Great Gatsby gets Cannes festival rolling

Leonardo diCaprio had the honour on Wednesday of opening the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, which kicked off with the European premiere of the US actor's new film "Great Gatsby". The movie received mixed reviews from critics.

Great Gatsby gets Cannes festival rolling
Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire and Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan in Cannes for the screening of the film "The Great Gatsby". Photo: Valery Hache/AFP

"Great Gatsby" star Leonardo DiCaprio on Wednesday opened the 66th Cannes Film Festival ahead of the European premiere of Baz Luhrmann's controversial 3-D epic, kicking off the world's most prestigious film fest.

Steven Spielberg, Nicole Kidman, Carey Mulligan and a troupe of 1920s "flapper" dancers were among those braving driving rain and plunging temperatures on the red carpet.

Dresses billowed in the wind outside the festival palace forcing stars to hang on to their hemlines.

Inside, Spielberg, this year's jury head, appeared touched by an unusually enthusiastic standing ovation, telling the audience that at 66 he was getting "older alongside the festival".

Earlier, Luhrmann's high-octane take on the Roaring Twenties classic got a cool reception at a press screening, where it met prolonged silence punctuated by some whistles of disapproval and a smattering of supportive applause.

DiCaprio, who stars as F. Scott Fitzgerald's enigmatic millionaire Jay Gatsby, also led fellow cast members Mulligan and Tobey Maguire for a photo call ahead of the grand festival opening.

Other stars expected at the glitzy 12-day movie fest on the French Riviera include Ryan Gosling, Michael Douglas, Matt Damon and Alain Delon.

Luhrmann's "Gatsby" has left critics in the United States and Britain divided on whether it amounts to inspiration or a turkey.

The Australian director's adaptation targets a younger generation who have never seen the 1974 version, which starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in the leading roles.

3-D effects and a score produced by rapper Jay-Z and tracks from Beyonce and provide the core of his eye-catching, youth-friendly pitch.

After its North America premiere earlier this month, the New York Times described it as "eminently enjoyable" and film website Indiewire hailed a "guilty pleasure, a swirling audacious piece of cinema".

But others panned it as superficial and brash.   

"Once his (Luhrmann's) agenda of swooping camera movements and gleaming roadsters and anachronistic music takes full hold, there's nothing left to fall back on," said industry watcher The Wrap.

"'The Great Gatsby' is an immortal American tragedy, but the story's impact gets completely buried in Luhrmann's flash and dazzle."

Rolling Stone was even more blunt, calling the $100 million movie a "crushing disappointment".

Aside from the "staggering beauty of the costumes, nothing works. The actors are buried in the art direction, along with feeling", it said.

"The film looks as stiff and lifeless as a posh store window."

The opening festivities in Cannes were rounded off with a gala dinner later Wednesday for 650 people, including Spielberg and DiCaprio, all happy to get out of the unseasonal pounding rain.

At the helm was Anne-Sophie Pic, the only female French chef with three Michelin stars.

Pic, who works at her family's Maison Pic restaurant in Valence in southeastern France, told AFP she was proud to have been chosen along with the two-star chef Bruno Oger.

Spielberg, who was applauded as he entered, was later seen chatting to fellow Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, with the likes of Julianne Moore an

Sacha Baron Cohen and French actress Ludivine Sagnier also nearby enjoying the champagne and caviar.

Later fireworks lit up the Croisette seaside promenade in the upscale French coastal resort.

Twenty films are in competition in Cannes for the coveted Palme d'Or prize.

Among the most keenly anticipated films is Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra", which the director has said he had trouble getting made because it was "too gay".

The film will be something of a swansong for the 50-year-old Soderbergh, who has announced his retirement.

Other big names in competition include the Coen Brothers with "Inside Llewyn Davis" and Roman Polanski with "Venus in Furs."

"Amelie" star Audrey Tautou, who hosted the opening ceremony, said earlier she discovered she had been chosen as the maitresse de ceremonies by text message.

"The offer threw me off balance a bit. I was immediately touched, but torn between wanting to accept and for two or three days wondering if I could do it," she told AFP in an interview.

"In the end I refused to allow myself to be ruled by fear," she added.

The festival is also a meeting point for thousands of executives involved in the less visible side of movie-making — script-writing, talent management, technology and film distribution.

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Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid

The Cannes Film Festival has been rescheduled for July 6th to 17th - postponed by around two months due to the ongoing virus crisis, organisers said on Wednesday.

Cannes Film Festival postponed to July due to Covid
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-Eda posing for the cameras at the Cannes Film Festival, is an annual highlight for movie lovers in France. Photo: AFP

“As announced last autumn, the Festival de Cannes reserved the right to change its dates depending on how the global health situation developed,” they said in a statement.

“Initially scheduled from 11th to 22nd May 2021, the Festival will therefore now take place from Tuesday 6th to Saturday 17th July 2021.”

The festival was cancelled last year, while rival European events in Berlin and Venice went ahead under strict health restrictions.

The Berlin Film Festival, which usually kicks off in February, said last month it would run this year's edition in two stages, an online offering for industry professionals in March and a public event in June.

France has closed all cinemas, theatres and show rooms alongside cafés, bars and restaurants as part of its Covid-19 health measures and the government has pushed back their reopening date until further notice due to rising levels of viral spread across the country.

The Cannes festival normally attracts some 45,000 people with official accreditations, of whom around 4,500 are journalists.

It had only been cancelled once before, due to the outbreak of war in 1939.

Its Film Market, held alongside the main competition, is the industry's biggest marketplace for producers, distributors, buyers and programmers.

Last year, the festival still made an official selection of 56 films – including the latest offerings from Wes Anderson, Francois Ozon and Steve McQueen – allowing them to use the “Cannes official selection” label.