American visitors to Cannes steer a diplomatic course

Despite several promptings from the international film audience, American visitors at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday refused to be drawn into condemning the breakdown in relations between France and the US since the outbreak of the Iraq war.

At the morning press conference to launch Warner Brothers' much-awaited sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, the actor Keanu Reeves diplomatically pleaded for cultural understanding. Asked if he was aware of the "animosity'' felt between Cannes and Washington, Reeves replied: "I hope there's not. The whole point of a film festival like this is that it's a place for people to come together and celebrate our common humanity. I hope I don't experience any [animosity] because I'm very glad to be here.''

An American sceptic asked if the reason the film had no villains except for machines was because it was now politically unacceptable in America "to demonise other nations''.

The cast of the new SF blockbuster represents the biggest line-up of American studio firepower that the festival will see this year. As they posed for photographs – Reeves, Laurence Fishburn, Carrie-Ann Moss, Jada Pinkett Smith (aka Mrs Will Smith), Monica Bellucci, the Italian actress who is the festival's Maitress de Cérémonie, the producer Joel Silver and his designers – the film's directors were conspicuous by their absence. The mysterious Wachowski brothers, Andy and Larry, are rarely seen in public, make no pronouncements on their pasts, their careers or working methods, and do not welcome the prospect of being grilled by the press.

Since the first Matrix movie made $450m worldwide, they may feel no need to justify their vision. Joel Silver explained that they were "buried in finishing the next picture'', The Matrix Revolutions, to be released in November.

The second day of the festival dawned a little too early for some delegates – the 8.30am screening of The Matrix Reloaded required a 7am alarm call. A burst of gung-ho special effects was a welcome break, however, after some of the art-house productions that have been on show – such as La Cruz Del Sur. It is a work of stupefying misery and despair by the Argentine director Pablo Reyero, about a violent, crack-smoking smuggler, his silent, weeping girlfriend, his transsexual brother and his dysfunctional parents who live in a depopulated seaside resort on a hill filled with skeletons.

More cheery notes are struck by American Splendour, about a man who turns the monotony of his life into a successful comic book, and The Soul of a Man, Wim Wenders' tender documentary on his favourite blues guitarist.

Wherever you look in Cannes, movies rule. A 10-foot poster of Monica Bellucci hangs on the façade of the Carlton Hotel, while gigantic hoardings for Terminator Three and the epic western Blueberry loom over the Croisette.

On the beach 100 deckchairs are unfolded every evening for an al fresco movie show on a specially constructed canvas screen. Out in the Baie de Cannes, the vast yachts gleamed like far off stately homes, playing host to the visiting celebrities who aren't staying at the Hotel Du Cap in Antibes.

There's nowhere to stay in Cannes itself. The city declared its hotel occupancy full weeks ago. Though it might have made an exception for the Wachowskis.

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