Cannes: Woody Allen Endures Roman Polanski Rape Joke at Opening Ceremony

Chris Gardner/@chrissgardner

Ill-timed gag draws gasps from the shocked opening-night crowd.

Laurent Lafitte, a French comedian and the master of ceremonies at the opening night of the Cannes Film Festival, on Wednesday night caused gasps with a comment about festival favorite Woody Allen before the premiere of Cafe Society.

While addressing Allen, the master of ceremonies said: "You've shot so many of your films here in Europe and yet in the U.S. you haven't even been convicted of rape."

Attendees took the comment as a reference to Roman Polanski, who lives and works in Europe, escaping the U.S.’ bid for extradition from Poland for charges dating back to the 1970s related to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Lafitte appears in Isabelle Huppert's Cannes competition entry Elle, directed by Paul Verhoeven, a rape drama. He has also been in such films as French divorce comedy Daddy or Mommy.

"Thank you for coming tonight sir," the master of ceremonies also said to big applause. "Although it's the least you could do. Your film isn't even in competition. What's the worst that could happen? .... Or that it's not as good as Manhattan."

The first-time Cannes MC also mocked Paris Hilton in his intro, saying: "Ah, the festival [de] Cannes. I've dreamed of it since I was a small child ... until I saw Paris Hilton walk the red carpet." The joke didn't draw any reaction.

Lafitte also made a touching statement about the Paris attacks. "Since the attacks in Paris, we have been told we are at war," he said. "It will take a Gus Van Sant with Elephant or a Roberto Benigni with Life Is Beautiful to help us understand and move forward ... We are waiting for ours ... This is what cinema does."

Catherine Deneuve came out on stage spontaneously during the opening monologue and kissed the MC on the mouth. The kiss lasted about 10 seconds.

Before the opening screening, a French group sang a "Purple Rain" cover in French, with the crowd clapping along and purple lights lighting the stage. Prince spent a good deal of time on the French Riviera, filming Under the Cherry Moon at the La Victorine Studios in Nice 30 years ago.