The Cannes Film Festival celebrated its 60th anniversary Wednesday with an opening movie that blends an indie sensibility and a glittering cast: Wong Kar-wai’s road trip tale starring Jude Law, Natalie Portman, Rachel Weisz and Norah Jones, in her acting debut.
The 11-day Riviera festival strives for just the right mix of arthouse films and star power, and “My Blueberry Nights” has both. Hong Kong director Wong (“In the Mood for Love”) is a Cannes favorite, as are many of the other filmmakers showing movies for the anniversary edition, including Michael Moore, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers.
In “My Blueberry Nights,” Jones plays a woman who hits the road to cure her broken heart. Wong heard her sultry voice and knew he had a role for her.
“Basically, when you listen to her voice only, without seeing her face, you can have a kind of a story out of it,” he said. The movie is his first English-language feature.
Jones said she was terrified when they shot her first scene with Law, in a New York cafe.
“I remember the first take we did, my voice was really high,” the 28-year-old singer said, finishing her sentence with a squeak. “I was just terribly nervous, and Kar-wai came over and patted me on the back and I relaxed a little.”
But Wong said Jones grew more at ease over the shoot — she impressed him in a scene where he asked her to cry.
“We rolled the camera and she cried, and after that I said, ‘Well, it’s great,’ and she said, ‘Do you want one more?”’
Glamorous historyCannes was founded in 1939 as an alternative to the Venice Film Festival in Mussolini’s Italy — but almost as soon as it opened, the event was canceled because World War II broke out. Cannes did not get going in earnest until the 1950s.
The festival is looking back at its glamorous history this year with a photo exhibit on the beach. There’s Cary Grant in black tie, Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty hailed by paparazzi, and Kim Novak in a limousine, with raindrops sparkling on the window like diamonds.
For a feature-length homage to the movies, Cannes commissioned 35 shorts from directors including Wong, Roman Polanski, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, the Coen brothers and Wim Wenders.
Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese (“The Departed”) has been enlisted to give a master class on moviemaking. And a host of Hollywood talent will be on hand for the stargazers who wait in the sun with ladders all day to stake their place near the red carpet.
Al Pacino, George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt will promote “Ocean’s Thirteen”; Leonardo DiCaprio will bring his environmental documentary, “The 11th Hour”; and celebrity supercouple Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will appear — Pitt for “Ocean’s Thirteen” and Jolie for “A Mighty Heart,” in which she plays the widow of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
The main competition includes 22 films from countries including Israel, South Korea and Mexico, as well as movies from four directors who already have been crowned with Cannes’ top prize, the Palme d’Or: Tarantino’s gory “Death Proof”; the Coen brothers’ Rio Grande thriller, “No Country for Old Men”; Gus Van Sant’s “Paranoid Park”; and Sarajevo-born Emir Kusturica’s “Promise Me This.”
Moore, whose “Fahrenheit 9/11” won the top prize at Cannes in 2004, isn’t competing for awards this year. But “Sicko,” his look at the U.S. health care system, is sure to be one of the festival’s most talked-about movies. The U.S. Treasury Department opened an investigation into a trip Moore took to Cuba — accompanied by a group of ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers — during the film’s shooting.