrated Chinese director of 2046 and this year's jury president.

Those desperate for tickets are in great number this afternoon. Almost all of them are desperate for tickets to see Babel. Perhaps the buzz is beginning to spread...

Attention is now turning to Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette, which gets its first ever press screening on Wednesday morning.

The project has been kept under wraps - there was even a rumour that the film was going to be pulled at the last minute because it was not ready - and director and star Kirsten Dunst are said to be doing no press other than the official press conference.

We've all heard that before. There isn't a journalist at Cannes who hasn't been told by a PR that one star, director or other is doing no one-to-one interviews.

But the following day, open any newspaper, magazine or website and you will see an interview with that supposedly inaccessible star.

TUESDAY 23 MAY 1450 LOCAL TIME (1350 BST)

Half of the competition films have now been screened - an important psychological point for the critics and journalists who are in Cannes for the duration.

Almost a week into the festival and some here are beginning to visibly sag.

As I look around the wi-fi press room, I can see a couple of journalists asleep and the room is emptier than it has been since I arrived at the festival.

I am not sure if there is any truth in this but I wonder if films shown in the second half of the week do as well in competition and in the marketplace as those shown early on.

I apologise to BBC News website reader Pedro, in Paris, who feels I am concentrating on American and English films.

I have done a feature on the excellent Babel - which is in four different languages - and did a news piece on the equally good Il Caimano.

It is a juggling act and sometimes you drop a ball or two.

Till Kadritzke asks if anyone at all liked Southland Tales. I am afraid to say it has been universally criticised here in Cannes. I know Donnie Darko took a while before it exploded as a cult hit but trust me when I say Southland Tales is a mess.

One journalist here said part of the problem with Cannes is that many films are rushed in post-production and editing in order to have a finished print in time for the festival.

I know Andrea Arnold had been working to the bone to finish and said she had some sound work still to do on Red Road.

But if Southland Tales is to be rescued, it will take a very skilful editor indeed.

My advice would be to cut The Rock and Sarah Michelle Gellar from the film. Given how nonsensical the entire plot is, removing two major characters will have little effect.

To Christopher Tennis, who enquired after Shortbus, I am afraid the news is not good - journalists I have spoken to said the movie is a real disappointment.

It is extremely sexually graphic and many I spoke with said it was a simple turn-off.

Richard Morrell suggests I find out more on Clerks 2, by Kevin Smith. I am a big fan of Smith's original indie hit and have never felt he has really developed as much as he might as a director so I will see what I can find out.

And finally to Simon Kingsley in Berlin - some of us are not here in Cannes to get autographs. It galls me that at the end of every press conference so-called journalists rush to the front to get the signatures of stars.

Here endeth the lesson.

TUESDAY 23 MAY 1100 LOCAL TIME (1000 BST)

Babel has just astonished the privileged journalists watching the first screening in Cannes.

Tumultuous applause at the end for an astonishingly powerful film.

Set across Mexico, Los Angeles, Morocco and Tokyo in four different languages it is one of the best films I have seen in a long time.

The only thing to take the sheen off the experience was a technical problem two-thirds through the film when an incorrect reel was shown and parts of the film started to repeat.

After a short delay it restarted but some of the momentum was lost.

The press conference starts shortly and there is bound to a great reception.

TUESDAY 23 MAY 0800 LOCAL TIME (0700 BST)

I am inside the Grand Theatre Lumiere, in my favourite seat - the last seat on the right in the back row of the centre block.

I can make a swift exit if the film is too bad to bear. Fortunately I've not been compelled to do so yet. I was tempted during Southland Tales but felt I should struggle on to the end.

From my spot I can also get a good view of whether other journalists succumb to the temptation.

Outside the cinema cineastes without accreditation ask politely for spare tickets - it is like touting in reverse.

This morning's film is Babel by Alejandro Gonzelez Innaritu, who made the celebrated 21 Grams.

His new film draws on international talent such as Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Gael Garcia Benal.

A Chilean journalist remarked to me that it was a pity that Latin American directors such as Innaritu, Alfonso Cuaron and Guillermo Del Toro inevitably were drawn away to other countries once they had tasted success.

"Latin America needs Latin American directors," he said.

MONDAY 22 MAY 1735 LOCAL TIME (1635 BST)

Many thanks for all your comments - at the bottom of the page - and especially the recommendations of movies to go and see.

Fitting in screenings between all the press conferences and interviews is difficult, which is why I've been to see just the films in the main competition, and the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

Six films in six days is pretty good, I think.

I'm sorry if Jette Goldie from Edinburgh thinks I am not enjoying myself - I most certainly am. I love film but have a pretty low tolerance for dross. I'll watch dross but expect me to complain afterwards.

And while I am enjoying the Cannes experience can I assure Dr S Banerji of Mumbai I am not "goofing off".

He tells me that the Indian media are reporting that Aishwarya Rai is stealing the show. Of course, I am sure that the Indian media is being totally objective in their opinions of which particular stars are the centre of attention...

