- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 22, 2001

CANNES, France — Nicole Kidman shook hands as though she were running for office. Jean-Luc Godard took potshots at Hollywood. Francis Ford Coppola made an encore bow with a new rendition of "Apocalypse Now."
Twelve days of glitz, glamour and stargazing at the 54th Cannes Film Festival ended Sunday. Regulars griped that fewer celebrities showed up this year, while critics groused a bit about the quality of the films, finding few that evoked a passionate response.
"The Sons Room," a tale of family tragedy from Italian director Nanni Moretti, won the Palme dOr, the festivals top award. Mr. Moretti also stars as a father whose teen-age son dies in a diving accident.
"The Piano Teacher," Austrian filmmaker Michael Hanekes story of a sexually repressed music instructor seduced by a student, took the grand prize, the second-highest award, plus honors for best actress and actor for Isabelle Huppert and Benoit Magimel.
But nothing this year was as provocative as last years top-prize winner, "Dancer in the Dark," Lars von Triers gloomy musical that drew both raves and catcalls.
Another musical, the opening-night film "Moulin Rouge," provoked perhaps the broadest reaction at Cannes this year. Starring Miss Kidman and Ewan McGregor, "Moulin Rouge" features dazzling sets, costumes and special effects and an eclectic jumble of pop tunes. It received some heavenly reviews — and some that characterized it as an overblown mess.
Miss Kidman, dealing with a storm of media attention surrounding her breakup with Tom Cruise, strolled off the red carpet at the films premiere to shake hands with fans gaping from behind barriers.
Mr. Godard was less politically correct. The Swiss director came to Cannes with "Eloge de LAmour," which mocks representatives from Hollywood trying to acquire the rights to a story of love between two French resistance fighters in World War II.
"Americans have no past, so they buy the pasts of others," one of the films characters says.
At a news conference, Mr. Godard was critical of no less a Hollywood name than Steven Spielberg, specifically lashing out at "Schindlers List."
"To reconstruct Auschwitz the way he did, as an artist, an author, he did not have the right to do that, and its my duty to point a finger at him," Mr. Godard said.
Despite the presence of Miss Kidman and such actors as Frances McDormand, Billy Bob Thornton, Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, celebrity watchers complained that Cannes was thin on stars.
"We regret that the big American stars dont really come anymore," said Deborah Nay, a 23-year-old teacher from Lyon who has come to the festival the past four years. She would like to see marquee talent such as Harrison Ford and Julia Roberts.
The co-stars of David Lynchs cryptic "Mulholland Drive" — Naomi Watts and Laura Elena Harring — are hardly household names, but the American director contended: "Theres something so beautiful about a cast thats not known. It makes going into a new world all the easier. You bring a star along, they carry so much baggage."
Mr. Coppola returned to Cannes with "Apocalypse Now Redux," a bigger, bolder version of his war epic, which won the festivals top prize in 1979.
The new version, 53 minutes longer, restores some wildly funny scenes and a romantic interlude between Martin Sheens character and a French widow.
Though the upcoming "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was not part of the official festival, its cast spiced up Cannes. New Line Cinema showed about 20 minutes of footage and brought in Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler and other stars from the fantasy epic for interviews with reporters.
"I love Cannes," said Jennifer Jason Leigh, who came to the festival with "The Anniversary Party," which she co-wrote and co-directed and in which she stars with Alan Cumming.
"Its the only time I think as actors today you get a sense of what it would have been like to have been a movie star back in the 30s and 40s, when the premieres were really big, and you walk up that red carpet or that blue carpet, and its just incredible."


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