CANNES: Where’s Ethan?

It’s official — the famed festivities here have begun, even if the obligatory red carpet wasn’t ready until the late afternoon. But a lack of carpet didn’t stop the sun and stars from converging in the daylight this morning when Uma Thurman and Gerard Depardieu arrived with their posses for a screening of “Vatel,” which opened the 53rd Cannes Film Festival.

The wind ravaged the Mediterranean waters (magically sparing Uma’s golden locks) as cameras flashed and fans clapped. In this day of cutting-edge digital media, it’s still fun to revel in the old-fashioned glamour of the young and beautiful (not to mention statuesque and blonde) Uma co-starring with the rugged, debonaire (you gotta throw in some French when you’re on the Riviera) andmuch, much older Gerard.

The excitement here never dies. The next big stir was the dramatic arrival of the jury members who will bestow Cannes’ career-making Palme d’Or (the Golden Palm Award.) This year’s jury president is filmmaker Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element“). Among his 10 cohorts are Kristin Scott Thomas and Jeremy Irons.

The other must-watch Cannes category (with 22 films mostly by first-time directors) is Un Certain Regard. It opens today with the touching and femme-filled “Things You Can Tell Just By Looking at Her.” Rodrigo Garcia, son of Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, directs the likes of Cameron Diaz, Glenn Close and Calista Flockhart in this series of slightly interwoven vignettes. Other films to look forward to are “Famous,” directed by and starring Griffin Dunne (multitasking is so chic), as well as “I Dreamed of Africa” starring Kim Basinger and Vincent Perez.

Uma, meanwhile, is ringing in the millennium in style, since she has not one, but two films here. The second is the lusty Merchant Ivory film “The Golden Bowl,” which is a competition entry. Co-star Nick Nolte is flying in for that premiere later.

Just one question: Where’s Ethan?