If applause, laughter and enthusiastic audience response (among critics, no less) have anything to do with a movie's prospects for the Golden Palm, then one film has made an early break ahead of the pack.
No, it's not "Life Is a Miracle," Emir Kusturica's over-the-top comic drama set in wartime Serbia, which suggests an Eastern European epic from Benny Hill. It's "Shrek 2," a DreamWorks movie that is one of 19 offerings vying for the top trophy.
Last year's festival roiled with accusations that artistic director Thierry Fremaux and festival president Gilles Jacob had boostered the competition with too many French entries. So Fremaux, free to program the festival his way for the first time, has made the pendulum swing perceptively in the other direction.
Call it the great American love-in: 17 films in all festival categories, including the "Out of Competition," "Directors' Fortnight," "A Certain Look" and "Critics' Week" sidebars, are wholly or partially American productions, including "Troy," "Bad Santa," "Dawn of the Dead" and "Mondovino," Washington-born Jonathan Nossiter's 21/2-hour TV documentary about wine.
Hollywood entertainment is suddenly up against European art. And although many movies are still to be screened, Cannes is abuzz with the notion that a computer-animated, big-budget summer flick could win the prestigious trophy. After all, only a couple of the movies shown thus far have made much impact: Paolo Sorrentino's slick Italian mystery "Le Consequenze Dell'amore and Agnes Jaoui's "Comme Une Image," one of only three French films in this category -- and also a comedy.
There is also good buzz for Mamoru Oshii's "Innocence," the first Japanese anime film to be entered in the competitive lineup. Has DreamWorks lined up any kind of CGI cartoon character to accept the award? Stay tuned.
It seems the French have already elected John Kerry president before June -- much less November -- has rolled around. Asked where one might find the screening of "The Last Full Measure," a short made by Kerry daughter Alexandra (currently a fellow at the American Film Institute), a French tour guide replied matter-of-factly: "Oh, you mean the daughter of the future American president?"
The younger Kerry's 15-minute movie -- most definitely a first-time effort -- is about a young girl dealing with a father who has returned from the Vietnam War. The subject, she said at a news conference, has nothing to do with a certain presidential candidate to whom she is directly related. It's just a movie, adapted from a short story she wrote.
"The truth is, it's about a relationship between a father and a daughter," she said. "I wasn't even born when my father came back from Vietnam. I only came to Vietnam [as a subject for the movie] later for added conflict."
She has two feature projects in the works, she said. One is "based in the western United States on a true story," for which she has yet to secure the copyright. The other is a "dark love story." Is this part of a growing Kerry dynasty or a future Trivial Pursuit question? Again, stay tuned.