Cannes Opening Gala: The Real Glamor Isn't Where You Think

Opening ceremony red carpet events are cursed things, much better enjoyed -- I find -- via the wire photos that start popping up online mere hours after the fact. But I will confess that even just standing amid a crowd of onlookers outside the Palais des Festivals -- where the big premieres are held and where Woody Allen's sweet-natured, slightly melancholy Midnight in Paris made its debut on Wednesday -- I did feel a vague frisson of excitement.

It wasn't so much the possible proximity of stars -- catching a glimpse of, say, Woody Allen's grizzled left ear at 200 paces or Uma Thurman's sparkly dress isn't the sort of thing that rocks my world. But Cannes is exciting because people are excited; I think the highest glamour quotient exists less in the gowns than in the air.

The opening night ceremony is a festive event -- attended by, among others, Robert De Niro, Jude Law, Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, and the aforementioned Uma Thurman; click here to launch a slideshow of the evening -- and even many of those who aren't decked out in black tie (required attire for anyone who actually has an invitation) have assembled some form of celebratory garb. I spotted one guy in black tie, wearing black shoes with no socks, pedaling a bicycle along one of the back streets opposite the Palais. One young woman, in a very big rush, clattered along in her heels, unaware (or perhaps not caring) that her sheath dress was unzipped halfway down her back. Hey, it's Cannes -- anything goes! ((For further evidence of this, see Lady Gaga's "surprise" Cannes concert on the Canal Plus show Le Grand Journal, where the pop icon, sans pants, performed her new single "Judas.")


Most touching of all were the many, many very young women decked out in very short dresses and very high heels, huddled in quivery little groups. You see these young women at all sorts of tangentially Hollywood-related events, in cities all over the world; the aura of anticipation hovering around them is always much heavier, even, than their cumulative cloud of perfume. They're waiting for something to happen -- exactly what, they don't know, but their waiting-for-whatever is universal.

Red carpet gowns rarely interest me. I think event dressing is overrated and rarely reflects any true sense of a star's individual style. (We have stylists to thank for that -- no star wants, or can afford, to make a red carpet mistake anymore, and more's the pity.) I was more interested, frankly, in spying Faye Dunaway at the Nice Airport baggage claim on Tuesday morning. She's here in Cannes to coincide with a festival showing of the rarely seen -- and newly restored -- 1970 film she made with filmmaker/photographer Jerry Schatzberg, Puzzle of a Downfall Child. And the glorious legs on this year's official Cannes poster belong to her; Schatzberg took the picture in 1970.

dunaway-300.jpgDunaway's face isn't what it used to be -- whose is? -- and perhaps it isn't as it ought to be. But even after an eight-hour flight from New York, wearing no makeup and her ever-present cream-colored fedora, she still looked like a movie star. And in the vicinity of the Palais this evening, I saw one inherently glamorous civilian onlooker, possibly around 70 (or maybe even 80), wearing trim gray slacks, a little hat, and a beautifully kept Ultrasuede jacket that looked to be from around 1970. I smiled at her -- even though I know you're not supposed to smile at the French -- and she smiled back. Then she asked me something in French, to which I had to reply with the ever-useful "Je ne parle pas français." She seemed just a little disappointed, but then she returned to her own people-watching. And I realized that, just like me, she'd turned her back on the red carpet, the better to take in the real show.

Click here for a look at more from the red carpet of the Cannes Opening Gala, and check back to Movieline throughout Cannes for updates, news and reviews.

[Photos: Getty Images]