Cannes: j’connais pas la crise!!

Eric Gaillard/Reuters
CANNES, France — Economic downturn? What economic downturn? There are no hard times on the red carpet at Cannes, where they know how to party like it’s 1788 or at least like the prerecessionary days of 2008. On Wednesday the 62nd Cannes Film Festival opened with the customary smiles and patrician waves as the stars and auteurs promenaded into the world premiere of Pixar’s“Up.” It was all très chic, if very de rigueur, save for the awe-inspiring moment when the 80-year-old French director Agnès Varda, busy photographing the photographers, nimbly dodged being knocked over by a posing and blissfully oblivious Tilda Swinton.

Given the throb of bad news preceding the festival (“Economic Woes at Cannes” read a typical headline), you might even think that Pixar’s latest, a 3-D charmer directed by Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”), about an old man who takes literal and emotional flight with the help of a child, had been chosen for its title alone, as a way to buoy the down attendees. At least for the first few days, there were more empty seats at the press screenings and breathing room in the hallways. But the mood in the Palais, the festival’s headquarters, was cautiously optimistic, or perhaps just realistic. You couldn’t help wondering, Is this thinned population the recession or a sign of a correction — an indication that there might be fewer movies clogging screens?

It’s too early to tell, of course, though the idea that there might be a silver lining to the dark clouds, particularly for the kinds of nonstudio movies that make their way from Cannes to American specialty screens, was a theme that emerged from a highly unscientific poll I conducted by e-mail before the festival kicked off. James Schamus, the chief executive of Focus Features, a specialty division ofNBC Universal that recently released Jim Jarmusch’s “Limits of Control,” put the larger economic woes into pragmatic, film-world perspective.

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