Cannes fest brings back the glitz while spotlighting Ukraine
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A parade of Oscar winners on Tuesday kicked off the 75th Cannes Film Festival, back in high-wattage form after the lifting of Covid rules and devoting special attention to the war in Ukraine.
The masks are off, health passes are no longer needed and the world's leading cinema get-together is ready to party after two years in which the pandemic put a dampener on proceedings.
Forest Whitaker, the 60-year-old who scooped an Academy Award for "The Last King of Scotland" and starred in cult films such as "Ghost Dog" and recent TV hit "Godfather of Harlem", will pick up an honorary Palme d'Or at the opening ceremony on the Cote d'Azur.
He is a regular at the festival, having won its acting award back in 1988 for his role as jazz legend Charlie Parker in Clint Eastwood's "Bird".
The opening film on Tuesday is "Final Cut", a comedy love letter to filmmaking and Z-list zombie movies from the team behind the Oscar-winning "The Artist".
Its director Michel Hazanavicius told AFP it was "a joyous celebration of film people, which I hope will encourage others to get involved".
The 12-day festival will really turn on the jets on Wednesday with the arrival of Tom Cruise -- his first trip to the festival in exactly 30 years -- for the European launch of "Top Gun: Maverick".
The sequel, long delayed by the pandemic, has already been getting rave reviews and gives Cannes a chance to honour Cruise, described by festival director Thierry Fremaux as "someone who is devoted to cinema".
Shadow of war
As well as the lighter fare playing out of competition -- which also includes Baz Luhrmann's much-anticipated rock'n'roll biopic "Elvis" next week -- there are 21 films vying for the top prize Palme d'Or.
One of the first to be shown will be "Tchaikovsky's Wife" by Russian director Kirill Serebrennikov, who left his country in March following a controversial embezzlement trial his supporters said was politically motivated.
The film is unlikely to win him any new admirers in the Kremlin given that it focuses on the legendary composer's brief and tragic marriage that he entered into to disguise his homosexuality -- a story that remains taboo for Russian conservatives.
Serebrennikov was unable to attend Cannes for two previous nominations due to the court case that banned him from leaving Russia for three years.
That will not be the only reminder of Russia's invasion of Ukraine during the festival.
The final film by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Ukraine last month, will get a special screening.
He was filming a follow-up to his celebrated documentary "Mariupolis" about the conflict in Ukraine's Donbas region, when he was reportedly captured and killed by Russian forces, according to Kyiv.
Ukraine's beleaguered filmmakers will get a special day at the industry marketplace and one of its most promising directors, Sergei Loznitsa, will show "The Natural History of Destruction", about the bombing of German cities in World War II.
The head of the jury charged with selecting the winners this year, French actor Vincent Lindon, admitted that even the glamorous bubble that is Cannes had been penetrated by the invasion of Ukraine.
"We have to be careful to be dignified and respectful... simply as a tribute to those who have much more complicated lives than ours," particularly in Ukraine, he said.
The panel also includes Indian superstar Deepika Padukone, British actress-director Rebecca Hall and Iran's two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi.
Lindon starred in last year's Palme-winning gore-fest "Titane", the only time a Cannes jury has watched a woman being impregnated by a car.
It was the sort of brash and radical choice that has ensured Cannes has maintained its edge for three-quarters of a century, having held its first edition in the immediate aftermath of World War II.
The organisers have sought to refresh their image this year, partnering with TikTok, which is sponsoring an award for short films, and new media outlet Brut.