Woody Allen Teams With Bruni, Sarkozy Satirized in Cannes Films

''Midnight in Paris
French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy and Owen Wilson in the Woody Allen film ''Midnight in Paris." Source: Sony Pictures Classics via Bloomberg

France’s presidential couple are set to hog the spotlight at this year’s Cannes Film Festival as they feature in two movies premiering during the 11-day event.

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the First Lady and former model, has a cameo in Woody Allen’s romantic comedy “Midnight in Paris,” opening the festival tomorrow. Her husband President Nicolas Sarkozy, played by Denis Podalydes, is the main character in the satire “La Conquete” (“The Conquest”), screening on May 18.

Bruni-Sarkozy is cast as a demure Parisienne who wears her hair up and works as a gallery guide. The First Lady’s stint on the set triggered snarky media allusions to her inexperience -- and a firm rebuttal from director Allen.

“We did not have to do many takes: She acted easily and gracefully,” he told RTL radio. “I made her a guide at the Rodin Museum, and she played the part absolutely perfectly.”

“She has the talent to do a bigger role, but would not have been able to do that because she has obligations other places,” he said.

Her husband’s personal life will be unraveled for festival goers in a film by Xavier Durringer. The story shows how Sarkozy’s victory at the polls in 2007 was twinned with personal defeat: His second wife walked out on him.

All told, 20 movies -- excluding the two Sarkozy couple titles -- are competing for Cannes’s top award, the Palme d’Or, handed out May 22. Jury president Robert De Niro will be aided by eight judges including Jude Law and Uma Thurman.

Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp and Tilda Swinton are all stars with Cannes premieres this year.

Penn, Pitt

Penn is the lead in two movies, both of them contenders for the top prize. Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” co-starring Pitt, is about a naive Midwestern boy who grows up to be a disenchanted adult. “This Must Be the Place,” by Italy’s Paolo Sorrentino, casts Penn as an ageing rock star returning to the U.S. after his dad’s death.

Depp is the bandana-wearing hero of “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” -- the fourth movie in the franchise. On his way to the mythical Fountain of Youth, he meets a battery of adversaries, including the series’s first female pirate (played by Penelope Cruz).

Tilda Swinton plays the ambivalent mom with the nightmare son in “We Need to Talk About Kevin” -- adapted from the Lionel Shriver novel. Written and directed by Lynne Ramsay, the film is also on the shortlist for the Palme d’Or.

Banderas, Gainsbourg

Other finalists include Spain’s Pedro Almodovar, with “La Piel Que Habito” (“The Skin I Live In,”) starring Antonio Banderas; Denmark’s Lars von Trier, with “Melancholia,” featuring Kirsten Dunst and Charlotte Gainsbourg; and Italy’s Nanni Moretti with “Habemus Papam,” about a newly-elected pope’s relationship with his therapist.

Cannes will also show films by two Iranian directors currently appealing six-year jail sentences in their home country: Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof. Both banned for 20 years from making movies, the men shot these titles in “semi-clandestine conditions,” according to a festival release.

The first Cannes film festival took place in 1946, a year after World War II ended. Among the event’s earliest award winners were directors Orson Welles, Luis Bunuel, Ingmar Bergman and Satyajit Ray.

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