Take the Oscars, douse liberally in champagne, bake along the French Riviera, sprinkle with a pinch of Leo and—voilà!—the 55th Cannes Film Festival. "Oh God! It's like being on another planet," declared star attraction Leonardo DiCaprio, in town to promote his upcoming film Gangs of New York. Cannes first-timer Debra Messing, who shared the limelight with her Hollywood Ending director Woody Allen, admitted to feeling overwhelmed by the star-to-shutterbug ratio at the 12-day festival, which runs through May 26. "It's very festive and very French," she said. "The passion they have is incredible. There is nothing contained about Cannes."

Except perhaps Sir Elton John. "I'm 55; I can do without it," he said as he ducked out after a lobster-and-lamb film-awards dinner for 400 thrown by Chopard jewelers on May 17. A newly 50 Pierce Brosnan, on the other hand, arrived in high Bond style, clad in a Savile Row suit aboard a speedboat with wife Keely. "It's really all about watching people be outrageous," he observed. "It's entertainment."