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Cannes opens amid glitz, controversy

Allen has rejected calls by at least one U.S. Jewish group to boycott Cannes  

CANNES, France -- Glitz, glamour, controversy, Bond and "Star Wars" are all on offer as the 55th annual International Cannes Film Festival opens.

Among the big names anticipated: Cameron Diaz, Leonardo Di Caprio, Jack Nicholson, Michael Douglas, George Lucas and James Bond star Pierce Brosnan.

Woody Allen's first appearance at Cannes is already the centre of some controversy.

The U.S. comedian rejected a call by American Jews to boycott the festival because of recent anti-Semitic attacks in France and the rise of the far-right.

Fans of all ages turned out in force for the London premiere of the fifth installment of the 'Star Wars' saga. CNN's Diane Muriel reports (May 15)

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Was Woody Allen right to reject calls by U.S. Jewish groups to boycott Cannes?

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Allen told French RTL radio he did not think France was intolerant because extreme-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen had made it to the presidential runoff this month.

"I think any boycott is wrong," Allen said. "Boycotts were exactly what the Germans were doing against the Jews."

Dismissing the Le Pen vote as a reason to protest against France, he said: "Le Pen didn't get near power. France reacted without ambiguity.

"Everybody can be proud of how the French showed their attachment to democracy. They came out very, very decisively against him."

Allen is showing his new film, "Hollywood Ending," about a neurotic film director whose ex-wife gives him a chance to make a comeback movie.

Beach screenings

Bathed in sunshine, with sleek yachts glistening in the bay, movie fans thronged Cannes' Mediterranean beachfront hoping for a glimpse of some of the Hollywood stars expected to attend.

For the first time there will be screenings on the beach, so fans can spend all day sunning themselves and will only have to prop themselves up to catch a hot new movie in the evening.

"We are trying to create more events for the cinema fans and public who are not allowed to come inside," festival managing director Veronique Cayla told Reuters.

"We're trying to be a bigger festival for everyone, even if security is a preoccupation."

The festival promises an eclectic mix of Hollywood, Bollywood, arthouse, Asian, Middle Eastern and angst-ridden British offerings.

Leading the pack is Canadian director David Cronenberg, whose new film, "Spider," stars Ralph Fiennes as a schizophrenic tormented by memories of childhood.

Another film sure to spark controversy is Argentine-born director Gaspar Noe's "Irreversible," starring Italy's Monica Bellucci and her husband Vincent Cassel, which includes an already notorious nine-minute rape scene.

"Today, when I see the scene on screen, I can't handle it," Bellucci told France's Premiere magazine. "I look away."

Bond martinis

As well as the films in competition, special treats will include a 20-minute snippet from U.S. director Martin Scorsese's eagerly awaited "Gangs of New York," starring Di Caprio and Diaz; British director Michael Winterbottom's "24 Hour Party People;" and a special screening -- to be attended by George Lucas -- of "Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones."

This year marks the 40th anniversary of James Bond films  

For the lucky few with the official invite, one of the highlights of the two-week festival will be the James Bond party to celebrate the cinema spy's 40th anniversary.

Bond star Brosnan, currently filming the 20th "007" movie, will attend Saturday's party, which is being held in a setting that would not look out of place in one of the films.

The vodka martinis -- "shaken not stirred" -- will be served in an intricate ice bar set in a special Bond-style casino.

The Aston Martin, Jaguar and Range Rover cars being used in the latest Bond movie "Die Another Day" are being flown in especially for the party.


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