It may have a terrible track record for promoting female directors, for enforcing anarchic rules about high heels on the red carpet and for championing questionable characters, but it’s hard not to be won over by the spectacle of The Cannes Film Festival.

Look! There’s Bill Murray. Tilda Swinton. Bella Hadid. Elton John. Eva Longoria. They’re all here this year under the giant image of the late French director Agnes Varda shooting her first feature film, La Pointe Courte (1955) as the official poster.

Cannes Film Festival official poster 2019 featuring director Agnes Varda shooting her first feature film

There’s something about the old school glamour of the French Riviera, the sparkle of the Cote d’Azur, even in the rain, the super yachts, the red carpet couture, the languid privilege of the beautiful and the blessed. I dare you to look away?

On Saturday, 18th of May, the Irish had their moment with the premiere of Vivarium directed by Lorcan Finnegan and produced by Fantastic Films.

The movie stars Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) and Imogen Poots (I Kill Giants) as a young couple who follow a mysterious estate agent and get trapped in a strange housing development. Celtic Tiger anyone?

Vivarium after-party, Cannes: Actor Eanna Hardwicke, Director Lorcan Finnegan, Actor Jesse Eisenberg and Exquisite’s Aisling O’Loughlin Image: Barbara McCarthy Photos

The Irish could be found at Nikki Beach and then Long Beach on the Croisette talking movies and mingling at a reception hosted by Screen Ireland.

It’s all happenin’ in Cannes this year after a shaky post #Metoo run in 2018 when chief rabble rouser Cate Blanchett, as head of the jury, staged a protest against the obvious gender bias of Cannes. Agnes Varda by her side, as part of an 82 women demonstration.

Cannes Film Festival: Cate Blanchette and the late Agnes Varda leading an 82 strong protest at Cannes 2018

Eighty two symbolising the number of female directors ever nominated in comparison to 1,645 male nominees for the festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or competition. The two time Oscar winning actress said, ‘Women are not a minority in the world, yet the current state of the industry says otherwise’. This year there are four female directors out of 21 up for the top prize, in fairness reflective of the number of female submissions. Among them, French Senegalese director Mati Diop, who has become the first ever woman of African descent in the Cannes competition with her directorial debut, Atlantique. What the what? The first ever? Clearly Cannes has a long way to go.

Cannes Film Festival 2019: Mati Diop’s Atlantique breaking new ground in this year’s competition

The situation has been exacerbated this year with the choice of French movie legend Alain Delon for an honorary Palme d’Or. An Care2 online petition with 19,000 signatures has accused the 83 year-old of being violent towards women, while branding him a “racist, homophobic misogynist”.

Controversial choice: Alain Delon received an honoury Palme d’Or despite an online petition

Cannes director Thierry Fremaux responded: “Alain Delon is allowed to think what he likes. It’s complicated to judge someone through today’s lens, and judge things that were said and that happened years ago. We’re not giving him the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Cannes Film Festival 2019 director Thierry Frémaux

Fremaux is not one for bowing to popular sentiment, banning Netflix from participating last year for not adhering to the French practice of allowing a 36 month exclusive window to cinema showings.

Instead Netflix took their prized project, Roma, to The Venice Film Festival where Alfonso Cuaron won the Golden Lion.

This year, with so many stars back on the red carpet – Look! There’s Sly Stallone! –  the streaming debacle has been pushed under the radar, for now.

One thing we can rely on is more controversy with Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood sure to split opinion, 25 years since Pulp Fiction won the Palme d’Or with its quirky brand of over the top violence.