The Cannes competition titles will be judged on purelyaesthetic grounds rather than box-office potential, said jury president EmirKusturica.

It's astatement that sets the tone for this year's genre-focussed and auteur-richfestival. Kusturica promised the festival would "hit the heights" by going backto the value judgements that he says have marked out Cannes from its rivals.

But herefused to criticise last year's Palme d'Or winner Fahrenheit 9/11 which was seen by some as a populistchoice.

"When I talkabout aesthetics, I include morality and other things that come from the heart.On that basis Fahrenheit 9/11 was veryaesthetic."

Thefestival started on Wednesday in optimistic mood on a packed and sunnyCroisette.

Meanwhile,director Dominik Moll expressed his surprise that his competition film Lemminghad been asked toopen the festival.

"Usuallythey choose more commercial films," explained Moll at a press conference forthe film, where he was flanked by lead actors Charlotte Rampling, Laurent Lucasand Andre Dussolier.

Moll added:"The film is dark, but for me there is a lot of humour - even if it isunderneath. It has a dark atmosphere, but it is not a pessimistic film - I seemyself as someone who is more of an optimist.

For theEnglish born Rampling, Lemming marks the latest in a series of high profile French films inwhich she has starred. A fluent French speaker, she said that this wasn'tspecifically because she chose to star in French films - "it's just that thework that has been interesting to me has come from France."