The festival jury led by Tim Burton took a swipe at Iran by leaving one chair symbolically empty for jailed Iranian director Jafar Panahi as they arrived on the stage for the opening ceremony.
Panahi had been invited to join the jury but has been held in Tehran's Evin prison since March, reportedly because he was making a film about the disputed 2009 Iranian presidential election.
The late entry for competition is from British director Ken Loach. His film Route Irish is a typically topical, taking two security contractors who have been working in Iraq as its subject.
And the blockbuster is the opening film. Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood breaks with the Errol Flynn men-in-tights precedent with a back story that presents Robin as a soldier returning from the crusades in the Middle East to defend a disunited England against the invading French.
Scott cannot attend his moment of Riviera glory because of an injury. But stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett are at the festival, promoting their work and even hinting there may be a sequel.
Scott sees a social message with contemporary implications in the Robin Hood story.
“People have been asking me, would Robin Hood’s aim be political?” he said. “Would he aim at certain figures and try and bring them down? Would his aim be economic, would he be looking at Wall Street and the huge sums of money that people have been patting themselves on the back with and the sub-prime mortgage collapse and all that?”
The star’s answer is no. Perhaps flatteringly to journalists, he thinks Robin would be “realising that the true wealth lies in the dissemination of information”.
But there’s a sting behind the implied compliment.
“My theory would be that if Robin Hood was alive today he would be looking at the monopolisation of the media as the greatest enemy,” Crowe concludes.