CANNES, France -- Ron Howard said don't see his movie, The Da Vinci Code; a nun kissed the red carpet and recited a rosary; and a man dressed like a Louis XIV dandy with cats perched on his arm entertained strollers along the Croisette.
Just another opening day at the Cannes Film Festival, which yesterday welcomed the world for its 59th edition.
Less-than-divine early reviews of The Da Vinci Code had director Howard turning the other cheek during an afternoon press conference. He said he expected more "positive adjectives" to accompany the religious thriller before its U.S. release tomorrow.
But earlier he made a suggestion that isn't in the publicity handbook: "There's no question that the film is likely to be upsetting to some people," Howard said. "My advice, since virtually no one has really seen the movie yet, is to not go see the movie if you think you're going to be upset. Wait. Talk to somebody who has seen it."
Howard and Co. are of course hoping that everybody else not offended by the theory that Christ married Mary Magdalene and began a blood line that lasts to this day will pack theaters.
The Da Vinci Code refused to shove its market-friendly controversy under the red carpet that Howard, Tom Hanks and co-star Audrey Tautou walked on before the premiere. Vatican officials have deemed blasphemous the adaptation of Dan Brown's bestseller about a professor (Hanks) attracting unwanted attention for tracing Christ's hidden legacy.
Howard defended Code as a tribute to curiosity but kept his beliefs a mystery. "I'm not going to share my conclusion," he said.
Hanks called it "emotional fiction" and mentioned his wife's Greek Orthodox background. "Our sins have been taken away, not our brains," he said of the fierce reaction to the movie by some.
The main players crackled with bonhomie at the dais yesterday. But Ian McKellen got off the Holy Grail of lines. He said he thought the Catholic Church should be happy because the film offered proof that "Jesus was not gay."
The evening also provided an early look at William Friedkin's stage-to-screen adaptation of Bug, about a lonely woman (Ashley Judd) who invites herself in to the delusions of a war vet: Lots of tin foil, No Pest Strip and self-performed dental surgery. We'll leave the rest to your imagination.
Ron Dicker wrote this article for the Hartford Courant.