Robin Hood launches Cannes Film Festival

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Cate Blanchett and Russell Crowe brought some red carpet glamour to the south of France as Robin Hood opened the 63rd Cannes Film Festival.

The latest retelling of the legendary outlaw, from director Sir Ridley Scott, is not competing for an award.

Other highlights at the 12-day event include Oliver Stone's Wall Street sequel called Money Never Sleeps.

Nineteen films will compete for the Palme d'Or, including entries from UK directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach.

Coveted prize

New Zealand-born Crowe, who plays the title role in Robin Hood, said: "There isn't a Robin Hood that's been done that gives me a satisfying feeling that I know the motivations of the individual, so that's what we attempted to do.

"There were many, many hours of discussion before we came to the fact that we'd better start at the beginning of the story and see how we do."

Writing on his Twitter account, Crowe said: "Goodbye kiss 4 boys in my tux be4 we left. Charlie: 'Wow look like Indiana Jones.' Tenny says 'you look like the Cat in the Hat'."

He later added: "Back at the hotel, long, fun day. No street show tonight. This is the part of Cannes that is great, the spectacle, the celebration of film."

Image caption,
Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton is leading the Palme d'Or jury

Loach's film Route Irish was a last-minute addition to the festival and tells the story of two Liverpudlian ex-soldiers who go to Iraq to work as private contractors.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley won the director the coveted Palme d'Or in 2006.

But Loach missed out last year when his film Looking for Eric was in competition - the award eventually went to Austrian film The White Ribbon.

Leigh, who won the Palme d'Or in 1996 for Secrets And Lies and was nominated in 2002 for All Or Nothing, will be screening Another Year, starring Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville and Imelda Staunton.

The ensemble comedy drama tells the story of a married couple, their friends and family over the course of a year.

They face stiff competition from Fair Game, starring Naomi Watts and Sean Penn, and Biutiful, the latest offering from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

Asia has a strong showing, with two entries for the main prize from South Korea - Poetry by Lee Chang-dong and Im Sang-soo's The Housemaid - while China, Japan and Thailand are also represented.

France has three films in the race, Chad is represented for the first time with Mahamat-Saleh Haroun's The Screaming Man, and Ukraine also makes a debut in the main category with Sergei Loznitsa's My Joy.

Financial disaster

The winner will be announced on 23 May by the Cannes jury, headed up this year by director Tim Burton.

Kate Beckinsale, Benicio del Toro and Indian actor and director Shekhar Kapur join Burton on the panel.

Image caption,
Oliver Stone's Wall Street sequel will debut at the festival

Other films showing out of competition include Woody Allen's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, which stars Naomi Watts and Sir Anthony Hopkins.

Oliver Stone's follow-up to his 1987 film Wall Street stars Shia LaBeouf and sees Michael Douglas reprise his 1987 role as corporate raider Gordon Gekko - now released from jail and warning Wall Street of impending financial disaster.

Around 10,000 members of the film industry, 4,000 press and thousands of film lovers and celebrity watchers are due to attend the festival, regarded as the top Europeanfilm event of the year.

But this year's festival has had to contend with the threat of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud drifting across Europe, which led to 100 flights being cancelled at nearby Nice airport on Sunday.

And organisers have already faced a last-minute clean-up after a freak storm lashed the resort last week, sending giant waves crashing over cafes and festival installations on the beachfront.