But with two gala screenings each day it is virtually impossible to say any one star is the talk of the festival.

From my perspective Pedro Almodovar and Nanni Moretti's films are the talk of the critics, RichArd Kelly's movie is the flop of the festival and the cast of X-Men III prompted the biggest feeding frenzy.

But that's one person's perspective out of the 4,000 journalists here.

Please keep sending your comments - good and bad.

MONDAY 22 MAY 1620 LOCAL TIME (1520 BST)

Cannes is in a constant state of frenzy during the 11 days of the festival but only one film so far has had everyone foaming at the mouth with hysteria - X-Men III, The Last Stand.

Hugh Jackman
X-Men star Hugh Jackman (2nd from right) braves the media

With the likes of Halle Berry, Famke Janssen and Rebecca Romijn in town this was the honeytrap from heaven for the paparazzi. The press conference was standing room only, the photocall was like the Paris riots of 1968 and the numbers of so-called journalists who rushed to get autographs was at an obscene high.

Not that anyone has seen the film itself. No journalist I spoke to would actually admit they attended the afternoon screening, and of course the film is appearing out of competition. So why is it here?

It gives Cannes a huge boost of publicity halfway through the festival when everyone's energy levels begin to dip, and the stars will be plastered across most of the world's papers on Tuesday morning.

This third film in the series is widely perceived to be the last - the title is a clue - so everyone involved in the movie is wringing out as much from the project as they can.

MONDAY 22 MAY 1340 LOCAL TIME (1240 BST)

Nanni Moretti's humorous and pointed film about the state of social and political life in Italy has become an instant front-runner for the Palme d'Or.

Critical reaction was very positive as the press left the screening and Moretti now appears to be head-to-head with Pedro Almodovar, for Volver.

Of course it is all too early to accurately predict a winner and the make-up of this year's jury - with Helena Bonham Carter admitting she does not even watch much film and the jury president promising to be "angels not monkeys" - could mean a surprise winner.

Don't expect a British winner, however. Few think The Wind That Shakes The Barley or Red Road will win the main prize.

MONDAY 22 MAY 0820 LOCAL TIME (0720 BST)

Raoul is back.

At the start of most screenings I have attended at Cannes this year, cries of "Raoul" ring out as the lights begin to dim. Perplexed by this, I asked some Cannes veterans about the significance.

One told me it referred to a screening of a film by director Raoul Ruiz at Cannes many years ago and that an audience member had called out the director's name as a sort of prayer for the film to be good.

Typically one or two people shout out "Raoul" before the big screenings. Apparently the trend died off for a few years but returned last year.

I'm pleased to report that Raoul is alive and well at Cannes 2006.

I'm interviewing the UK Culture Secretary on the beach later on Monday. She visits each year and typically has to bat questions on why there are no British films in competition and why so many high-profile movies are shifting production abroad.

But with two films up for this year's Palme d'Or and reports that the film version of His Dark Materials is to be shot in Shepperton, Tessa Jowell may just have a smile on her face.

We will see.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 1613 LOCAL TIME (1513 BST)

Sarah Michelle Gellar at Cannes
Sarah Michelle Gellar fielded press questions in good spirits
Twenty minutes of Oliver Stone's unfinished film World Trade Center is being screened at Cannes on Sunday.

I rang the film's PR firm DDA to find out if I could get into a sneak screening.

Sadly, the PR person I spoke to did not know when it was showing or where she but did know that BBC News was not invited.

When I pressed her for more information, she said she knew it was at the Palais but as she had never been to the Palais she did not know on which screen it was being shown.

I know the PR people have it tough at Cannes, locked in their hotel suites fielding calls from strident reporters, but never having been to the Palais is a bit poor.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 1600 LOCAL TIME (1500 BST)

Cannes is a city in love with cinema.

You can see it the queues to see new movies. You can see it in the animated discussions after each and every screening.

And you can sense in the bathrooms of the Palais de Festivals.

Visitors to the building's bathrooms have a musical accompaniment to their trip - a selection of muzak versions of classic film scores.

So far, I've enjoyed the themes to Chariots of Fire and The Exorcist.

Yes, Cannes loves cinema indeed.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 1420 LOCAL TIME (1320 BST)

A few barbed comments and questions were thrown at the Southland Tales press conference.

The film, directed by Richard Kelly and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and The Rock, was poorly received by the critics and journalists I spoke to earlier today.

(l-r) Richard Linklater, Greg Kinnear and Eric Schlosser
Linklater (l), actor Greg Kinnear and writer Eric Schlosser spread the word
At the conference, the film's producer was explaining how the US Immigration office had almost caused Kelly to miss the festival because they lost his documents during his application for a new passport.

"Do you think it's because they saw the script?" shouted out one American journalist at the back of the room.

A Colombian journalist asked Gellar if, after portraying a porn star in the film, she had any ambitions to appear in a pornographic movie.

Gellar flashed a dazzling smile and said her acting career gave her plenty of opportunities to live out any fantasy.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 1130 LOCAL TIME (1030 BST)

I have just emerged blinking and baffled from the screening of Richard Kelly's new film, Southland Tales.

