The 2012 Cannes Film Festival opened, not with a bang, but with a quirky charm as director Wes Anderson's latest, Moonrise Kingdom, was presented to the usual crowd clad in black tie and evening gowns. All evening screenings in the Lumiere Theater of the festival Palaisare formal affairs; unless you show up in the appropriate garb, you will be denied entrance, even with an invitation.
Anderson's latest film, whose cast includes some of his regulars (Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman) as well as some great talent new to his stable (Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand), is a beautifully crafted work that lives just off the edge of what we might perceive to be reality.
The standout performers here are Jared Gilman and Kara Haward, two young discoveries who play a pair of 12-year-old lovers. Well, not lovers in a 2012 sense, but their desire to be with each other, because each one of them understands the other, helps to define love in this scenario.
As the pair take off together on a fictional island in a time long ago (well, 1965), Anderson creates a story of love, adventure and scouting (yes!) that plays with notions of family and loyalty.
Of course Cannes is about the films, but it's also about the parties.
Opening NIght was no exception.
While small receptions take place all over town (this writer had champagne and munchies at the apartment/office of a french sales agent with a terrace that overlooked the red carpet at the Palais), the big events are the formal dinner for the filmmaker and guests (more on that dinner and the chefs who create the menu at a later date) and the opening night party.
This year the party was to take place in a castle in the old part of town, but for unexplained reasons it was moved to one of the many beach restaurants that line the croisette. Knowns and unknowns come to this shindig: talking her way into the party without a ticket is a young Swedish actress; enjoying the festivities with invitation is photographer Gregory Crewdson.
The rest of the party is peopled with industry types -- among them, Marcus Hu, head of American independent distributor Strand Releasing, Francine Brucher of Swiss Films (promoting Swiss films throughout the world) -- and the press, of course.
Catered by the Carlton Hotel, one of the major festival hotels, there was plenty of food and drinks flowed freely.
A highlight of the cuisine (actually a highlight of the stemware) were the plastic champagne flutes that somehow were back-lit from the bottom of the glass. Many tried to figure it out. No one succeeded. But it made for lively conversation after everyone praised the film (and in this case, praise was all this writer heard).
And then to bed: this is Cannes, after all, and screenings start at 8:30am the next day, and will continue in that manner until the bitter end, in 11 days.
[Marian Masone is Director, Festivals/Associate Program Director at the Film Society of Lincoln Center]