Brits in a muddle over sex at Cannes

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The Independent Online
You just can't trust the British abroad. A couple of glasses of vin rouge and they're insulting foreigners and making lewd remarks. And that's just Cabinet ministers and actresses.

Yesterday Britain's most distinguished delegates at the Cannes Film Festival, National Heritage Secretary Stephen Dorrell and film star Emma Thompson, apologised for offending local sensibilities.

Mr Dorrell, in Cannes partly to dispel his image of knowing nothing about the cinema,managed to prove publicly that he knows less than nothing.

Speaking at the start of the festival, he praised the work of the festival jury, led "by the very distinguished Frenchman, Jeanne Moreau". Miss Moreau is one of the best-known names in cinema, a national heroine, and indisputably female.

Miss Thompson should have been on safer ground talking about sex in France. She had "enjoyed a varied sexual life since the age of 15", she told a conference to promote the film, Carrington, in which she stars as the artist Dora Carrington.

Such sentiments would have raised few eyebrows on the Croisette had she also found time to talk about the film. Yesterday Miss Thompson, 36, acknowledging that her comments had overshadowed publicity for the film, said: "Whatever I said, I deeply regret it ... What I was trying to say was that Dora's relationship with her own sexuality was very troubled and mine isn't. That was my point."

While the two distinguished Brits were eating their words yesterday, other observers felt they may have done themselves no harm. It is hard for British actresses to get noticed at the best of times among the Hollywood stars in Cannes.

And for a man who could soon be involved in a reshuffle, it will have done Mr Dorrell no harm with sections of the Tory party to show that he has a healthy ignorance of French icons.