His first film Donnie Darko was complex, but child's play in comparison with this convoluted, disjointed, postmodern noodle soup of a movie.

It is set in the near future in which Los Angeles has become a dystopia of police and military enforcement, with power held by the providers of a so-called miracle fuel source.

Characters jump in and out of focus with little sense of a structured plot or idea of what is happening in the great scheme of things.

It reminded me a little of the novels by Thomas Pynchon; surreal, mixing genres and styles, cut up and very "west coast USA".

The cast includes The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Sean William Scott and Justin Timberlake.

References to the Iraq war and its veterans, US paranoia over energy sources, capitalism, globalisation and Marxism are littered through out the film.

There are some amazing visual sequences and concepts - including snipers posted permanently throughout Los Angeles to monitor and stop civil disobedience and a great music montage involving Timberlake.

But the question you probably want answered is: Is it any good?

Twenty or 30 people left the film before the end - but that is not too unusual at screenings.

No-one booed or whistled and there was some applause when the credits rolled.

I don't think it is a great movie.

But like the soldiers in the film - I'm shell-shocked.

SUNDAY 21 MAY 0750 LOCAL TIME (0650 BST)

The Grand Theatre Lumiere is filling up early for a screening of competition film Southland Tales, directed by Richard Kelly.

Kelly is the new darling of American indie cinema. His first film Donnie Darko was a genuine cult phenomenon; a film which had little impact when first released in the US but then thanks to European cinema goers became a global DVD hit.

The American promoters had pitched it as yet another teen horror flick when in fact it was a deeply moving look at breakdown and family relationships with a slice of time travel thrown in.

Early DVD releases of the film contained a thank-you note from Kelly thanking fans for keeping the film alive.

Southland Tales is eagerly awaited. I have deliberately avoided reading too much about the film so am going into the screening blind, but excited.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 1830 LOCAL TIME (1730 BST)

The message has come through loud and clear - The Lesbian Vampire Killers is the film you wish me to find a little bit more about here at Cannes.

I'd like to say I'm disappointed... Expect to hear more on that film next week.

I've just emerged from a press conference by Al Gore, who is in Cannes to promote a documentary about his environmental campaigning.

He was an engaging speaker who occasionally drifted into rhetoric - but it was quote-worthy rhetoric.

When the conference host deferentially asked how he would like to be addressed, he responded: "Your adequacy."

He also made a point of name-checking Apple computers on a couple of occasions - and the computer firm's laptop computers are high-profile through out the film.

When the host erroneously referred to Gore's "Powerpoint presentations" Mr Gore quickly made clear he was using "Apple's Keynote program".

He later referred to "my Apple computer, with the large screen".

Why such a stickler for brand accuracy? Well, Mr Gore is a board member at Apple.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 1400 LOCAL TIME (1300 BST)

There were a disappointingly small number of journalists at the press conference for Red Road, the British film in the main competition for the Palme d'Or.

Perhaps because it is by a new director, perhaps because it is quite a bleak film. The two press screenings were both packed on Friday night, so perhaps there is another reason....

Whatever the actual reason I suspect it means the film is unlikely to be in the running for the big prize at Cannes.

Director Andrea Arnold was not the most forthcoming person about her film. She felt a little over protective about the movie but given that she has just finished working on it that is perhaps understandable.

The film isn't quite finished, she admitted, and there is still more work to be done on the sound.

The cast had not yet seen the film either so they seemed a touch nervous about the finished article also.

It's always hard to judge what the Cannes jury will decide but the favourite for the Palme d'Or right now is Pedro Almodovar's Volver.

One critic said he felt it was Almodovar's best work for a long, long time.

Yes, I have been eavesdropping again.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 0935 LOCAL TIME (0835 BST)

Cannes is one of the best places in the world to eavesdrop on the most remarkable conversations.

This was overheard a few moments ago in the press room at the Palais du Festivals.

Woman: "I've got documents right here (in my bag) which prove that Mary Magdalene is not the woman sat next to Jesus in Da Vinci's Last Supper. Is there anyone here I could talk to about a press release?

"Dan Brown is wrong to say in his book that it is Mary Magdalene."

Sadly, for the American woman who apparently has been researching this matter for the last 25 years and is in her 60s, she was talking to a French woman charged with ensuring everyone's wi-fi access was working in the press room.

The very polite French woman stared blankly at the American researcher for some moments before our intrepid historian gave up and left.

I was tempted to chase her down the corridor but stories about the Da Vinci Code are so last Wednesday.

SATURDAY 20 MAY 0800 LOCAL TIME (0700 BST)

No cocktails for me last night on board a yacht, sadly. I had to ensure my place at the screening of UK director Andrea Arnold's film Red Road and with limited spaces I had to queue up an hour before time.

I have not queued for a movie for many a year - the last was probably one of the Star Wars films. And that's where the links between Arnold and George Lucas' films ends.

