CANNES, France -- The movie world feted an old friend Wednesday night, or at least an old sport.
Two weeks after celebrating Baz Luhrmann’s big-budget adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel with a throwback party at the Plaza Hotel in New York, Warner Bros. did it all over again with a more modern gathering at the Cannes Film Festival.
The occasion, of course, was the festival’s opening night and the film’s impending opening in France and other European countries.
In a theatrical touch Luhrmann himself might have appreciated (or even orchestrated), rain began to come down as stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan walked the open-air red carpet outside Cannes’ Palais des Festivals. But the festival’s famous pinstripe-jacketed announcer and blaring pop music continued right on despite the inclement weather, proving the fortitude of a Cannes red carpet, and that one doesn’t question Luhrmann theatrical touches.
After the screening, a party offered not only an unusual premiere redo but also a study in cultural contrasts. Compared to the Plaza festivities, the gathering Wednesday was more modern; instead of the intimate confines of a century-old room at a Manhattan landmark, for instance, an awning with the word Gatsby ushered guests into a large, club-like room at the end of a pier.
The rain continued to pound as soaked tuxedos and cocktail dresses sidestepped puddles and wrung out their hair at the party’s bars and tables. Overhead, tinsel came down in sheets too, at one point framing a disco ball roughly the size of East Egg. There was a somewhat lower proportion of flapper-wear among the crowd than New York, and rather than a Jazz Age-attired master of ceremonies welcoming guests to the party of “Mr. Gatsby” and creating the illusion of a 1920s bacchanal, as there was Stateside, the French party went with a more modern accouterment: a DJ.
That very 21st century of party offerings -- a photo booth -- was also present, as attendees could recline on a black couch with the word “Gatsby’ scrawled behind them and take a photo that was projected on a screen in a separate room. That room, incidentally, featured numerous Samsung Galaxy phone hawkers. More background than fixture at the last party, the phone people at Cannes had a counter set up for giving demonstrations on the latest in shimmering mobile technology.
The two events did have one element in common in Florence Welch, of Florence and the Machine and “Gatsby” soundtrack fame. She started a one-woman dance party in New York and sang a song in Cannes, proving that when it comes to celebrating Fitzgerald, only outgoing red-haired pop-rock chanteuses will do.
If the film’s stars were present, they were well removed from this reporter and the party’s main floor in an upstairs VIP area. As this is Cannes, there was a fetching young group angling to gain entry to said area. Also, as this was Cannes, there were stoic, well-dressed bouncers denying their bids.
The party’s start time was also a little French: instead of beginning after the main screening at 8 or 9 p.m., events didn’t get underway until just past 11:30. Jay Gatsby would have been proud.
The very fact that “Gatsby” was at Cannes highlighted a Cannes Film Festival whose organizers were happy, at least this year, to put glitz ahead of exclusivity. Opening night is usually a world premiere. Recent openers have included the first showings of “Midnight in Paris” and “Moonrise Kingdom.” But organizers thought they’d rather have the hoopla, even in sequel form, and went with “Gatsby” after its critical and commercial fate was sealed upon its U.S. release last weekend.
The movie’s mixed review response gave it a slightly different air than other openers in Cannes, where judgment had still not been handed down. Commercial success, however, helped put smiles on Warner Bros. executives’ faces. The coming weeks of global release will help determine whether they stay there.
Back under the tinsel, the party was winding down with a pair of iconic musical odes to “Gatsby’s” hometown locale, demonstrating that we may beat our boats against the current, but we are borne back ceaselessly to Jay-Z and Frank Sinatra.
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