Cannes-do attitude as Scotland's film folk head south

IT IS the place where Brigitte Bardot turned from starlet to sex kitten overnight, at which Meryl Streep gave 48 interviews in a single day and where the Scottish director, Lynne Ramsay, first marked her card, when her short film Small Deaths, won the jury prize eight years ago.

The Cannes Film Festival gets under way tomorrow, and if some critics have suggested the 65th event lacks the stardust of its predecessors, there will be enough magic in the air to transform the careers of a handful of hopeful actors and directors.

Topping the bill for Scotland is David MacKenzie’s Young Adam, which features in the "Uncertain Regard" category, one of a handful of British features at the 12-day event. It stars Ewan McGregor, Peter Mullan, Tilda Swinton and Emily Mortimer, and its backers believe it can confirm the director’s reputation, as much as it enhances the careers of its biggest box office stars.

Others on the brink of a career in the movies - like young Scottish director Becky Brazil - have the opportunity to show short films. Ms Brazil’s Best Man, has won praise at home; Cannes can promote her talent, just as it established Ms Ramsay.

For one recently-established production company, Saltire, there is a chance to show a first feature, Man Dancin’, starring Alex Ferns - the actor formerly known as Trevor from EastEnders - who gets a big-screen break.

Saltire’s founder, Peter Barber-Fleming, reckons that for all its garish image and its high hotel prices, the French festival is indispensable.

"Cannes is very confused, mad like a huge rugby scrum," he said. "But it serves a dual purpose. You show your film - there are 200 screenings a day - you fly down your artists and you put them on show.

"You do that because it is also a market where people arrive from the US and the Far East, people who can help you raise money for your next film."

Two other Scottish companies are represented, Out My Pocket, who have an hour-long film, Stramash, and Palm Tree Productions, with two shorts, the Bone Hunter and Finding Fortune. Steve McIntyre, chief executive of the publicly-funded agency, Scottish Screen, has no doubt about the benefits of the event, despite its schizophrenic nature.

"There’s a sense of dread and excitement before you go," he said. "There’s that glitzy thing the critics reflect as they trot up the red carpet, but there’s the market too, the dawn-to-dusk meetings, the festival that a lot of our companies are going to, and its gruelling hard work."

This year’s festival is a landmark for some established stars. In McGregor’s case, Young Adam is a first Scottish feature since Trainspotting established his reputation in 1996.

And for Mullan, this year’s event will be doubly important for his starring role in Emily Young’s Kiss of Life, in which he will hope to reprise his 1998 best actor award, won for My Name is Joe.

Among the most eagerly awaited films this year are Lars von Trier’s Dogville, which stars Nicole Kidman, on the run in small-town America, and Clint Eastwood’s thriller Mystic River, starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Tim Robbins.

Peter Greenaway is the most prominent director represented from the British film industry. His The Tulse Luper Suitcases is the first in a proposed trilogy about the history of uranium.