Red Road is a bleak and taut psychological essay about a woman who becomes obsessed with a man the audience is led to believe had something to do with the death of her husband and child.

Not one for the popcorn crowd.

The press conference with Andrea Arnold is later this afternoon so I will get a chance to put my questions to her then.

The man who used to be "the next President of the United States" is in Cannes also. Al Gore is the subject of a powerful documentary about global warming, called An Inconvenient Truth, and he faces the press this afternoon.

I expect a full house for that.

Finally, it looks like The Lesbian Killer Vampires is winning your vote for which film I follow up on here at Cannes. I'll take a final reading at midday today but I have to say - I'm not surprised by the choice.

I would not want to say our readers are predictable but...

FRIDAY 19 MAY 1545 LOCAL TIME (1445 BST)

I've just spent an hour wandering around the Marche Du Film at Cannes. This is where the smaller film companies and producers get to flog their wares to buyers from around the world.

It has the air of the bargain bin at HMV or Virgin - there is a lot of rubbish, but somewhere deep down you might find a copy of the latest Snow Patrol album for 4.

Thousands of films are being offered for distribution and most seem to be about One Man Against The Odds...

It also confirms my suspicions - which I doubt would be popular at Cannes if they were to be known - that simply too many films are being made.

Outside the Marche pavilion I see a poster for a film with the worst title I've come across yet. It's called Poltergay - as in Poltergeist - and the tagline is: They're here... They're Queer.

I promise you I'm not being homophobic and perhaps the film itself is wonderful...

I'm doing the rounds at the UK film tent soon to see if I can get a sense of how the British industry is faring at Cannes. I'm currently piggybacking on their free wi-fi - along with about 10 other people - and I was hoping to see a few British film luminaries.

I think I've just seen Derek Malcolm, of the Guardian newspaper. Does he count?

I have also lined up my first cocktail reception on a yacht. In case you think I'm on a big freebie here at Cannes, I will be enduring a presentation about Blu-ray DVD, one of the next generation of DVD technologies.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 1335 LOCAL TIME (1235 BST)

How many films did you watch in the last 12 months? I watch about two or three films a month, if you include all the DVDs I watch as well.

I think I am about average, so the question is: how big does the global film industry need to be to supply the world of cinema-goers?

I only ask because the one clear impression I get from Cannes is that there are too many films being made.

I'm not saying film-makers should simply quit - at least not the ones who are trying to do something artistic. But copycat film-makers must be the most optimistic people in the world.

The world is drowning in film, and so am I here at Cannes.

So aside from the key films in competition, what else should BBC News be looking at? We want you to help us - or rather me.

Below is a list of random films currently being promoted at Cannes, all clearly commercial projects.

Vote for the one you want me to find out more information about.

VOTE RESULTS
Which film should Darren see?
The Lesbian Vampire Killers
 66.78% 
Voodoo Lagoon
 3.79% 
Surf School
 4.80% 
The Kingmaker
 15.90% 
Artie Lange's Beer League
 8.73% 
3666 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
The Lesbian Vampire Killers
Tagline: Two no hopers. A cursed village. One hell of a night.

Voodoo Lagoon
Tagline: Paradise Can Be Hell

Surf School
Tagline: This Summer Get Wet

The Kingmaker
Tagline: The soldier who defended an empire

Artie Lange's Beer League
Tagline: His team has the biggest balls in the league

I'll report back next week.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 1115 LOCAL TIME (1015 BST)

Keanu Reeves
Keanu Reeves is the star of A Scanner Darkly

Richard Linklater turned out to be warm, friendly and actually interesting. He looked a bit jet-lagged and shell-shocked to be in Cannes - but that's to be expected.

I returned to the Palais to find myself locked out of the Pedro Almodovar press conference because my lowly accreditation did not guarantee me a place.

A friendly complaint to the press office resulted in a few Gallic shrugs.

FRIDAY 19 MAY 0930 LOCAL TIME (0830 BST)

I've arrived for the Richard Linklater interview which is being held in the appropriately-named Grand Salon at the Carlton hotel.

But proceedings are running 30 minutes late. There's no sign of the "talent".

In fact, I just overheard the PR for the film give Richard Linklater his morning wake-up call, so I get the feeling things are going to be more than just 30 minutes late...

FRIDAY 19 MAY 0800 LOCAL TIME (0700 BST)

People sunbathing in Cannes
Sunbathing in Cannes - I won't be doing much of this
I'm interviewing US director Richard Linklater in an hour who has one film in the main competition, Fast Food Nation, and another in the Un Certain Regard category, called A Scanner Darkly.

Fast Food Nation is based on the best-selling book of the same name. I saw the film last night and it is a funny, yet serious, look at lots of issues within the US, but primarily focused on junk food.

Eric Schlosser's factual book has been turned into a drama and in the course of 2 hours it also tackles illegal immigration, youth activism, single parenthood, capitalism, consumerism, drugs, border control, and environmental concerns.

The audience seemed to approve of the film - and it was warmly applauded at the end.

