Economic woes weigh as Cannes film festival opens

Society Materials 13 May 2009 05:22 (UTC +04:00)

The Cannes film festival opens on Wednesday with 3D animation comedy "Up," but with studios cutting back due to the recession the "feel good" factor at the famously extravagant cinema showcase may quickly fade, Reuters reported.

Vanity Fair's exclusive party has been canceled, luxury yachts moored at the picturesque harbor remain unchartered and movie executives are sounding a note of caution on the eve of the world's biggest film festival.

"Like every business now, we really have to be very careful," said Michael Barker, co-president of Sony Pictures Classics. "Everyone has concerns," he added, before noting that deals would still be made.

The opening ceremony, underlining 3D's growing importance, kicks off 12 days of screenings, interviews, red carpets and late-night revelry in the palm-lined resort, which attracts many of the most glamorous and powerful figures in the business.

Brad Pitt is expected in Cannes with Quentin Tarantino's World War Two drama "Inglourious Basterds," one of 20 films showing in the main competition and vying for the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture when Cannes winds up on May 24.

The competition also includes by Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" starring Penelope Cruz, Ken Loach's "Looking for Eric" featuring former French soccer star Eric Cantona and Lars von Trier's horror "Antichrist."

Jane Campion, who won the Palme d'Or with "The Piano" in 1993, brings "Bright Star" based on the romance between 19th century poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne.

Other highlights include Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock" about the rock festival and Lou Ye's "Spring Fever," made in defiance of a five-year ban from film making imposed by China for his previous movie "Summer Palace," also in Cannes.

Out of competition, Terry Gilliam has arguably the biggest movie in Cannes. "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" is the late Australian actor Heath Ledger's final screen role, which had to be completed by Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law.

Hundreds more movies are shown outside the main competition, many of them on the market which runs throughout the festival and reinforces Cannes' importance in the world of cinema.

The deal making will go on, as will the parties, but market players expect the mood to be more subdued than recent years.

On the plus side, Hollywood studios are enjoying a bumper box office in 2009 despite the global recession and the dollar's relative strength will boost purchasing power.

But the prospect of a protracted credit crunch, added to slowing DVD sales and depressed advertising will cast a shadow over Cannes, both its business and pleasure.

There is also less of a big studio presence this year, with Hollywood choosing to launch its summer blockbusters elsewhere.

Critics say that may be a good thing, with the media at a pared-down Cannes more likely to concentrate on the promising movie line-up than on what the stars get up to.