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Canes 2017: Fest opens with Marion Cotillard as a ghostly drifter

After a spell of opening-night selections from major studios—“Up,” “Robin Hood,” “The Great Gatsby”—the Cannes Film Festival over the past few years has gone for a more Francophilic feel with its kickoff movie.

With Arnaud Desplechin’s French-language "Ismael’s Ghosts" set to open the festival Wednesday night, this marks the third year in four that the opener contains Gallic themes, after 2014’s “Grace of Monaco” and 2016’s "Standing Tall."

Desplechin nabbed the choice spot after a reported tiff with fest programmers saw his "My Golden Days" passed over for the prestigious competition lineup two years ago, ending up instead in the sidebar Director’s For‎tnight section. The French auteur’s new film is itself about the world of filmmakers: Mathieu Amalric stars as Desplechin’s surrogate‎, Ismael, a director working on a spy movie when his long-missing wife Carlotta (Marion Cotillard) abruptly turns up.

A story of haunted love with a dusting of "Adaptation," "Ismael’s Ghost" received a solid if not overwhelming reaction after it debuted for media Wednesday morning. Desplechin ("A Christmas Tale") has long been interested in the entanglements of family over time; he said with this movie he was keen to explore how people over the years can become strangers to their loved ones, and themselves.

“Carlotta has an extraordinary ability to create a myth and then get rid of the myth as soon as it bothers her," the director said of the character at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. "And that’s the pure essence of l‎ife."

The actress added that she was intrigued from the start by the character’s self-perception gaps. "She is mysterious," Cotillard said, "yet at the same time she doesn’t view herself as mysterious‎."

Alan Thicke and his son Robin Thicke in 2012. Documentarian Michael Moore is working on a secret anti-Trump movie. (Brett Carlsen / Getty Images) (Ethan Miller / Getty Images) (Christian K. Lee / Los Angeles Times)