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superstars in cannes
Halle Berry

Every spring superstars, movie moguls, jetsetters and their relentless followers, namely the paparazzi, take off to Cannes to bask in the limelight. This year was no exception. Everyone who is anyone was in the small French coastal paradise, attending frenzied photocalls, glamorous galas and highly anticipated premiers.

Rebecca Romijn and Sir Ian McKellan

Perhaps the most talked about event of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival was the first showing of The Da Vinci Code, a Ron Howard motion picture adapted from Dan Brown's international bestseller. In fact, The New York times reported that the film, "drew lukewarm praise, shrugs of indifference, some jeering laughter and a few derisive jabs Tuesday from arguably the world's toughest movie crowd: critics at the Cannes Film Festival." Thankfully, Sir Ian McKellan, who plays a sardonic Grail enthusiast in the blockbuster, had X-Men's sizzling-hot mutant babes to chase away his blues. The superhero cast of the comic book saga, including Oscar nominated actress Halle Berry and top model Rebecca Romijn was certainly the talk of the town.

Jason Schwartzman and Kirsten Dunst

Another ripple in the placid Mediterranean waters of Cannes was caused by Sofia Coppola and her Marie-Antoinette cast. Kirsten Dunst, known mostly for her role as flame-haired Mary Jane in Spiderman flicks, apparently accepted the lead role in the epic drama only after finding out that the Lost in Translation director was undertaking the project. Her co-star Jason Schwartzman, a Coppola relative, has been a cult favorite for many years; thanks to his knack for playing courageous parts in indie productions like Rushmore, Spun and IHuckabees.

Cate Blanchett

The world has been abuzz with news of Angelina's impending birth. Holed up in a compound in Namibia, under the official protection of the national government (mainly against photographers), the most controversial couple of the decade awaits the new addition to the Jolie-Pitt family. Recently, tabloids have been joking that no baby since Jesus Christ has been anticipated so. Given the current state of affairs, Brad Pitt could not be in Cannes to promote his upcoming movie Babel, but the rest of his fellow cast members --Cate Blanchett of the Ring Trilogy & Gael Garcia Bernal of Y Tu Mama Tambien and The Motorcycle Diaries were in attendance. Babel has a complex plot that revolves around four interweaving stories set in Morocco, Tunisia, Mexico and Japan.

Pedro Almodovar and Penelope Cruz

Gael Garcia also starred in the brilliant Pedro Almodovar film Mala Education. The transformation of the much desired heart throb (who used to date Hollywood darling Natalie Portman) into a stunning cross dresser was one of the many twists in the daring film. Almodovar, the most celebrated Spanish director since Luis Bunuel and Carlos Saur, walked the red carpet in Cannes hand in hand with sultry beauty Penelope Cruz. The dynamic duo collaborated on a film called Volver (Return) -- a comedy about three women who travel from rural Spain to Madrid. As movie aficionados will readily remember Cruz also appeared in Almodovar's Oscar winning All About My Mother as well as Live Flesh.

Ziyi Zhang

monica bellucci and samuel l. jackson

And who can forget about the coveted Cannes Film Festival awards that can easily propel from obscurity to overnight hits? This year jury members, Samuel L. Jackson, Zhang Ziyi, Monica Bellucci, Patrice Leconte, Lucrecia Martel, Helena Bonham Carter, Elia Suleiman and Tim Roth, will be casting their votes under the leadership of Chinese director Wong Kar Wai. At the press meet Italian actress Monica Bellucci voiced her feelings by saying "I think we have to be humble because all the judgments are so important and so for me it's going to be my first experience here and I'm really excited, very excited." Her escort, American actor Samuel L. Jackson, added "I don't view it as a life or death situation, a career-making or breaking kind of thing. The fact that the films are here means a lot. Out of the hundreds and hundreds of films, these are the films worthy of us making the decision about and these directors and these actors will gain some measure of success because they're here. The most daunting job we'll have is comparing our ideas and our thoughts and our feelings about the films we'll see and hopefully making an informed decision that will not only be popular among us as judges, but also popular among the people who see the films."

Sharon Stone

Indeed, the Cannes Film Festival is first and foremost about the cinema industry. Nonetheless, over the years, mainly due to the stellar presence of stars and the extensive coverage of the press, the event has become much more than that. To some being in Cannes this time of the year is a measure of status, wealth, prominence, rank and more. Though the relentless preoccupation with rubbing shoulder with celebrities is quite ridiculous, it is fact that people at large are obsessed with fame and even infamy. Hence, it should not be surprising to see self-proclaimed "American Princess" Paris Hilton waving at admirers from a boat anchored off the Cannes coast, where a mere 50 years ago Grace Kelly would have been. As the French say, "C'est La Vie!"

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