I don't think it will win the Palme d'Or - it is less hard-hitting than Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 which won a few years ago and more importantly it lacks the hype and buzz which surrounded that film.

THURSDAY 18 MAY 1400 LOCAL TIME (1300 BST)

Ron Howard and Tom Hanks at the Da Vinci Code press conference in Cannes
"How do we answer that one?"
Thanks for your comments printed at the bottom of the reporter's log and especially for the advice of Tim in Spain.

I'm not sure I'll have to sit on the beach but it's clear that quite a lot of business is done on the beach, or at least the beach front, as there are plenty of people sitting seemingly chatting and taking it easy.

Good luck to Michael Bartlett from Kent, who is promoting his low-budget horror feature in Cannes. I'll keep an eye out for you on the Croisette.

Please keep the comments coming in.

One thing that is clear is that Cannes is a multitude of festivals all under one banner and it is impossible to do justice to them all.

From the directors who self-financed films on credit cards to the directors who have more finance than most credit card firms, Cannes involves every kind of film.

One film caught my eye advertised in Hollywood Reporter on Thursday - see if you can work out what it is...

The tagline of the film is: "The secret to the world's greatest treasure lies within history's most important artefact."

The poster features a picture of a corpse lying beneath the painting of the Mona Lisa.

Have you guessed yet?

Of course, it is... The Da Vinci Treasure, starring C Thomas Howell and Lance Henriksen.

I wonder what inspired that film?

THURSDAY 18 MAY 1200 LOCAL TIME (1100 BST)

Ken Loach's film was a stirring, powerful piece of cinema. I doubt anyone closed their eyes for a moment.

It was typical Loach - one-eyed, for sure, but filled with such energy and wonderful performances that an audience can overlook its lack of balance.

The press conference that followed was even more passionate - intense, emotional, political. It was the polar opposite of Wednesday's unintentionally hilarious Da Vinci Code press conference.

THURSDAY 18 MAY 0800 LOCAL TIME (0700 BST)

Day two of the festival and I'm about to see my first film. Typically there is not much time to see films at Cannes, which admittedly is a bit odd given it's the world's biggest film festival.

Critics and buyers watch films, hacks like myself just rush from one press conference to the next.

But I'm in the Grand Theatre Lumiere, where the world premiere of The Da Vinci Code was held on Wednesday night, waiting for Ken Loach's The Wind That Shakes The Barley to start.

Loach's film about the struggle for Irish independence is in the main competition at Cannes and the press conference for the movie follows immediately afterwards.

Most people here are leafing through the daily editions of Variety or Screen which have the latest information on who has bought which film.

Not everyone is looking forward to the screening, however.

One American walked into the auditorium and said to his colleague: "I need to find somewhere at the back where I can nap."

I will let you know just how somnambulant the film is in about three hours.

WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 1940 LOCAL TIME (1840 BST)

Day one of Cannes is over. It was everything I had been promised and warned about.

Overcrowded, badly organised, submerged by petty bureaucracy, a press bun fight and a lot of fun also.

The crowds have melted from outside the Palais; it is just the hordes of journalists to deal with now.

Most people here seem keen to go and watch the football - Arsenal v Barcelona in the Champions League final.

As one reporter said to me: "Film is important. But this is football."

WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 1600 LOCAL TIME (1500 BST)

The first official press conferences at Cannes have finished and the standard of impossibly stupid questions has been set really high.

Cannes preparations
Cannes has been gearing up for the arrival of the film world

At the Da Vinci Code press conference Tom Hanks was probed with the following inquisitions from the world's media.

Journalist A: "Why do you love Iceland?"

Hanks: "It's good for camping. They do a good coffee at a reasonable price."

Journalist B: "What could Forrest Gump teach Sophie (character in the Da Vinci Code)?"

Hanks: No answer. He simply looked dumbfounded.

Journalist C: "Da Vinci made his masterpiece by 51. Will you make your masterpiece before then?"

Hanks: "I have the rights to Scooby Doo 3. If I can get it done before the end of the summer, voila! Masterpiece."

It is to Hanks' credit that he answered every dumb question thrown at him - and there were a lot - with good humour, even the questions about his hair and the offer of a copy of the Da Vinci Code book in Chinese.

Given that many journalists - myself included - have to fight to get accreditation and to get into the overcrowded press conferences it is galling that this represents the general standard of questions asked.

For the record I did not get the chance to ask a question. The conductor of the conferences seemed to have a blind spot whenever I raised my hand.

And no - I won't reveal what I would have asked, if I had been given the chance.

WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 1115 LOCAL TIME (1015 BST)

The roads are being sealed off, the red carpet is laid, and crowds are beginning to gather along the fringes ahead of the world premiere of The Da Vinci Code.

Hugh Jackman
X-Men star Hugh Jackman (2nd from right) braves the media

So far there are no signs of protesters. The film, based on the Dan Brown best-seller, has proved controversial with some Catholics.

Those camped on deck chairs along the Croisette assure me they are fans.

