The Cannes Film Festival Is Back, Lavish and Maskless (Despite the Rules)

Enforcing that rule is another matter entirely. Before the start of “Annette” — an esoteric musical with songs from the band Sparks — three-fourths of the moviegoers around me had removed their masks, and the ushers simply shrugged. (There’s a reason the French gave us the phrase “laissez-faire.”) After the movie ended, as the standing ovation went into its fifth minute, Driver and his director, Leos Carax, both lit up cigarettes inside the theater.

Attendees were then taken to crowded shuttle buses and transported to the opening-night dinner at Palm Beach, which got underway after midnight. Instead of the bustling dance parties that usually end each evening in Cannes, the festival has encouraged a switch to dinners, which are ostensibly more spread apart, civilized and Covid-safe.

But in practice, all that up-close hobnobbing is still the same, even if it doesn’t happen on a dance floor. As I entered, Mirren was leaning over a banquette to greet Gyllenhaal; later, Mirren and her husband, Taylor Hackford, plopped down next to Andie MacDowell. At a table nearby, Foster chatted in fluent French with a slew of well-wishers, while Bong embraced his “Parasite” lead Song Kang Ho, who is also serving on this year’s Cannes jury.

The director Pedro Almodóvar spent most of the night in deep conversation with Chastain, though he and I spoke long enough for Almodóvar to praise Driver’s committed performance in “Annette” — “He always takes such risks!” — and to promise that his next film, the Penélope Cruz drama “Parallel Mothers,” would be out stateside in December. “You will see it soon,” he said — though not at Cannes, where his last movie, “Pain and Glory,” premiered.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped by the “Annette” after-party. Though Driver had beat a hasty retreat after the film’s premiere (he caught a flight back to Cleveland to shoot Noah Baumbach’s “White Noise”), the room was full of drunken revelers anyway.

As they shouted over the music and clinked champagne glasses, I realized that while Gyllenhaal was still adjusting to the full-on crush of Cannes, plenty of people here needed no such grace period. After a year and a half of Zoom and sweatpants, these film professionals were all too eager to get back to the business of pleasure.

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