Entertainment

Woody Allen opens Cannes, as son resurrects sex abuse questions

The 69th Cannes Film Festival has opened amid stormy skies, heightened security and the premiere of a new Woody Allen film that prompted a letter from his son Ronan Farrow questioning the festival's and the media's continued embrace of the director.

Ronan Farrow calls silence over sexual abuse allegations against father 'dangerous'

Actress Blake Lively, from left, director Woody Allen, Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg pose for photographers upon arrival at the screening of the film Cafe Society and the Opening Ceremony at the 69th international film festival, Cannes, France, on May 11, 2016. (Joel Ryan/AP)

The 69th Cannes Film Festival opened Wednesday with stormy skies, heightened security, the premiere of a new Woody Allen film and resurrected sex abuse allegations against the 80-year-old director regarding his adoptive daughter, Dylan.

Allen brought his 1930s Hollywood romance Café Society, along with stars Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, to Cannes to kick off the French Riviera festival.

But just minutes before their press conference, a column by Allen's son Ronan Farrow was posted online by The Hollywood Reporter in which he reiterated sexual abuse allegations against his father. Farrow questioned Cannes' continued embrace of Allen and chastised the press, who he said don't ask "the tough questions."

Woody Allen's son Ronan Farrow wrote an editorial in The Hollywood Reporter, posted minutes before Cafe Society's debut at Cannes, condemning the press for its silence on sexual abuse allegations against the director. (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)
"That kind of silence isn't just wrong. It's dangerous," wrote Farrow. "It sends a message to victims that it's not worth the anguish of coming forward. It sends a message about who we are as a society, what we'll overlook, who we'll ignore, who matters and who doesn't."

No reporters asked Allen about Farrow's column at the press conference and Allen's publicist didn't return an email requesting comment Wednesday. Allen has previously denied that he molested Dylan, allegations first leveled in 1992 when Dylan was seven and Allen and Mia Farrow were in the midst of a bitter divorce.

The high-profile placement of Allen's latest comedy as the Cannes opener was perhaps too glaring a spotlight not to escape controversy. Allen, a Cannes regular, came to the festival with 2015's Irrational Man, although that film played in a less prestigious slot out of competition.

Heightened security after Paris attacks

The famed festival is coming six months after the Paris terrorist attacks that killed 130 people and as France remains in a state of emergency. Security has been elevated, with increased bag checks and bomb sweeps. Festival president Pierre Lescure says about 500 highly-trained security agents will be on guard around Cannes' red-carpeted headquarters, the Palais des Festivals.

Opening day was still a starry affair. Along with Stewart, Café Society brought Blake Lively to the Croisette. Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick also serenaded festival-goers with an acoustic performance of Cyndi Lauper's True Colors in a promotion for the upcoming DreamWorks Animations release Trolls, in which they voice the main characters.

Actor Justin Timberlake arrives on the red carpet. (Joel Ryan/AP)

"We are Anna and Garfunkel," Timberlake announced.

Palme d'Or panel revealed

The jury that will decide Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or award was also introduced. Led by Mad Max director George Miller, it includes Donald Sutherland, Kirsten Dunst and Mads Mikkelsen. Over the next 10 days, they will screen an especially strong slate of films vying for the Palme, including new releases from Pedro Almodovar, Jim Jarmusch, Asghar Farhadi, Andrea Arnold, Sean Penn and the Dardenne brothers.

But the day effectively belonged to Allen, even though Café Society drew weak reviews. In the film, Eisenberg stars as a Bronx nebbish trying to make it in Hollywood, where his uncle (Steve Carell) is a powerful agent. He becomes smitten with his uncle's assistant, played by Stewart.

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      Allen, who's also prepping a six-episode series for Amazon, said he doesn't feel old.

      "I'm 80. I can't believe it," said Allen, speaking to reporters with a hearing aid. "I'm so youthful, agile, nimble, spry, mentally alert that it's astonishing."

      Café Society, which opens in theatres this summer, is the latest in a long list of films by Allen to feature an affair between an older man (Carell) and a younger woman (Stewart). Asked if he would ever consider making a movie about a 50-something woman who gets together with a 20-something man, Allen called it "a perfectly valid comic idea."

      "I just don't have any material on it, anything really to draw on," said Allen. "I wouldn't hesitate if I had a good story."

      Watch LIVE video of the Cannes red carpet and press conferences here.