Behind the scenes at Cannes 2006 -- An inside look at the yearly film festival

By Gregory Kirschling and Daniel Fierman
Updated June 02, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

The fireworks sputtered and screamed, and every face at the Marie-Antoinette party turned toward the Mediterranean. There was Kirsten Dunst, grinning and chattering happily in the candy-colored light. Director Sofia Coppola standing alongside her father, Francis. And swirling all around were coteries of agents, managers, execs, and moneymen; publicists and journalists, gawkers and sycophants. The entire phylum of moviedom was on display at the fortnight’s best party, basking in the soda-pop fizz and sheer glory of the 2006 Cannes film festival.

Mais oui, this year was a good one. Packed with highbrow favorites like Pedro Almodóvar’s Volver and late-night crowd-pleasers like the uproarious Borat movie, the fest felt exactly like what Cannes should be. By the time the 59th annual festival ended with the shocking victory of Ken Loach’s Irish war film, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, everyone seemed pleased. After all, what other event could celebrate both the artful beauty of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel and the bestiality jokes of Kevin Smith’s Clerks II? Or host the likes of Chris Tucker, Al Gore, Tom Hanks, and Borat himself, Sacha Baron Cohen?

”Cannes is the grande dame because it has both high and low,” said Keanu Reeves, who jetted into town with the animated mind trip A Scanner Darkly. ”It’s like having the bistro food and fine dining [at once]. Cannes has both. Here you get porno and Apocalypse Now.”

THE MOVIES

And, of course, you get The Da Vinci Code. The massive American blockbuster may have bowed to record international box office, but it opened the festival with a resounding thud. ”Did you see it? Was it good?” Chris Tucker asked a bald gentleman at a party after Dreamgirls, the Beyoncé Knowles-Jamie Foxx musical that made its mini-debut with 20 minutes of extremely well received footage. In response, the man simply closed his eyes, pursed his lips, and gravely shook his head. ”I was gonna go see it,” Tucker replied, unfazed, ”but my luggage got lost!”

If Tom Hanks was the early victim of French poison pens, Penélope Cruz was the recipient of nothing but love letters. The star of Volver — and co-winner of the best actress award — found herself fielding compliments on her performance from strangers, friends, and journalists ”like every half an hour or so,” she said. ”You can’t imagine how proud I am of her,” gushed Almodóvar, interrupting her EW interview at the Hotel Martinez. After he scrammed, Cruz cooed, ”I love him so much!”

Another south-of-France star was director Richard Linklater, who’d scored slots for both Fast Food Nation, his fictional adaptation of Eric Schlosser’s 2001 best-seller, and A Scanner Darkly. ”People keep saying ‘You’re the first director ever to have two films in the official selection,”’ he said. ”I’m like,’ Really?”’ The unassuming Austin dude — who seemed mightily tickled that auteurs get to stride conspicuously down to their seats ”like prizefighters” at their premieres — added, ”I’ll be a footnote in Cannes history!”

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