Cannes Film Festival Gears Up

The French Riviera was abuzz Tuesday as celebrities, dealmakers and movie buffs poured into Cannes to kick off the 56th International Cannes Film Festival, which runs May 14-25.

Reuters reports some celebrities who will grace the red-carpeted steps of the Palais des Festivals include sultry actress Monica Bellucci, Spanish beauty Penelope Cruz and Bollywood superstar Aishwarya Rai, who is also on the jury for this year’s films in competition.

The eclectic lineup of international films competing for the Palme d’Or include Clint Eastwood‘s Mystic River and Lars von Trier‘s Dogville, starring Nicole Kidman. Many are also looking forward to seeing the films out of competition, such as the sci-fi blockbuster The Matrix: Reloaded and Wednesday night’s opening film Fanfan la Tulipe, a swashbuckling actioner starring Cruz and French actor Vincent Perez.

“This is going to be 10 days of hard work. I do not, for a minute, underestimate the size of the task,” this year’s jury head, French director Patrice Chereau, told Reuters.

Some critics have labeled this year’s competition a “minimum risk,” compared to last year’s slate of more controversial films and have expressed disappointment at the number of high-profile films that didn’t make it to the festival, Reuters reports.

As well, the festival has been dogged by security concerns and a French transport worker strike on Tuesday, which includes air traffic controllers. According to Reuters, many studio execs thought ahead and switched to earlier flights to avoid the mess.

But as an added bonus for the fans, Reuters reports festival organizers have erected a huge outdoor cinema screen a few yards out at sea, so those who don’t have invitations to the screenings can lie in the sand and watch the films.