The 46th American Film Festival opened on Friday in the northern French resort town of Deauville. There were no Hollywood stars because of the coronavirus epidemic. But a host of home-grown talent, led by jury president Vanessa Paradis, along with a galaxy of political figures did show up, smiling behind their obligatory masks.
Nine films which should have been shown at the Covid-cancelled Cannes festival in May will now get their first French screenings at Deauville. But you'll need to be quick to get seats. All festival venues have been forced to reduce their capacity by 30 percent because of emergency health regulations.
Festival director, Bruno Barde, is inclined to look on the bright side.
"There are masks, there is social distancing, there's disinfectant gel. But the crucial thing is that this festival is actually happening.
"People are going to laugh, people are going to weep. The festival is a gesture of hope, of life."
Culture minister Roselyne Bachelot and Cannes boss Thierry Frémaux echoed those positive sentiments.
No masks please, we're famous
The red carpet arrival of the glittering classes was watched by several hundred masked spectators, notably fewer than in previous years according to journalists. The stars were allowed to make their entrances without masks.
Health measures were described as less drastic than for the Mostra in Venice, which opened on Wednesday with a high wall screening the red carpet from public view.
Fifteen full-length American films are in competition for the Deauville festival prize. Eight of them were directed by women. Only two of the competing movies, "Last Words" directed by Jonathan Nossiter, and "Kajillionaire" by 2005 Cannes Caméra d'Or winner Miranda July, have so far been slotted for commercial release because of the Covid epidemic.
More than 70 films will be shown over the festival's ten days.
Normal attendances run to about 60,000. By late last week, there were no seats remaining for screenings tonight, next Friday and Saturday, or for Wednesday.