Baz Luhrmann opens Cannes with The Great Gatsby

The lavish Cannes Film Festival gets underway today with a suitably extravagant opening night film: Baz Luhrmann's big-budget adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

Stars, filmmakers head to southern France for lavish annual fest

The lavish Cannes Film Festival gets underway today with a suitably extravagant opening night film: Baz Luhrmann's big-budget adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

The Cannes kick-off spotlight marks a creative homecoming of sorts for the Australian director, who burst onto the international scene after his first film — the warm, independent 1992 drama Strictly Ballroom — won a spot in the festival's sidebar Un Certain Regard program, after he struggled to interest movie financiers at home.

Luhrmann recently recalled his first trip to La Croisette.

"A security guard leans over and says to me, 'Monsieur, from this moment on, your life will never been the same again,'" the filmmaker recalled. "That is the beginning of my life in film."

Luhrmann, who later opened the famed French film fest with his 2002 extravaganza Moulin Rouge, returns to the Cannes red carpet on Wednesday night with his 3D adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel — which earned the prominent slot usually reserved for world premieres. The film has already opened in North America.

Along with the Gatsby crew — including Luhrmann, stars Leonardo Di Caprio and Carey Mulligan and soundtrack maestro Jay-Z — famous faces set to grace the Cannes red carpet over the next few weeks include Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, Hollywood heavyweights Michael Douglas, Matt Damon and Ryan Gosling and filmmakers such as Sofia Coppola and Steven Spielberg.

The latter was tapped as head of this year's main competition jury, which chooses the festival's top honour: the Palme d'Or. His jurors include fellow Oscar-winners Ang Lee, Nicole Kidman and Christoph Waltz.

Steven Soderbergh's Liberace biopic Behind the Candelabra, Joel and Ethan Coen's Inside Llewyn Davis, Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur and The Past, directed by Iranian Oscar-winner Asghar Farhadi, are among the anticipated films screening in competition at Cannes.

Canadian selections include Quebec director Chloé Robichaud's Sarah préfère la course (Sarah Prefers the Race), competing in the innovative Un Certain Regard program, and Saskatoon filmmaker Jefferson Moneo's short film Going South, which is screening in the Cinéfondation lineup. Canadian filmmakers are also set to participate in a Telefilm-sponsored program highlighting Canadian projects.

Cannes program screening carefully restored classics will include Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo, Jacques Demy's The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and the Canadian film The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, based on the Mordecai Richler novel.

The Cannes Film Festival continues through May 26.