Ewan McGregor and Carmen Chaplin

Last year at Cannes, the magazine covers were splashed with the face of Trainspotting's Ewan McGregor, and the young Scottish actor is back again this year for The Serpent’s Tail, a period piece described as The Draughtsman’s Contract meets Emma. McGregor, extending his range maybe, plays a 17th century Dutch landscape gardener hired by industrialist Richard E. Grant, who impresses Greta Scacchi, the lady of the house, with more than“ his green fingers. He stars alongside Carmen Chaplin (below) Charlin Chaplin’s granddaughter and writer Eugene O’Neill’s great-granddaughter. The film was bumped up into competition at the last moment when Zhang Yimou’s Keep Cool was banned from screening by the Chinese authorities.

Billy Connolly

Currently packing them in as a stand-up comedian, Billy Connolly has finally won the film critics’ respect with his turn as John Brown, Queen Victoria’s Scottish attendant. The BBC Scotland- made Mrs Brown is competing in the festival’s Un Certain Regard strand second to, but often more interesting than the Official Competition. The buzz has been larger than a swarm of angry bees since US independent company Miramax bought the film for American distribution, promising to give it the same push for Oscars as they did this year with The English Patient. Dame Judi Dench plays Queen Victoria, obsessed with mourning the late Prince Albert, who is brought out of her widow’s gloom by the no-nonsense Highlander. Brown and Her Majesty remained constant companions until his death, but despite scandal- stirring in the press, it is reckoned their genuine love was never consummated. The film is due for a big gala bash at Edinburgh in August.

Johnny Depp

Revealing his talents on both sides of the camera, Johnny Depp makes his directorial debut with The Brave, starring his big in every respect buddy Marlon Brando. The two actors appeared together in Don Juan Demarco and have been close ever since, Looks-Wise, Depp makes the most of the Native American element in his own blood to play a young man whose only means of saVing his family from poverty in a make-shift Village is to enter into a Faustian pact in which he Will be paid thousands of pounds to be murdered by a group of white men

Cannes diary

In Cannes the stars are twinkling day and night.

FIFTY YEARS OF the Cannes Film Festival the golden anniversary of the silver screen. The Riviera resort is overflowing with a cast of thousands, all celebrating the biggest stars and greatest films of the post-war era. Inside the Palais, the Festival’s main cinema, stairways are decorated with blown-up posters of past Palme D’Or winners The Third Man, La Dolce Vita, Apocalypse Now. The names of the filmmakers are legendary Antonioni, Welles, Kurosawa.

Walk along the seafront boulevard to the prestigious Carlton Hotel, where countless stars have laid their gorgeous heads, and the doorway is dwarfed by a neon-lit phrase that shows another side of the Festival. 'Huh- huh, you said oui oui’ oh yes, Beavis and Butt-head also do Cannes

Here is where sell meets celluloid. The tackiness occasionally spills over into official events too. On Saturday, the new wave of British talent which in translation somehow became ’anglais’ lined up at a red carpet, wave-at-the- crowd event. Scots Robert Carlyle and Spud-u-like Ewen Bremner had been invited to stand alongside the likes of Kate Winslet and Kate Beckinsale, but decided not to show. Maybe they reckoned their radge credibility would be damaged by the offer of a visit for all participants to a summer polo match attended by the Queen.

The Scots contingent held its own, as ever. Bagpipes and kilts joined the melee as Glasgow’s Lord Provost Pat Lally came to town to launch the Glasgow Film Office on Tuesday. The new body aims to make the city a more film-friendly environment, by drawing attention to locations and industry resources. Other Scottish newcomers being introduced to the cinema world were the industry’s all- encompassing agency, Scottish Screen, and the Sundance Institute-style filmmaking workshop, Moonstone (see Agenda). As the whisky flowed at a Scottish party later that day, the Braveheart spirit was kept alive as Angus MacFadyen, who played Robert The Bruce in Mel Gibson’s epic, mingled with the mob.

In a year when the column inches were fought over by the world’s top cinema legends and a British all-girl, chart-topping group, it's good to know there is a corner of France that will always be Scottish. At least in May. So, tartan at the ready, come on down because the Spice is right.

16—29 May 1997 THE usr 19