By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 13, 2009 at 4:19AM
Cannes master promoter Thierry Fremaux knows what he is doing: the photo taken from the Debussy stage of the Cannes press corps wearing 3-D glasses will be seen everywhere. (They had to be returned.) I started out the morning in tears during Up , which as Disney chairman Dick Cook puts it, is Pixar's "most emotional film." Co-writers Bob Peterson and Pete Docter took the idea of an old guy who travels in a house carried aloft by balloons to find a lost South American paradise, and worked it over for a good two years before it passed enough muster to go into voice casting and animation.
Whenever I listen to John Lasseter talk, I wish that everyone in Hollywood would take some of his wisdom to heart. The Pixar approach is to never produce anything unless it will stand the test of time as a good movie. And they haven't delivered one dud yet. They're ten for ten. This one challenges conventional wisdom about subjects (an old man and a chubby boyscout), killing off beloved characters, and lingering over slow moments. Lasseter paid homage to Japanese anime auteur Miyazaki for inspiring him to occasionally take it slow.
Lasseter and Docter admitted that on every Pixar film there are scenes that get worked over and over until they finally cohere--and others that are smooth as butter from the start--at Pixar they call them tentpoles on which to hang the rest of the movie. In Up they include the magical opener covering the history of the marriage of old man Carl (Ed Asner), and the sequence when the balloons pick up the house and sail over the city.
When the Pixar team finally licked their most troublesome scene in South America, which was crucial, they went back and planted details and plot points to lead up to it. Doing a shot over 30 or 40 times is not unusual.
After the press conference, the Up group appeared on the Carlton Pier for a photo op that went awry when the special effects guys who had rigged a 40-foot house attached to a giant air balloon (covered by colored balloons) decided that it was too windy to risk having the flimsy house crash and break apart on landing. So the house and the balloons stayed put. The movie itself will not be so grounded and should take off nicely all over the world on May 29. Cook says Disney is aggressively chasing after all audience quadrants. (The segment that might resist is teenage girls.) It wasn't the most glamorous opening nighter, but Up was the best movie the fest has programmed in that slot for a long while. And Cannes can also count on the film being an Oscar contender.
On opening night, young ballerinas in pink tutus lined the Palais red carpet steps as Cannes president Gilles Jacob and fest director Thierry Fremaux stood at the top of the stairs to greet their guests (see Life Magazine's red carpet photos), including Ashwarya Rai and Elizabeth Banks, Isabelle Huppert (who has had an amazing 17 Cannes entries) and her jury (among them Asia Argento, Hanef Kureishi, Robin Wright Penn, Shu Qi) plus Pixar's Ed Catmull, John Lasseter, Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, and famed singer Charles Aznavour, who voices Carl in the French version of Up, and officially declared the 62nd Festival de Cannes "open."