Leonardo DiCaprio partied like it was pre-1929. Bryan Ferry put on a mini-concert. And Nicole Kidman sampled a refreshing starter of pea-and-caviar mousse.
All were participants in a round of champagne-fueled festivities that marked the opening of the Cannes Film Festival with “The Great Gatsby.” Celebrations began with a sit-down dinner of sea bass (hosted by the festival) where DiCaprio loosened his bow tie and “Gatsby” actress Isla Fisher -- the mechanic’s cheating wife -- enthused over box-office numbers.
“I’m so happy with how the movie went down!” she said, referring to the $51 million grossed on the U.S. opening weekend. “It seemed to me that people really responded to it.”
Fisher pronounced Cannes “absolutely fabulous,” regardless of the wet weather.
As diners finished their amuse-bouches, there was a burst of applause upon the arrival of this year’s nine-member jury, led by its smiling president, Steven Spielberg.
Juror Kidman, her blond hair in a sophisticated coiffure, took her seat at a table with Japanese co-panelist Naomi Kawase, who speaks through an interpreter.
From there, festivalgoers sloshed through the pouring rain toward the far end of the port, where a domed tent marked “Gatsby” and crowned with a replica of the movie’s eyeglass billboard was set up to receive them.
Guests in ball gowns and black ties entered the Art Deco concert hall, where dancers in flapper dresses performed to bursts of candy-wrapper confetti.
Working the dance floor at the party’s start was “Gatsby” director Baz Luhrmann. Later, from a mezzanine, he enjoyed the live music provided, first, by Bryan Ferry’s ensemble of jazz instrumentalists, then by Ferry himself. Hair blow-dried and gray around the temples, the singer wearily crooned three tunes, as a lanky reveler in a beige suit swayed awkwardly and out of time.
Ferry was followed by singer Florence Welch (of Florence + the Machine), who wore a slinky beige gown to blast out one song before fireworks lit up the rainy skies.
As at the Gatsby mansion, champagne abounded all night. Served alongside it were French mini-eclairs that Gatsby would have had difficulty sourcing on Long Island.
As every year, Cannes also provided large doses of street entertainment. A handful of protesters representing the Troma horror-movie company picketed the festival in what they called the “Occupy Cannes” movement to complain of their exclusion from Hollywood. One burly member briefly streaked to make his point, then disappeared before risking arrest.
Further along, stargazers staked out the red carpet with step ladders and deck chairs padlocked to the security barriers.
“It’s practically the only spot in the world where you can see so many stars concentrated in one place,” said Jo Morpelli, 70, who this year celebrates his 30th festival. “We saw Leonardo last night. Not bad, is it? It’s just been a bit damp these last few years.” Morpelli is from Saint Raphael, near Cannes.
A few blocks along the seafront Boulevard de la Croisette, a Belle Epoque landmark -- the Intercontinental Carlton Hotel -- celebrated its centenary. Reporters were shown around the classically furnished suite where Alfred Hitchcock shot part of “To Catch a Thief” (1955) starring Grace Kelly.
The hotel has seen plenty of guest antics over the years. Actress Faye Dunaway required her bathtub to be filled with goat milk.
More recently, when actor and martial artist Jean-Claude Van Damme worked out on his balcony, he found dozens of onlookers gathered underneath. As a crowd-pleasing stunt, he flung his T-shirt at them, then tossed down every pillow, towel, sheet and duvet he could find. The hotel was not amused: According to its general manager Francois Chopinet, Van Damme was billed for each item.
(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The views expressed are her own.)
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