CANNES, France — You cannot accuse Cannon Films' chairman Menahem Golan of thinking small, even if his company's stock has dropped to a level that would win most limbo contests on Wall Street.
Last year, Golan opened the Cannes Film Festival with a press conference during which he exhorted reporters to carry the word forth that a new day had dawned for cinema. At one point, he even asked the reporters to pray for Cannon's success.
This year, in the same ballroom in the landmark Carlton Hotel, he told a jam-packed room of international journalists that "this press conference is devoted to the children of the world."
There did appear to be some pain etched against the confidence on Golan's face. In the past, he has reveled in giving blunt, often outrageous answers to a range of questions. Saturday, he refused to discuss anything but Cannon's slate of 16 theatrical live-action fairy tales.
"I am not here to talk about our shares," he said, when a reporter questioned him about Cannon's drop in stock price from a high of about $45 to its current value of about $5. "I am not allowed to talk about our shares and I would appreciate it if you would ask questions about our children's films."
The reporters were happy to oblige. In fact, a couple of them got into a noisy argument with the reporter who had asked the stock question, chas-tising him for his tactlessness.
From then on, Golan and actress Amy Irving, who stars in Cannon's "Rumpelstiltskin" talked about the joy of making the $1.5-million movie, while Irving's brother, David, who directed the picture, mostly just looked on.
Irving, whose husband, Steven Spielberg, had ducked in and out of town from the Spanish set of "Empire of the Sun," said she agreed to do the film because of her brother and because she likes the idea of being in a children's film that 2-year-old Max Spielberg would be able to watch.
"I wouldn't do something that I thought he might go to school and be embarrassed about," Irving said. "We don't let him watch regular television, but he watches movies. He's seen 'The Wizard of Oz' about 150 times."
Irving was swarmed by \o7 paparazzi\f7 after the press conference, creating some anxious moments for the understaffed security in the room. The scene was repeated the next morning when Isabella Rossellini attempted to leave after a long morning of press sessions in the nearby Majestic Hotel.
The irony of Rossellini's playing the lead in "Red Riding Hood" for Cannon after her eye-opening, unself-conscious performance in "Blue Velvet" was not lost on the reporters interviewing her.
Like Irving, Rossellini said, she did it because she wanted to be in a movie that her child--3-year-old Eleptra--will be able to watch.
Rossellini did "Blue Velvet," she said, because the script was so unsettling and because there isn't all that much work out there for actresses.
"If you do one or two movies a year, that is an active actress," she said. "But that means there are months of just sitting around waiting (for another role)."
Despite the split reaction to "Blue Velvet," and to the demeaning nature of her masochistic character in that film, she said it's the role that may have turned the corner for her career.
Rossellini, who was in Cannes for both "Red Riding Hood" and to participate in a tribute to her late father, Roberto Rossellini, said that because of "Blue Velvet" she was offered the woman's lead opposite Ryan O'Neal in Norman Mailer's "Tough Guys Don't Dance."
"It was a historical moment," she said. "It was the first time anyone had ever offered me a role over the telephone."
"Tough Guys," adapted by Mailer from his novel, will have its world premiere at a non-competitive midnight screening here Saturday.
Despite its unstable financial condition, Cannon is the most honored American film company in this year's festival. Two Cannon films--Barbet Schroeder's "Barfly" and Andrei Konchalovsky's "Shy People"--are among three American-financed films competing for the Gold Palm.
The third movie is "The Glass Menagerie" directed by Paul Newman and financed by Cineplex-Odeon, an exhibition and production company just now venturing into distribution.
"The Glass Menagerie" has its gala screening, with Newman and wife Joanne Woodword scheduled to attend, Tuesday night.
Newman will also attend a press conference, in the ballroom of the Grand Palais rather than in the 200-seat press auditorium.
Two days later, the frenzy will be even greater when Prince Charles and Princess Diana show up for an 8,500-table dinner celebrating the 40th anniversary of the festival.
Security in Cannes is noticeably down from a year ago, when fear of Libyan terrorist reprisals against Americans put the town on red alert. But the relaxed security attitude didn't stop one guard from throwing Viscount Charles Althorp--Princess Di's brother--out of a Palais reception over the weekend.
Robert De Niro, to whom the Viscount was reportedly talking, was allowed to stay.
During the first four days of the festival, none of the competition films had sparked much enthusiasm among either the press or the audiences.