The 61st annual Cannes Film Festival gets under way tonight (Wednesday) with a screening of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles apocalyptic thriller Blindness, about a plague of blindness that sweeps the world. The opening-night film is also competing for the festival's top prize, the Palme d'Or. In recent years, the Cannes jury -- this year's is headed by Sean Penn -- has made selections for the prize that have stunned many film journalists and critics in attendance -- but few have complained about the choices. Writing in today'sInternational Herald Tribune,Joan Dupont commented that the festival "has a way of pumping up the action and planting a surprise" during its final days. Nevertheless, the film receiving the most publicity at the festival is George Lucas and Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull., which is being screened on May 18, four days before its worldwide theatrical bow. In an interview with the Associated Press, producer Frank Marshall said that Cannes provides "the perfect launching pad, because we can bring the whole world there." Meanwhile, today's (Wednesday) Los Angeles Timeswarns that along with the movie world's glitterati the festival sees a swarm of criminals arrive in town each year, although the town actively attempts to play down the annual crime spike. Some victims told the newspaper that they were encouraged by their hotels not to speak publicly about their losses. Emilie George, managing director of France's Memento films, charged that there is an effort afoot "to stifle all sense of any criminal doings during the festival in order to protect its image." But Nikki Parker, who is in the business of protecting images as head of international publicity for PR firm Rogers & Cowan, told the Timesthat she has been robbed -- twice -- at the festival by cat burglars. Even A.O. Scott, the New York Timesfilm critic, said that he was robbed while he slept in his hotel room by burglars who took his wallet and his principal tool of the trade, his laptop computer.


Michael Moore is at work on a sequel to Fahrenheit 9/11, his hit documentary about the Iraq war, with plans to release it next spring when a new administration is installed in the White House. The film is being jointly financed and distributed by Overture Films, a subsidiary of John Malone's Liberty Media, and the Paramount speciality subsidiary Paramount Vantage. The studios said Tuesday that Moore had agreed to a delay in the release so that it would not appear to be taking sides with any candidate. The original film was the most successful documentary ever made -- grossing nearly $220 million worldwide.


Sony's results in its first quarter were something of a mixed bag -- and were not likely to affect the price of the company's shares, which remain in the doldrums, according to analysts. Bloomberg News observed that Sony shares are the worst performers this year among Japan's five largest consumer electronics makers. Sales in its film and home-entertainment division were down 11 percent from a year ago. Its best seller was the DVD version of Spider-Man 3. Profits rose substantially to $277 million, but a lot of those earnings came from such things as sales of real estate and the fact that this year it was not being forced to pay millions of dollars to replace faulty batteries in its laptop computers. Operating income, which measures how a company performs in its core units, remained in the red. A loss of 45 billion was reported.