Entertainment & Arts

Cannes begins with Woody Allen romance

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Media captionUma Thurman, Robert De Niro and Woody Allen at Wednesday's gala event

The 64th Cannes Film Festival has begun in the south of France with a screening of Midnight in Paris, a romantic comedy from US director Woody Allen.

Allen, 75, was joined by cast members Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Michael Sheen on the traditional red carpet.

The film, which features French first lady Carla Bruni, follows a writer who goes back in time to 1920s Paris.

Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie are among other stars attending the festival, which runs until 22 May.

The opening ceremony that preceded Allen's film included a performance by British jazz pianist Jamie Cullum, who played a medley of songs about New York City.

It also saw Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci - of Last Tango in Paris and The Last Emperor fame - receive an honorary Palme d'Or.

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Media captionAntonio Banderas and Salma Hayek promote Puss in Boots in Cannes

"I waited a bit but here it is," said the 71-year-old, who had never received the festival's grand prize before.

"The surprise makes this even more important," he continued before declaring the festival officially open.

The critics have been kinder to Midnight in Paris than they have been to some of Allen's other recent efforts.

Variety said the comedy had "an undeniably populist appeal", while the Daily Telegraph claimed it was "Allen's best film since Vicky Cristina Barcelona".

At a press conference on Wednesday, the director praised Ms Bruni - not in Cannes "for personal and also for professional reasons" - for her contribution.

"She was everything that I thought she would be," he told reporters. "She came in and did her part very gracefully."

Also on Wednesday, Spain's Antonio Banderas and Mexico's Salma Hayek were on hand to promote their upcoming animated feature Puss in Boots.

Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman and Jack Black are also on the Croisette to bang the drum for another cartoon sequel, Kung Fu Panda 2.

British hopes this year rest on We Need to Talk about Kevin, one of 20 films up for the prestigious Palme d'Or.

Directed by Scotland's Lynne Ramsay, the adaptation of Lionel Shriver's novel is the only British film in contention for the festival's main award.

Image caption Lady Gaga was in Cannes to appear on French TV show Le grand journal

Tilda Swinton and John C Reilly co-star in the film, which details the events leading up to a high school massacre.

The drama is being screened to critics on Thursday, ahead of a premiere at Cannes' Palais des Festivals later.

Actors Jude Law and Uma Thurman are among the members of this year's international jury, chaired by fellow thespian Robert De Niro.

Spain's Pedro Almodovar, Denmark's Lars von Trier and the Dardenne brothers of Belgium are among former Palme d'Or recipients who will be unveiling new work during the event.

Other celebrities in Cannes included pop star Lady Gaga, who jetted in to perform her single Judas on French television.

Fans lined the Croisette hoping to catch a glimpse of the US singer, though only a lucky few got the chance to watch her perform on the beachside studio set.

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