Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Thursday, 14 May 2009 09:43 UK

Up launches Cannes film festival

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Stars - and balloons - on the red carpet

Pixar's 3D film Up has opened the 62nd Cannes Film Festival - the first time an animation has launched the event.

A host of celebrities donned 3D glasses for the film, not in competition, about a curmudgeonly man who ties balloons to his house in order to get airborne.

British Oscar-winner Tilda Swinton and Bollywood star Aishwarya Rai Bachchan were among those on the red carpet.

The festival continues on the French Riviera until 24 May, when the winner of the Palme d'Or will be announced.

Opening Cannes with an animation - and a 3D animation at that - is a radical departure
Razia Iqbal, BBC arts correspondent

John Lasseter, Up producer and Pixar co-founder, beamed with delight as he and his colleagues posed on the steps of the Palais des Festivals.

"We're just a bunch of animation geeks from northern California on the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival," he said.

Lasseter and Up director Pete Docter were joined by French singer Charles Aznavour, who voices the lead character in the French version of the film.

British singer Bryan Ferry paid tribute to the veteran performer by serenading the gala audience with a version of Aznavour's classic She.

Tilda Swinton and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Swinton and Rai Bachchan were among the celebrities in attendance

The 10th feature film from animation powerhouse Pixar was warmly received earlier at its press screening, drawing a round of applause at the end.

Before the premiere, Isabelle Huppert - president of this year's international jury - introduced her fellow jurors to the audience.

"Film-makers tell us who we are and perhaps who we will become," said the French actress, who has served as a juror on two separate occasions.

"I don't think we are here to judge," she added. "I think we are here to love films, and to see what we love more than others."

The 20 directors with films in the running for the festival's top prize include four past winners.

They include Quentin Tarantino, whose film Inglourious Basterds - a World War II saga in the vein of The Dirty Dozen - stars Brad Pitt, Samuel L Jackson and Mike Myers.

Shadows

Ken Loach's Looking for Eric, in which former footballer Eric Cantona plays himself, is one of three British films in contention.

The others are Bright Star, a period drama about poet John Keats, and Fish Tank, a domestic drama from director Andrea Arnold that will be unveiled later today.

Isabelle Huppert
Jury president Huppert introduced her fellow jurors before the screening

One of the latter film's stars, Michael Fassbender from the Bobby Sands drama Hunger, also has a role in Tarantino's film.

The lead role in Fish Tank is played by Katie Jarvis, a 17-year-old first-time actress who was cast after being spotted arguing with her boyfriend at Tilbury station in Essex.

Out of competition, Terry Gilliam will be premiering The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - the film Heath Ledger was working on at the time of his death.

The fantasy was completed with Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law sharing the late actor's part between them.

Behind the gleaming smiles and flashing cameras, the economic climate has cast shadows along the palm-lined Croisette.

However, festival director Thierry Fremaux has suggested this might be a good thing, in that it could focus attention on the films being screened.

"Perhaps we can think about the cinema, not the stars and the starlets and the excessiveness of Cannes," he told the Reuters news agency.



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