Even if everything passes off peacefully this year's festival, as a result of a rapprochement with striking arts workers, Cannes will still be shaped by the invasive effects of politics - global politics, politics of the workplace and political films.
Indeed, industry politics was already charged at a high-powered colloquium on piracy that saw jury president Quentin Tarantino yesterday admit to benefiting from pirate tapes of Chinese movies.
At press-time, Cannes festival organisers finally struck a deal with trades unions representing temporary workers in France's entertainment industry (les intermittents du spectacle) who threatened to bring massive disruption to the festival. A delegation of intermittents will now be received today on the red carpet as part of the opening evening ceremony. They will hold a press conference on Sunday and be given a local theatre as a meeting place and a festival office. There is also a planned Saturday picnic on the beach for the strikers to air their grievances to the public.
Before the festival began, several French directors in Official Selection- most notably Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Luc Godard (who participated in the events of 1968 that led to Cannes being shut down)- had expressed their sympathies with the intermittents. And Jean Voirin head of the most militant union, the CGT, vowed "these will not be normal days". Although the worst is now averted, abnormality is already evident from tightened security at all kinds of events along the Croisette.
Although France opposed the second Gulf War, the country hasremained under "Vigipirate" security regime for over a year and since theMadrid train bombing. France has been on the second highest level of nationalalert. Over 1,000 police are on festival duty and the number of burly guardsand bag checks has soared. Scarcely any function or party invitation nowadayscomes without strict control of guest lists and ID checks. Nothing is beingleft to chance: at the airport yesterday an unattended bag was summarily blownup.
Itis not just the French talent unions who will provide this year's flashpointsThe press spotlight on Cannes, gives Michael Moore the perfect platform for
InUn Certain Regard, The Assassination OfRichard Nixon is also liable to stoke up political comment with itsimplication that the World Trade Centre attacks were not unprecedented. Thefilm is based on the true story of a desperatefurniture salesman, played by Sean Penn, who tries to eliminate Nixon bycrashing a plane into the White House.
Even if the normally outspoken Penn fails to ignite debate, thenthere is always former US Ambassador and whistleblower Joseph Wilson, whowill be here to support the documentary Uncovered:The War On Iraq, which screens on Monday.
Meanwhile,another global scourge is already being given full vent in Cannes. In caseanyone was in any doubt about the seriousness of the piracy problem, Gaumontchairman Nicolas Seydoux outlined his own axis of evil. "In South East Asiathere is scarcely a legal disc to be found. Russia has a replicating capacity thatis ten times that of its domestic market." Meanwhile MPA vice president DaraMacGreevy, said: "governments and the film industry need to wake up to thelinks between internet piracy and organised crime."