Cannes Diary: India and China have a strong presence

At Cannes, critics have finally found something to rave about in the latest Coen brothers comedy Inside Llewyn Davies.

Cannes is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Indian cinema by hosting the premiere of the film Bombay Talkies. EPA
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As an uneven Cannes Film Festival arrives at its midway point, critics have finally found something to rave about in the latest Coen brothers comedy Inside Llewyn Davis. This bittersweet recreation of New York's early 1960s folk-music scene stars Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan and Justin Timberlake – the latter two have already been at the festival for almost a week, staying on after Wednesday's The Great Gatsby premiere.

While many stars come to the French Riviera to party, the main business of Cannes is business itself. Selim El Azar, the chief executive of the Qatar-based Gulf Film, and Abdulaziz Al Khater, the new head of the Doha Film Institute, are both in Cannes this week to shake hands and make deals. Also on the sales-pitch circuit is the directing legend Martin Scorsese, drumming up interest in his long--cherished Japanese literary adaptation, Silence.

Meanwhile, weird weather and upscale crime remain themes of the festival: typhoon-like winds on Sunday caused temporary power cuts and halted several film screenings. Among the casualties was a flash mob to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema. Two hundred performers clad in saris and kurtas were to have performed on the Croisette seafront.

On Monday, the China Film Group vice president Zhang Qiang reported the theft of luggage and valuables from his rented Cannes apartment, angrily cancelling plans to co-host a press conference with a beefy-looking Keanu Reeves to promote the actor's forthcoming directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi.

China's profile in Cannes seems to get stronger each year, with two entries in the official screening programme, A Touch of Sin and Bends, plus a host of glamorous stars in attendance, including the jury member Zhang Ziyi, the X-Men actor Fan Binging and the screen queen Bai Ling.

India is another rising film superpower challenging the festival’s historical bias towards European and American cinema, with half a dozen features playing across the festival. As the Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan told the festival last week: “For a complete alien in the midst of Cannes, to be acknowledged is the proudest moment for me as an Indian.”

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