One of the first-ever press screenings of the film took place on Tuesday night and the reports are not good.

According to one journalist who was present, the press laughed in all the wrong places and whistled at the end.

Then again, Cannes is full of film snobs at this time of year, so don't judge the film too prematurely.

WEDNESDAY 17 MAY 0800 LOCAL TIME (0700 BST)

It is day one at Cannes and an early start for myself and thousands of other attendees, from journalists to film-makers, producers and public relations experts.

On the bus into the city centre I met Jon Lucas, an Australian film-maker who has flown 26 hours to "sell some projects".

He has a documentary, called Surviving Cannes, that he is hoping will attract some interest, as well as a surfing cum horror movie.

For the last three years he has been following the travails of young film-makers at the festival and is hoping my credentials with the BBC can get him some improved access at the festival.

"You scratch my back, mate," he said.

Cannes police
Cannes police watch preparations for The Da Vinci Code premiere

But he did not look too impressed when he saw the colour of my accreditation and smoothly turned to a group of Koreans on the bus who are in Cannes to buy some films.

All too soon I have sensed my place in the food chain.

Wednesday is Da Vinci Code day.

The film receives its world premiere at the festival and some dedicated fans and unaccredited photographers have staked out their spots opposite the Palais du Festivals.

I wandered over to speak to the fans hoping to capture some of their excitement ahead of the arrival of Tom Hanks and French favourites Audrey Tautou and Jean Reno.

The group consisted of mainly middle-aged women who looked like they were waiting for the local supermarket to open.

There was an air of indifference hanging over them and nobody spoke English.

My attempts to engage them in GCSE-level French conversation proved futile.

At events like this the cliche is to say that "excitement is building".

I'm not so sure...

TUESDAY 16 MAY 1615 LOCAL TIME (1515 BST)

The business of Cannes starts before we even touch down at near-by airport Nice.

Behind me on the packed plane from London two people discuss a script they are hoping to pitch at the film festival.

Person A: "It took me an hour to read the first 100 pages."

Person B: "Yes, it's all words and no action."

I was under the assumption that being "all words" was a good thing for a script, but then this is my first time at Cannes, so what do I know?

A few rows further ahead a group of people boarded clutching boxes of flyers for a 10 minute short film they are involved in.

I only caught a glimpse of the flyers but I think it stars Les Dennis. One to track down later in the festival.

TUESDAY 16 MAY 1815 LOCAL TIME (1715BST)

Cannes is bristling with activity: marquees are being erected, posters put in place, carpets are being nailed down.

Less than 24 hours before the start of the festival and it would appear that there is a lot to be done before it is ready for business.

The key to a successful Cannes for any journalist is to get the right level of accreditation. Journalists get a different-coloured badge depending on their relative importance.

I've been given a pink badge. Is that good? Is that bad?

I have no idea but guess I will find out when I attend the Da Vinci Code press conference on Wednesday.


Send us your thoughts on Darren's diary and tell us what you think of the films competing for this year's Palme d'Or.

Thank you ever so much for making this year's Cannes such fun for the ones who had to stay at home! Don't know if there is a life after this blog will end? Could you please start another one, any old topic will be OK.
Danny, Berlin, Germany

Hey, why no comment on Flandres? Maybe because it was so boring? I have to say I slept through part of it and fought to stay awake for the rest. The point of this film eluded me entirely. Maybe you can help ...
Anne Dewez, Monaco

I've heard about an exciting new independent film called Paradise Lost. A horror about a reality show gone bad. Did you hear about it? Any buzz?
Lisa, Los Angeles, CA, USA

Any news or gossip on any far-eastern movies? We need more "Oldboy"s.
Dave Beasley, Horsham, UK

Try and get a review of the Weinstein-backed Kevin Smith/Scott Mosier production of Clerks 2. A $5m flick that will instantly make the bank and then spend next ten years trebling it on the DVD market.
Richard Morrell, Southampton UK

If you can, please try to give us a report on John Cameron Mitchell's "Short Bus," which is playing out of competition. It's been six years since he made "Hedwig & The Angry Inch" and perhaps his new film is a worthy Cannes discovery. Thanks!
Christopher Tenzis, United States

I think Darren's just jealous because he didn't get any autographs at the X-Men 3 photocall! I got Famke Janssen's and Hugh Jackman's! Gotta move faster, Darren! But then this is your first time down here, right?! ;-)
Simon Kingsley, Berlin, Germany

Interesting comments, except you rarely mention any non-English/American movies in Cannes. I suspect you're missing the point of the festival...
Pedro, Paris, France

Thanks a lot for the inside look, it's both entertaining and interesting, always fun to read. Were there maybe some people who actually liked "Southland Tales"? I was really looking forward to it and I know that "Donnie Darko" wasn't liked by many people at first, so I still have a bit of hope. Even bigger is my hope for "Babel" by my favourite director Inarritu, hope you tell us tomorrow how that one was received by the critics.
Till Kadritzke, Berlin, Germany

