Cannes asks if a Bruni bump is keeping star away

The French first lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, said yesterday that she would miss the opening of the Cannes film festival today for "personal and professional" reasons – re-igniting speculation that she is pregnant.

Her comments further complicated the mixture of factual and fictional appearances – and now non-appearances – by the French first couple at this year's Cannes festival.

Ms Bruni-Sarkozy has a cameo role as a museum guide in the Woody Allen movie Midnight in Paris, which will open the festival today. La Conquête, a satirical movie about the rise to power of Nicolas Sarkozy – the first French film ever to dare to represent current political events – will be given its premier on the margins of the festival next Wednesday.

In an interview yesterday with RTL radio, to be broadcast in full this morning, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy said that she had "dreamed" of going to Cannes and linking up once again with Woody Allen. "I regret that I cannot go for personal reasons... for professional reasons," she said.

There has been intense speculation in French gossip magazines and on websites and in the press in recent days that Ms Bruni-Sarkozy, 43, is pregnant. In an interview with a French newspaper last week, she declined to confirm or deny the reports but hinted that she had a secret that she could not yet reveal.

Her appearance in Midnight in Paris has also been the subject of speculation. There were reports Woody Allen had scissored her performance from the final cut. Mr Allen has dismissed these rumours and said that Ms Bruni-Sarkozy's acting was "wonderful".

Her husband, President Nicolas Sarkozy will also be watching this year's festival with great attention. Although not an official entry, La Conquête, directed by Xavier Durringer, will be shown for the first time at Cannes next Wednesday.

The movie, described as a "political thriller" is a recreation of the events which led Mr Sarkozy to win the presidency. In her interview with RTL, Ms Bruni-Sarkozy said that she was "very curious" and a "little worried" about the film but would "definitely see it".

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