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Celeb watching heats up at Cannes

All eyes are turning to George Clooney, Elton John, and others

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George Clooney
Eric Robert/Corbis Sygma

What a difference a day makes, indeed. While the market’s still soft and studios’ acquisitions people are sitting around looking bored and glum, the sun finally came out this afternoon, and tourists and execs alike clogged the walkway along the beach, making the Croisette once more the place we love to hate.

Cheering many’s spirits yesterday was the screening of Ken Loach’s new film, ”Bread and Roses,” about a family of immigrants, starring Adrian Brody. Many journalists wept through the screening — or are they just jet lagged? — and most predicted that the movie would be snatched up immediately. At a party last night for the film, spirits were high as the cast and crew danced and drank and celebrated. But then, this morning, the film received mixed reviews, and so far, still no buyer. One production company president, who’s interested in acquiring the film but it not going after it aggressively, says that the movie is a hard sell — half in Spanish, half in English, and muy depressing.

Also depressing and weird is ”Under Suspicion,” starring Gene Hackman as a man who likes to rape and murder teenagers — or not — and Morgan Freeman as the cop trying to figure it all out. It’s a total actor’s piece — most of the movie takes place in a questioning room — but the two actors have never been better. If only the movie made sense in the end….

I spent time this morning with people from the Shooting Gallery (they produced ”Sling Blade”), who are here en force to seek foreign financiers for a couple of their projects, look for acquisitions, and check out the dot.com scene. Despite the strong buzz going into the festival about how this was going to be the Cannes of the Internet, the Shooting Gallery folks have so far been unimpressed. Still, they’ll likely leave with foreign money to help them finish up production of ”Julie Johnson,” a drama starring Lili Taylor, Courtney Love, and Spalding Gray. I had a chance to see footage of it, and it looks like the kind of movie that could earn both women strong reviews, playing unhappy wives.

Otherwise, things are still relatively quiet, once you hop off the Croisette. Execs are still trickling in, looking stunned and jet lagged, and a little unsure of what to do with themselves. Far from the usual Festival Fever, we’re all suffering a bit from Festival Sniffles, a malaise that ”Bread and Roses” almost — but didn’t — pull us out of. But the parties kick off in earnest tonight — a poolside fete thrown by Universal, a black tie shindig for Elton John and his AIDS charity, and a soiree for Neil LaBute’s ”Nurse Betty,” which doesn’t begin until 12:30 a.m…. And then, tomorrow, an 8:30 a.m. screening of ”O Brother, Where Art Thou,” the Coen Brothers’ new movie, starring George Clooney.

That’s when, for many of us, Cannes will truly begin, as we march into a screening woozy from no sleep, sated from caviar and champagne, and watching, through red eyes, what promises to be a festival favorite. Let the stalking of George Clooney begin!