PARIS (Reuters) - Frivolity and fur erupted on the sidelines of the Cannes film festival on Friday, as a fluffy white dog named Smurf was bestowed the prestigious “Palm Dog” award for a performance deemed “magnifique” by the event’s organizer.
“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and bitches, welcome to the Palm Dog...” began Toby Rose, who since 2001 has bestowed the award on Cannes’ most worthy four-legged actor.
Dozens of journalists crowded the UK Film Centre for an hour of canine kitsch, including a rousing rendition of “I Bow Wow My Way” (sang to the tune of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”) and even a nod to the British monarchy with “Dog Save the Queen.”
A white and brown dog named James Blond wearing pink sunglasses, a polka dot bow tie and a silver visor was the only actual canine at the event. His owner said he was trying to break into commercials.
Journalists listened to “Who Let the Dogs Out” over the sound system, and viewed photographs of two-legged Cannes celebrities like Ewan McGregor posing with the Palm Bone, a bone-shaped dog toy in the colours of the Union Jack.
“This is the most absurd thing I’ve ever done,” muttered one man as he took his seat.
Rose called his event - a riff on the Cannes film festival’s prestigious Palme d‘Or award - a bit of ”flag-waving for the four-legged.
“The excitement is in no small measure to the high canine quotient across all sections in Cannes which has made the Palm Dog, more than ever, a Cannes conversation topic,” Rose told the crowd, to much giggling.
Indeed, while the top dog last year was Uggie, the Jack Russell co-star of “The Artist” with Jean Dujardin, this year’s festival has seen an array of canine performances, most of them tragic.
Dogs have been shot, beaten or stolen from owners in many of the films premiering at Cannes this year, a fact that has not gone unnoticed by sensitive dog lovers who were nevertheless assured by Rose that no animals were hurt during filming.
“After the dog death by arrow in the opening film it seemed this year was going to be very R.I.P - Rover in Peace,” Rose told his crowd. “Or, in some horrific cases, Rover in Pieces.”
The Grand Jury prize went to a Jack Russell terrier named Billy Bob for his performance in French film “Le Grand Soir.”
“This dog has already behaved like a big star during the shooting. He bit some crew members,” confessed the film studio representative who accepted the award.
This year’s Palm Dog winner, Smurf, gave a tour-de-force performance in the film “Sightseers,” according to director Ben Wheatley.
“Smurf was amazing to work with, he was incredibly professional to work with,” he said. “I salute you, Smurf.”
The Palm Dog award is just the first step for the young dog, according to Rose: “He will have an enormous career,” he said.
Rose began the award ceremony after he recognized the star power in his own dog, Mutley. Today, Rose just has a cat. As for a Cannes Cat award?
“Well, we might do that next, who knows.”
Reporting By Alexandria Sage, editing by Paul Casciato