Cannes Film Festival opening nights are glitzy affairs, with movies like "The Great Gatsby," "Up" and "Midnight in Paris" premiering to the requisite tuxedoed fanfare in recent years.
On the surface, the same seemed to apply to the kickoff of this year's edition Wednesday night, as Nicole Kidman's much-awaited, somewhat-delayed Grace Kelly biopic, "Grace of Monaco" had its world premiere at a splashy event just a few miles from where the real-life princess' story took place.
Yet the evening had an added element not normally found at Cannes opening nights: awkwardness.
A strange mood hovered over the screening of "Monaco" — or one of its versions, anyway — as the movie premiered to a muted response.
The glam trappings were, of course, everywhere. At the elaborate red-carpet ritual, announcers called out French and American celebrities as hundreds of professional photographers snapped photos and many more amateur ones craned for looks from the surrounding streets.
Festival director Thierry Fremaux greeted the cast and filmmakers and posed for pictures with them, as he does on Cannes red carpets. And an elegant Kidman stood atop the steps of the Palais de Festivals, bedecked in a manner that evoked Kelly herself.
Inside the theater, French actor Lambert Wilson took the stage to greet Kidman and costar Tim Roth, who plays Prince Rainier, as "Princess Nicole and "Prince Tim," even breaking with Cannes politesse to enter the crowd and spontaneously dance with Kidman at her seat. The event was given added heft when the jury — led by Jane Campion and featuring heavyweights such as Nicolas Winding Refn, Gael Garcia Bernal and Sofia Coppola — came out to the stage in the time-honored opening-night Cannes custom, with non-jury member Alfonso Cuaron then emerging and officially declaring the festival open.
But hanging over the screening that followed was the battle between U.S distributor the Weinstein Co. and the French filmmakers, including director Olivier Dahan and producer Pierre-Ange Le Pogam. Harvey Weinstein had last summer rejected a cut submitted by the French filmmakers and instead edited his own version with a different tone and feel, even pulling off the rare move of negotiating for the right to release his cut of the movie in the U.S.
Weinstein wasn't at the screening Wednesday — and that was just the beginning of the strangeness.
It was the version the French preferred that screened Wednesday. And it didn't go especially smoothly. The movie plays as melodramatically as billed, at times going for the overwrought close-up or schmaltzy music to emphasize what's at stake. Some of its transitions also suggested a movie that had been chopped up and reassembled several times. (The movie, incidentally, focuses only somewhat on Kelly and Rainier's relationship, or their respective inner lives, instead choosing to center much of the story on their reactions to a standoff between Rainier and French leader Charles de Gaulle over Monagasque sovereignty.)