Quentin Tarantino danced his way up the red carpet Wednesday as he sent a squad of Nazi-killing Inglourious Basterds into Cannes on a mission to capture the film festival s top prize.
The cult US director arrived flanked by Brad Pitt, star of his new movie, and Pitt s wife Angelina Jolie for a star-studded gala screening of the 12-day festival s most keenly-awaited film.
He and French actress Melanie Laurent launched with aplomb into the dance routine made famous by John Travolta in Tarantino s Pulp Fiction, which won him the Palme d Or top prize here in 1994.
Tarantino is hoping to repeat that triumph on Sunday when the 2009 prize is handed to one of the 20 films from around the globe in the running for the coveted gong.
Festival-goers at the red-carpet screening gave a film a highly enthusiastic welcome, giving the director and cast a 10-minute standing ovation.
It s the power of cinema that s going to bring down the Third Reich! said a buoyant Tarantino earlier after a preview of the Basterds, which displays his trademark mix of snappy dialogue, extreme violence, quirky humor and cinematic allusions.
In the genre-blurring Jewish revenge tale – with David Bowie on the soundtrack – Pitt plays Lieutenant Aldo who heads a squad of Jewish-American soldiers behind enemy lines in German-occupied wartime France.
Aldo tells his men to bring him the scalps of 100 Nazis each, and vows to terrorize the German army with the disemboweled, dismembered and disfigured bodies we leave behind us.
A parallel storyline involves a Jewish girl bent on revenge after seeing her entire family being wiped out by the Nazis.
Hitler, Goebbels and other members of the Nazi top brass appear in the movie which culminates in an outlandish plot to take out the German leadership at the Paris premiere of a Nazi propaganda film.
It s obviously outrageous! Pitt told reporters after the press screening.
Seventy percent of the film is acted in French or German but 46-year-old Tarantino seemed unconcerned that US audiences might be put off by subtitles.
I am not an American filmmaker, I make movies for the planet Earth and Cannes is the place that represents that, said the director whose career took off with the 1991 film Reservoir Dogs.
Initial press reviews online were mixed.
Quentin Tarantino stormed back to the scene of his greatest triumph today, said The Times of London.
But The Hollywood Reporter disagreed in a review headlined: A surprisingly tame war movie from the king of pulp fiction?
History will not repeat itself for Quentin Tarantino, it opined. Inglourious Basterds merely continues the string of disappointments in this year s competition.
The ensemble cast includes Mike Myers, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, the Irish actor Michael Fassbender, and Austrian Christoph Waltz, whose performance as an SS colonel steals the show even from A-lister Pitt.
The orthographically-challenged title of Tarantino s film borrows its name from a 1978 Italian flick called Inglorious Bastards.
Tarantino refused to say why he had misspelled the words, saying it was an artistic device that would be ruined if he had to spell out its meaning.
Cinema itself is a theme of Tarantino s movie, as it is in Broken Embraces by Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, another of the contenders for the Cannes trophy.
A French prison drama, The Prophet, was being rated as one of the favorites for the Palme by film trade magazines on Wednesday.
A period romance titled Bright Star, by New Zealand director Jane Campion, was also getting warm praise, as was Ken Loach s film starring French football legend Eric Cantona.
The blood and guts seen in Tarantino s movie – notably close-up shots of Nazis being scalped by Basterds – have been matched in many of the other films vying for the top prize.
A thriller by Lars Von Trier ends with a shot of a clitoris being sliced off, while Korea s Park Chan-wook offers a blood-guzzling vampire priest in Thirst.