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Cannes hopes to provide light in France

Associated Press Associated Press 10/05/2016 Jake Coyle

The first time Jodie Foster came to the Cannes Film Festival, she did so as a co-star in Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver, and as a wide-eyed 13-year-old, soaking in the spectacle.

Taxi Driver would go on to win the festival's prestigious Palme d'Or.

"It was kind of like Mr. Toad's wild ride. It was very surreal," says Foster, who returns this year with her hostage thriller Money Monster.

"I remember the red-carpeted steps. I remember all the naked ladies on the beach with their breasts out. I remember an amazing dinner up in the mountains there with (Bernardo) Bertolucci and Gerard Depardieu. It's a great place for this very exotic, spontaneous slumber party."

The Cote d'Azur extravaganza of cinema and celebrity, which kicks off on Wednesday, can be an eye-opening "slumber party" for newcomers and veterans alike. As the world's pre-eminent film festival, it's a seaside treasure trove of cinematic splendour - a chic French Riviera oasis that for a week and a half gathers a significant portion of the movies' most revered filmmakers, biggest stars and striving dealmakers.

But this year's festival, the 69th edition, comes just six months after the November terror attacks in central Paris that killed 130. France remains in a state of emergency.

Last month, police staged a security exercise in which gunmen stormed the festival's Palais, the hallowed heart of Cannes. The images from the drill sent shivers through cinephiles accustomed to seeing stars regally ascend the palace steps, not masked men. Festival president Pierre Lescure has said that this year "the maximum" has been done to balance security and ensure "that the festival remains a place of freedom."

Though this year's program is, as always, full of socially minded films, it opens on a light note with Woody Allen's latest, Cafe Society, a comedy about 1930s Hollywood.

Also providing welcome escapism will be the upcoming Ryan Gosling-Russell Crowe comedy The Nice Guys and Steven Spielberg's Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG, starring Mark Rylance as the tale's friendly giant.

The famed, 56-year-old stage actor will make his first trip to Cannes at a much different station in life than Foster did.

"I've always noted it on some of my favourite films, like Rashomon, on the little DVD box," says Rylance, referring to the festival's golden palm logo.

"The things that interest me out of the festival are not so much these big films that go there now. But they've often been the first sighting of someone like a Kurosawa or many, many others who have emerged from the obscurity into the light, so to speak."

This year, new voices will have to be loud enough to rise above a battery of international heavyweights. Cannes' main slate of "in competition" films vying for the Palme includes Asghar Farhadi (The Salesman), Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake), Olivier Assayas (Personal Shopper), Pedro Almodovar (Julieta), Park Chan-Wook (The Handmaiden) and Jim Jarmusch (Patterson), who'll also debut his documentary on Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Gimme Danger.

Australian George Miller, whose Mad Max: Fury Road played at the festival last year, will lead the jury that chooses the Palme winner.

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