Hollywood ignores US calls to boycott Cannes festival

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The Independent Culture

The uncivil war between France and the United States, pitched as a patriotic necessity by part of the American media, has been rejected as a non-paying proposition by Hollywood.

The uncivil war between France and the United States, pitched as a patriotic necessity by part of the American media, has been rejected as a non-paying proposition by Hollywood.

A crowd of Hollywood executives and movie stars, from Tom Cruise to Lauren Bacall, will turn up for the 56th Cannes film festival next week, despite calls in America for a boycott of French goods and culture. The actress Meg Ryan is on the jury.

The 11-day festival, starting on Wednesday, has even been chosen for the European premiere of a quintessentially Hollywood movie – the second part of the big budget Matrix science fiction series, Matrix Reloaded. There are three American films, including the Clint Eastwood-directed thriller Mystic River, in the main competition for the Palme d'Or prize. Other Hollywood stars expected to attend include Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Keanu Reeves and Andie MacDowell.

President Jacques Chirac's opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq has generated strident calls for economic and cultural retaliation against France in the American media but Hollywood executives say the Cannes festival is too important to miss. Festival officials report some slackening of American interest this year but say that almost all the usual, big players will be there.

Elizabeth Guider, editor of the Hollywood newspaper Variety, said: "Many Hollywood people are on the left and did not support the war but, even if they had done so, they would have wanted to go to Cannes. Business is business. Cannes is where things are happening, never mind the Iraq war and France's attitude to it."

Randy Greenberg, vice-president of Universal Pictures, said neither the war nor the frequent Hollywood criticism of Cannes as "arty" or "elitist" could undermine the commercial importance of the festival. "What matters is being in Cannes and that the media of the entire world talks about your movie. Winning is incredible but not essential. Publicity is more important than prizes," he said.

Apart from Eastwood's entry, the United States is represented by The Brown Bunny, directed by Vincent Gallo, and Elephant by Gus van Sant. The only British film competing for the Palme d'Or is The Moab Story: The Tulse Luper Suitcases, Part One, the latest enigmatic offering by Peter Greenaway, the director of TheDraughtsman's Contract.

Other films among the 20 in the main competition are from Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, France, Iran, Italy, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and Turkey.

The festival will open with two movies outside the competition, which could be interpreted as representing differing French and American attitudes to the Iraq war (and much else besides). The first film to be shown on Wednesday will be a remake of a 1950s French costume-drama classic, Fanfan la Tulipe, the story of a reluctant 18th-century French soldier who prefers making love to making war. The new version, starring Penelope Cruz iz and Vincent Perez, has been directed by Gérard Krawczyk.

It will be followed by the European premiere of Matrix Reloaded, starring Keanu Reeves. This is the second Matrix film, directed by the brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski, and is packed with hi-tech, slow-motion violence.

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