The Toronto Sun
9 May 2001
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Nicole's Touch of Rouge: Cruise-Kidman breakup overshadows Cannes opening gala

CANNES -- Nicole Kidman is Tom-less and supposedly clueless as to why her husband of 10 years abruptly ended their relationship.

Cruise has handled the situation by filing for divorce and by launching a suit against a male porno star who claims he and the movie star were lovers.

Kidman has taken a higher road, filing court papers disputing his version of their breakup and by flying to the Cannes Film Festival, where she is the superstar marquee name for Moulin Rouge, tonight's official gala opening. She has already been sighted dining at the swank Column d'Or, apparently with media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

Unfortunately for Kidman and her Australian director Baz Luhrmann of Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet fame, the media circus surrounding the Cruise-Kidman caper threatens to swamp interest in the film itself.

As a result, the filmmakers and a clutch of 20th Century-Fox folks are hoping that Moulin Rouge will dazzle Cannes tonight and let them move on with promoting the film, which is set to open in North America on June 1.

'Shockingly operatic'

Described by Luhrmann as "shockingly operatic, high pop, high camp" and rife with romance and tragedy, Moulin Rouge is set in a Paris nightclub at the dawn of the 20th Century. Kidman, in a role her handlers hope will define her career, plays an entertainer-courtesan caught between love and manipulation. Ewan McGregor co-stars.

The selection of Moulin Rouge is part of a Hollywood/American resurgence at the world's most famous and most prestigious film festival. Relations between the French and the Hollywood clan had deteriorated in recent years. But a new era has begun, according to Thierry Fremaux, the festival's new artistic director.

Fremaux called his selections "the big comeback of U.S. films" when he announced his lineup April 19. That might be a bit of a stretch, considering the U.S. never totally abandoned the Riviera at filmfest time.

Moulin Rouge is in competition. So is the hilarious and cheeky DreamWorks animated spectacle Shrek, the first 'cartoon' in competition since the Franco-Czech co-production The Fantastic Planet in 1973.

Also vying for prizes are the Coen Brothers' The Man Who Wasn't There, David Lynch's Mulholland Drive and Cannes regular Sean Penn's The Pledge, the only one of the quintet of U.S. films which has already played in North America.

Martin Scorsese will be here to present his roots film, My Journey In Italy, while Francis Ford Coppola is screening a new extended version -- longer by 53 minutes -- of his anti-war classic Apocalypse Now, winner of the Palme d'Or as best film here in 1979. Coppola's son, Roman Coppola, is presenting his own film, CQ, out of competition.

As well, inexplicably, Cannes is officially honouring the life and career of Melanie Griffith. But this is the country that once touted Jerry Lewis as a genius.

There are no Canadian features in competition this year, yet Canada has a strong, if unusual, presence here.

The key Canadian entry is Zacharias Kunuk's all-Inuit production entitled Atanarjuat The Fast Runner, which is in the special Un Certain Regard section, a parallel series to the competition. That means Kunuk's film, which is based on an ancient Inuit legend, will get big attention but not compete for the big prizes. Atanarjuat was co-directed by Kunuk's friend Paul Apak, who died recently before he could see their collaboration come to the Cannes spotlight.

Joining Atanarjuat in Un Certain Regard are Hal Hartley's No Such Thing, Abel Ferrara's R-Xmas and Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming's co-directorial effort, The Anniversary Park.

In the main competition, Asian films are again strong, with entries from Taiwan, India, China and, for the first time, Thailand. Iran, boasting one of the world's most exciting cinemas, is back again, with Mohsem Makhmalbaf's Kandahar.

Italy returns with two films after a one-year absence that nearly caused a diplomatic rift last year. A Franco-Bosnian film, No Man's Land, was selected, another first for the 54th edition of Cannes.