France, May 15 -- Drops of rain fell as guests, stars and jury members posed on the red carpet in front of the Palais des Festivals for the opening night.

But it wasn't enough to dampen the spirits of the creme de la creme who filled the plush velvet seats of the Louis-Lumiere theatre for a ceremony simultaneously broadcast in over 700 cinemas across France.

At 7.15pm sharp, the hostess of the soiree, Camille Cottin - of Call My Agent fame - appeared on stage, in a long black gown, slightly breathless from all the excitement.

"You may not be aware of this, but you are about to enter a parallel universe called the Cannes Vortex...where you plunge into darkness to find light", she smiled mischievously, accompanied by the Worakls orchestr...