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Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie Pull a Fast One at Cannes

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Brad Pitt and Angelina JolieAP

Brangelina Pulls a Fast One at Cannes

In homage to the movie they debuted in last night, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney pulled a fast one on the Cannes Film Festival following the premiere of "Ocean's Thirteen."

Imitating the plot of their movie, in which their gang pulls several scams on a casino czar (Al Pacino) to avenge their pal (Elliott Gould), the pair and pals did an elaborate bait and switch that demonstrated agility and duplicity.

Invited guests to the black-tie premiere of "Ocean's Thirteen" also received tickets at an after-party at a posh, secluded club near the Port Canto sponsored by Martini.

But when they arrived at the party, expecting the cast and a dinner, the guests were surprised to discover they had been "had." Everyone from "Ocean's Thirteen" had already come in, taken pictures on the red carpet and left for an undisclosed location. Guests ranging from New Line Cinema's Bob Shaye to Oscar nominee Djimon Honsou and famed cinematographer Ed Lachman were left wondering what had happened to the guests of honor.

It was brilliant subterfuge on the part of the "Ocean's" gang, who were obviously demonstrating their ability to make the movie real.

To add to the confusion, and make their getaway so much easier, the "Ocean's" crowd locked out a number of the invited guests from an interior area, turning several hundred formally dressed invite-holders — who presumably hadn't eaten in the eight or so hours since lunch — into a snarling mass.

For some time, the locked-out group was pressed up against large glass doors and were turned back by rude French security guards. One woman who actually made it inside was reportedly "tackled" by a guard and thrown out again.

She wasn't missing anything, of course, because inside the confines of the party, cold pizza was the main menu item. This was designed to take the emphasis away from the fact that inside there was almost no one famous to see anyway. C'est formidable!

Meanwhile, the "Ocean's Thirteen" gang, including Pitt, Jolie, Clooney, Ellen Barkin and a few famous friends, escaped to the far away Hotel du Cap's Eden Roc restaurant in Cap d'Antibes. There they were able to congratulate themselves on a job well done. Not since "The China Syndrome" managed to occur around the time of Three Mile Island had a movie pushed the limits of life imitating art so well. Edward Bernays, the long dead "father" of PR, would have been proud.

The quick turn of events was brilliant in so many ways. It underscored with subtlety the creative dichotomies of the Pitt-Jolie philosophy of populist charity juxtaposed by imperious privacy.

In Africa, for example, the couple ordered journalists thrown out of Namibia while at the same time donating money to orphanages. They advocated health care for all while using a private Beverly Hills doctor for the birth of their child. Later, they called a press conference and sat on the dais with the country's former dictator.

In India, of course, the couple continued to employ this philosophy when their bodyguards sparked fights with locals and their limousines got into auto accidents while Jolie filmed "A Mighty Heart."

The end-of-the-night ruse came after a spectacular premiere on the red carpet outside the Palais du Croisette. You must actually see a Palais premiere to understand the chaos and mayhem that surrounds it. Hundreds of the French dress in formalwear and carry signs printed in uncertain English begging for an extra ticket to the premiere. They also pester ticket holders aggressively and there is a constant fear of pick-pocketing.

Hungry photographers swirl though the unmediated masses of tourists and guests — all crisscrossing each other in a simultaneous frenzy — hoping that black-tie outfitted civilians will pay them for instant pictures.

In the meantime, the French police — never at a loss for good humor — give misdirection in salute to cinema comedies of the past, hoping to see well-dressed women in high heels trip over their gowns.

Last night, into this wild scene, came "Ocean's Thirteen" with its tabloid cast. Spectators lined balconies and hung out the windows across the narrow Croisette passage facing the Palais in order to catch a glimpse of their Hollywood heroes.

In some directions, the crowds were 10 deep. It reminded us that the French a) love Hollywood and b) only have a few TV stations, so they are outside much of the time.

Nevertheless, the "Ocean's Thirteen" premiere caused such a din of applause and screams from fans that the cast probably felt emboldened to pull off one final scam before returning to their own worlds. They did so with aplomb.

Bravo! Mission accomplished.