Stars, Fans Pour it on at Cannes

Published May 12th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Soggy weather couldn't keep thousands of tourists and locals from huddling with umbrellas to watch the anointed enter the Palais des Festivals Wednesday night for the opening ceremony of the 53rd Cannes Film Festival, said in a report Thursday. 

Paying homage to costume drama Vatel, the festival's opening film, workers had transformed the palace into a replica of a 17th-century chateau.  

Peach-clad, ponytailed Frenchwoman Virginie Ledoyen, best known for starring opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach, was emcee for the ceremony. Depardieu and Thurman declared the festival open, along with Spanish actress Cecilia Roth, star of last year's All About My Mother.  

Security was especially tight - streets were closed around the Palais. After all, France's Socialist Prime Minister, Lionel Jospin, was a special guest. Later, Jospin and some 700 people were invited to a sumptuous dinner in honor of Vatel.  

Before Ledoyen took the stage, a dance company led by Jose Montalvo performed for a half-hour against a screen of the same people dancing, interspersed with film clips.  

There was break-dancing, there were acrobatics, there was the sound of birds chirping, there was everything in this mélange - including a segment of people gargling and a long section with a man spanking himself on the derriere.  

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin made closing remarks at the two-day symposium 'The Cinema of Tomorrow'  




The only problem was the film itself, according to Foxnews report, for Vatel was produced by the French company Gaumont and shot in English, a language that Depardieu doesn't speak very well and Thurman hardly uses in the movie. She just sort of appears.  

Backer Gaumont, which releases the movie in France this week, has a lot riding on the out-of-competition $37 million costume drama.  

Vatel tells the story of an inspired chef and master of ceremonies whose skills are required to ingratiate his boss, the Prince de Conde, with the Sun King Louis XIV. Depardieu plays Vatel, and Thurman is a courtesan whom he falls for. Roth is a bewigged and dastardly marquis, while Julian Sands plays the monarch.  

Critics who saw the film uniformly trashed its silly attempts to convey period luxury and subpar plot. Some felt its juxtaposition with a 12-minute opening short by maestro Jean-Luc Godard didn't help.  

Godard's beautiful images and found footage investigating the 20th century were roundly praised, leaving everyone to ask, "Why Vatel?" To which can be added, why the dancers? And why the angel wings?  

The answer is simple: This is Cannes. Expect the unexpected –  


© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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