Can't help but think the PR person who wouldn't tell you when and on which screen the rough 20 minute footage of Oliver Stone's 9/11 film was appearing should be in another line of work. The whole point is to ensure that publicity is gained. And not inviting the BBC - one of the largest news corporations in the world - smacks of arrogance and just, well, narks me right off. Keep on fighting for these screenings, Darren. Oh, and wish I was there. Dammit.
Simon, Mansfield

Thanks Darren Waters for the diary, it's certainly more insightful than the official page. The film I'm most curious about, being Turkish, and also because he's (along with Ken Loach) my favourite director in competition this year, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's "The Climates". I think it's being shown today, hope to read about the reactions...
Yoel, Istanbul, Turkey

Looks like you have been goofing off, sending stuff from the Room Service realm! The Indian media have got it right and tell us how Aishwarya Rai has actually taken over the show!
Dr S Banerji, Mumbai, India

I'm a retiree that lives down the road from Cannes. Every year I like go for a day to watch the comings and goings of interesting people but this year the best coming and going is that damn one-seater idiotic little three-wheel electric car called an NmG (No More Gas presumably short for Petrol) that some Americans are promoting for locations shoots. What a gas! It's the crowd stealer of 2006.
C. Medlock, Saint Aygulf, France

Go and see 10-minute film B for Bomb. It reflects the thoughts of millions in the UK despite the government-compliant media's news agendas. BTW, I passed by Cannes today on my way to the Grand Prix de Monaco Historique. Much more fun than a bunch of luvvies. C'mon admit it!
Richard, St Tropez

Pink, yellow and blue badges? Gosh, it all sounds too familiar. Not because I'm a journalist in Cannes, but because I often do research in the National Library - in Paris. Good old French bureaucracy...
Vittoria, Brussels, Belgium

Try to catch my friend Dave King's short documentary African Brummie. If you go to the Screen West Midlands tent they will tell you when its on. You might also get to see another short film by him called Strapped for Cash in which I play a twin thug called Nobby the Circumciser...also bizarrely starring Gary Newbon the Sky sports reporter as my gangland boss!
Brendan O'Neill, Birmingham,UK

If you only get to watch one film while you are there, try and make it "Poker Face" A brilliant ten minute English comedy that I hear is set to take Cannes by storm. Bill
Bill, East Anglia UK

How many movies do I watch a month? Somewhere between 4 and 12 - and that is NOT counting DVDs. Send me to Cannes next year - sounds like I'd enjoy it more than Darren. (and I love the Cote d'Azur)
Jette Goldie, Edinburgh, Scotland

Nice pithy reporting by Darren. I recommend he checks out 'Southland Tales' by Richard Kelly of 'Donny Darko' fame. I'm proud to have worked on this movie that really is a timely 'fantasy' that originates all its dark visions from today's reality.
Martin mercer, Los Angeles, USA

I know the guys that made/star The Lesbian Vampire Killers (guest staring Warwick Davis), they instituted the best monthly film quiz in London before work pressures (including making LVK) forced them to stop. Am so proud that they managed to get it made & am dying to watch it on release. If you see Paul or Stu tell them that everyone at BBFQ wishes them good luck & would love to see the final product.
TM, London

Keep an eye out for my mate Susan Luciani of Double Barrel Productions...she's travelled down in a campervan with a mini-screen in the back to show her wonderful short film 'Dolls' and sell her feature length script. She assures me she will be carrying a big red helium balloon with her wherever she goes...so if you see her ask to watch 'Dolls'...its wonderful!
Morgan, London, UK

You should have read Roger Ebert's 1987 book, Two Weeks in the Midday Sun: A Cannes Notebook. The movie/director/star references are dated, but the description of the milieu and processes aren't. I read it every time I am on a transcontinental flight, and certain parts never fail to make me laugh...I'm also a sucker for bad illustrations by authors.
Andrew Green, Washington, DC, USA

Looks like the sun is shining Darren! More than can be said for here... Cannes is fab - done the festival 7 times, and wish I was there. Check out the American Pavilion - a bit friendlier than the rather snobbish British one.. Also the Petit Majestic - used to be the bar to hang outside of till the very early hours.. also watch out for Tromer - mad film company that make shlock horror - always in fancy dress and take over the Croisette.. whatever you do, get to some parties, drink free booze and enjoy yourself...loving the entries.
Nicola Braybrook, London

If you haven't done so already, drop by the UK Film Centre pavilion. It's a hive of (largely) British film-makers. It'll give you an idea of what it's like to hawk your wares around Cannes. For some fun, check the Adami's "Speed Dating" event on Monday. Oh, and don't forget to ring home occasionally.
Michael Leahy, Brussels, Belgium

Keep up the hilarious diary entries! Though I must say, amidst the jaded and wry reporter's musings, it was quite refreshing to read how moved you were by Loach's film. Seems at least you got to experience the proverbial power of cinema with his film.
Jessica, Los Angeles, CA, USA

