Old dogs Cannes do new tricks

The weather forecast for the French Riviera this week may be grim but the 66th Cannes film festival is still putting on an unbeatable show of swank and glam, and actress Carey Mulligan has been one of the focal points of the fortnight. The highlight of the first day, on Wednesday night, was the premiere of The Great Gatsby, with Mulligan — who plays Daisy Buchanan opposite Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jay Gatsby — appearing on the red carpet.

Just a few days later, she is back to promote a second film, Inside Llewyn Davis, a Coen brothers movie about country music in which she stars opposite Justin Timberlake and which is tipped to be one of the hits of the festival.

Rosé wine is the signature drink of the festival, whether you like it or not, and the label of choice this year will be Miraval, produced at Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s chateau in Provence. The first 6 000-bottle run sold out last month within five hours, despite it being essentially a repackaged version of Pink Floyd, the appellation made by the vineyard’s previous owner.

Vanity Fair’s taste tester was highly complimentary in a recent review, praising Miraval’s “Hello Kitty pink” and notes of “macerated wild strawberries, confectionery sugars, and strawberry or raspberry Pez [sweets]”.

Sneak peeks
The festival’s credibility as a launch pad for Oscar contenders may be on the wane. Michael Haneke’s Amour found success at the Academy Awards last year, as did the Harvey Weinstein-backed The Artist the year before that, but these are exceptions. Studios increasingly look instead to the Venice and Toronto festivals to debut key hopefuls, wary of the potential for a sag in momentum between mid-May and next spring.

Yet with the world’s press gathered in one small town, sneak peeks are proving popular. Last year Weinstein presented a showreel of scenes from Django Unchained, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook. This time round, many expect previews of The Butler, with Oprah Winfrey playing the wife of a black butler in the White House and of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts facing off in an adaptation of Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer-prize-winning play August: Osage County.

There might also be a sneak peek at biopics of Grace Kelly (with Nicole Kidman) and Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba), and an apparently revelatory documentary about JD Salinger.

Weinstein is also behind two films that take their cues from Britain’s Got Talent, and whose international sales are up for grabs at the festival.

One Chance stars James Corden as Welsh tenor Paul Potts (“This is not a bullshit fairy tale,” says Weinstein), while Pudsey: The Movie stars the talented hound in a film “full of adventure, dog-talk and dancing”.

Staying with canines, the most coveted award each year — Palme d’Or aside — is undoubtedly the Palme Dog, presented to the year’s best pooch performer. Award founder Toby Rose has his eye on Baby Boy, a poodle with cataracts from the Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra.

“I’m jumping the gun,” says Rose, “but this little fella looks like the one to beat.”

If Rose is right, that makes Candelabra a frontrunner for two major trophies, as the smart money is on Michael Douglas to walk away with the best actor prize. That’s partly because his Liberace is reportedly extraordinary, and partly because the festival organisers will want to reward a film that is ineligible for the Oscars because it premiered on television in the United States (the director, Steven Soderbergh, turned to HBO when the studios proved too nervous to back such an explicit script).

Douglas can expect a warm reception back on the Cap and at 68 he’ll still be fresher-faced than many of his peers. Jerry Lewis (87) has a new movie screening, likewise his elder (by a few months) Claude Lanzmann, the director of Shoah. Roman Polanksi (79) has one drama (Venus in Fur) in competition and a previously unseen documentary about the former Formula One driver Jackie Stewart, Weekend of a Champion, enjoying a special screening.

Cannes is famed for its taste for starlets. This year, it feasts on the elderly.

Sexy products
It’s hard to blame so many sponsors for wanting to jump aboard the Cannes bandwagon. For many — the jewellers Chopard, say — convincing consumers of the brand synergy is easy.

But the less immediately sexy products have to get more creative. Hewlett-Packard funds a lounge in one of the big hotels along the seafront, where you can recharge your laptop and, on certain nights, knock back a cocktail.

Also returning this year are Electrolux, which sponsors a vast marquee on the beach, where the opening and closing ceremonies are now held. This is where dinners are dished up for the A-list jury (including Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Kidman).

This year’s menu takes its cue from Jane Campion’s Palme d’Or-winning The Piano.

The head chef, Claude Bosi, explains that the starter of asparagus fried in hay recalls the movie’s contrast of rich and poor; the main course of lobster and wheatgrass evokes seaside passion, while the pudding of dark chocolate and white meringue references the smashed-up piano of the final reel.

Perhaps the scene in which Sam Neill lops off one of Holly Hunter’s fingers is saved for the petits fours. — © Guardian News & Media 2013

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