Cannes set to open with tight security

It is a huge draw for the industry and public alike, with about 127,000 visitors expected.

The 67th Cannes Film Festival gets under way on Wednesday with 18 films showing in the main competition for the Palme d’Or prize. Picture: Facebook.

CANNES - Film fans already are standing outside security cordons with no idea which stars may show up, and security guards are keeping a constant vigil for potential jewel thieves as the 67th Cannes Film Festival prepares to open on Wednesday.

With huge yachts bobbing in the Mediterranean and luxury boutiques along the famous La Croisette boulevard making finishing touches to their displays, the 12-day pageant that is the international film world's answer to Hollywood's Oscars kicks off with the world premiere of Grace of Monaco.

"I think the selection has so many talents now that it's like (being) a kid in a candy store," Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn said as he arrived on Tuesday.

Winding Refn is one of nine judges on a majority female jury headed by New Zealand director Jane Campion, the only woman ever to win the festival's top Palme d'Or prize.

There are 18 films in competition for the Palme d'Or, which will be handed out along with other prizes at the end of the festival on 24 May.

It is a huge draw for the industry and public alike, with an estimated 127,000 visitors expected, plus 30,000 accredited professionals, 4,000 journalists and 700 technicians, according to a periodical distributed by the festival.

Benedicte Bourdon, 30, visiting for the first time with her parents from the northwestern French city of Cherbourg, said she had no idea which stars would show up on the other side of a security cordon where she was standing outside a hotel, but being there was a thrill.

"It's great fun to be here," Bourdon said. "Films can make you feel emotion or laugh, and some make you reflect on life."

Last year some of those who attended the festival were less than welcome, having made off with jewels worth several million dollars.

The security presence this year is conspicuous, with dark-jacketed men standing outside or immediately inside fancy boutiques, but it is no more than usual, a security guard said.

"It was already at the maximum," said the guard who did not want to give his name for what he said were "security reasons".

The opening film stars Nicole Kidman as the Hollywood actress Grace Kelly who became the Princess of Monaco when she married Prince Rainier, and died following a car crash in 1982 in the hills of the principality, not far from Cannes.

RED CARPET

Kidman and other stars will ascend the famous red carpet on Wednesday night to the cinema inside the Palais des Festivals et des Congres for the glittering opening event under the watchful eye of the world's media, which has staked out viewing spots and parked stepladders for photographers days in advance.

Trade talk of a dispute between the film's French director, Olivier Dahan, and its American distributor, producer Harvey Weinstein, has only served to reinforce the reputation of Cannes for producing a scandal or two, which festival artistic director Thierry Fremaux sees as a good thing.

Since the selection of the 18 films to be presented in competition was unveiled in April, critics have said the festival this year might suffer from a lack of stars on its red carpet. But Fremaux said he was happy with the selection.

Even if Cannes remains the one event on the crowded film festival calendar that the big players most want to attend, a senior editor at US entertainment magazine Variety said it was scaling back.

"You see Cannes scaling back. And you see it... for Cannes, for Cannes standards it's a little smaller than Cannes usually is," Ramin Setoodeh said.

"That said, it's still a very big festival, you have stars from Nicole Kidman to Robert Pattinson, to Kristen Stewart, Ryan Gosling had his directorial debut here at Cannes. So it's still a pretty big festival, it's just not as big as Cannes has always been."