A pink badge is good, Darren. Not as good as a pink one with a yellow spot, though, which is not as good as a white one. But most definitely better than a blue badge. I have a yellow badge. But, hey, even I manage to get in - sometimes! Anyway, welcome to the weird, wonderful and wouldn't-miss-it-for-a-second world of Cannes
Simon Kingsley, Berlin, Germany

Brilliant to hear something which, I suspect, comes closer to the truth than all the glitz and glamour hype of the rest of the media. Keep up the good work, Darren, but please, please, don't bother to tell us any more about the dreary Loach's latest outmoded lefty rubbish.
Dauvit Alexander, Glasgow, Scotland

Look out for the mother and daughter in leopard skin prints, always hold your hand over your face when leaving a hotel, you can guarantee every photographer will take your picture. Drink coffee at the Carlton - okay the bill will induce heart failure but it's worth it for the show but try and avoid asking the guy next to you, "What do you do?", like I did, when it's Omar Sharif. Have dinner at Tettu, as long as someone else is paying. Never never look shocked at the bill, just assume your card will be maxed before you finally get the helicopter (not a cab) back to Nice. Oh, and if your girl/boyfriend is with you, get them to spend the day on the beach at the Martinez, they will meet the boy/girlfriend/wife/mistress of every Hollywood hotshot and do more networking and get invited to more parties than you will slogging up and down the Croisette have fun.
Tim Milsom, Ibiza, Spain

Very funny. I enjoy the honesty and the tongue-in-cheek cynicism. Hearing a lot of overhyped reporting, so this diary is refreshingly genuine. Keep it up...
Vince Duque, Hollywood, CA USA

Nice piece by Mr. Waters. However, he failed, as did Mr Hanks, to detect and respond to the deeper, underlying significance of the question by Journalist B: "What could Forrest Gump teach Sophie (character in the Da Vinci Code)?" The answer, of course: "Run, Sophie, Run!
Randall Carter Gray, Signal Mountain, Tennessee, USA

I've just seen a special screening of the "Code" at Sony studios in Culver City tonight, there was a showing for all the crew and musicians etc etc that worked on it. Most can't go to Cannes this year as they are now working on Pirates 2...deadlines deadlines... but you will enjoy it.
Dan, Los Angeles, US

Mark Twain said: "You cannot trust your eyes if your imagination is out of focus. "Well, here's to UK Films that definitely have their imagination in focus. It's time for the UK to gather its well-deserved recognition for excellence in all genres of film-making. If Andrea Arnold's film or the film about the Irish, Red Road wins the Palme d'Or, they deserve it. For all the films I have reviewed, screened, or seen in my lifetime, as a film-maker and film lover, I must admit I favour the UK's gifted film-makers and their sterling results. They have an unbeatable sense of timing, stunning and innovative cinematic details, the best talent, wonderful wit, besides all the techno details, and superb Animation. By far, they turn the simplest stories into thought-provoking content. Hats off to the UK at Cannes. The world needs more film-makers with the UK's professionalism, ethics, and sheer artistry.
Barbara R. Davis, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA

Great comments on the insipid questions asked at Cannes. It seems the foreign press thinks film is an excuse for lack of respect towards the artists who produce, act, and direct these ventures. Or is it just the French press showing hostility for snubbing the "French Fry"?
AzInd, Scottsdale, USA

Me, my co-director, and two of our actors have hired a minibus to go to the festival to promote our low-budget horror feature, The Zombie Diaries. We didn't even have accommodation arranged until the 11th hour - in the end I found a work colleague had a house in Cannes. Accreditation is easy, so long as you have a film to represent and can demonstrate some proof. Here's to some warm weather and some serious networking. Let the games begin.
Michael Bartlett, Chatham, Kent

It's exciting, it's buzzy, it's fun. You can do business, watch films, meet people, or just enjoy the weather and scenery. The trick is to go and enjoy it. It'll be my third time - and I'm taking a short film I've just finished to see what the toughest critics in the world will make of it....
Ben Lock, London, England

I will be showcasing Friendly Fire at the festival starting Monday. In total we will have 15 screenings. Friendly Fire is an anti-war documentary which exposes the use of depleted uranium by the United Stated government, in Iraq. See the trailer at: friendlyfirethemovie.com. We are excited to see how our feature will be received by the French and by the World, as our content is so topical at the moment.
Kevin Lang, New York, U.S.

Cannes for the first time. My first movie is being screened, for potential distribution, in the second week. The movie is a British independent horror comedy, called STAGKNIGHT and already has interest from major distribution companies. Go to www.stagknight.com for a peek. Regards Jason.
Jaon Hyde, London, England

Whew! sounds like a mad house - went two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed the glitz and glamour but having just spent two weeks in Cannes last month when you could get around reasonably easily I'm happy to view the festival updates from my UK armchair this year. Pam
Pam, Salisbury, UK

I think Dr. Banerji would be better off if he didn't pay so much attention to the barely literate yellow papers that dominate the Indian Press. Rai is the center of attention at Cannes? Gimme a break!
Skasster, Chennai, India




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