cannes film festival.jpg
Photograph: EPA/GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO

Leading Spanish film director Pedro Almodovar made his fourth bid for top honours at Cannes on Tuesday but with the screening his new film overshadadowed by revelations that his name was among those mentioned in the Panama papers.

The 66-year-old director told a Cannes press conference marking the festival screening of his new movie, Julieta, that he was one of the least important people mentioned in the Panama papers, which revealed the names of wealthy individuals using tax havens.

It was also the first time that Almodovar had addressed a press conference about the revelations, which emerged last month and claimed that he and his long-term producer and brother Augustin had operated an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands in 1991.

The claims contained in the Panama Papers broke shortly before Julieta, which is about a mother's terrible 10-year wait for a daughter who abandoned her when she turned 18, was due to be rolled out in cinemas across Spain.

The revelations resulted in Almodovar cancelling all press interviews ahead of the release of the movie, which is his 20th.

Almodovar told Tuesday's press conference that he and his brother had not played any major roles in the Panama papers scandal.

"We would not have even been extras in a film," the one-time enfant terrible of global cinema told reporters at the Cannes press conference.

"The Spanish media has treated us as though we are playing leading roles," he said, adding that the claims had not kept the questioner from seeing the film, which is based on three short stories by Canadian Pulitzer winner Alice Munro.

Starring Adriana Ugarte and Emma Suarez, Almodovar's Julieta spans three decades and dates back to the 1980's. "I miss my early years," he said. "I miss the 1980's."

He quoted the American novelist Philip Roth, saying "age is not an illness; it’s a catastrophe.”

But this did not make him nostalgic, Almodovar said, insisting he did not want any biographies written about him. "Please promise," he said to reporters.

"My life is in these 20 films," he said, adding that they included moments from his life. "I identify with all my characters."

Julieta represents a dramatic break from Almodovar's earlier more quirky movies.

Still, the film confirms Almodovar as the master of melodrama, with the movie following his trademark themes of guilt, loneliness, personal identity and obsession against a backdrop of vibrant colours.

"I am the son of technicolor," said Almodovar. "The first movies I remember were in bright colours. I am also a child of the 60's so my training is in pop art.”

With a cinema career stretching back to the 1970's, Almodovar has been a regular in the battle in Cannes for the coveted Palme d'Or for best picture.

In 1999 he won the festival's best director award for the movie All About My Mother and in 2006 he was awarded the best screenplay prize for Volver.

He also opened the 2004 festival with Bad Education. But he has never won the Palme d'Or.

Julieta was also one of three of the 21 competition films that are screening Tuesday.

This included a new film from US actress Kristen Stewart, who stars in a ghost story set in the Paris fashion world from French director Olivier Assayas.

However, Personal Shopper emerged as the first casualty of Cannes notoriously critical audience and was roundly booed at its press screening, with those attending seeing the film as short on ideas and storyline. Still, Stewart's performance in the film won praise from some critics.

Personal Shopper comes two years after the former Twilight series star won plaudits for her role in Assayas' Clouds of Sils Maria.

Assayas' movie also represented the second time that Stewart has made an appearance in Cannes this year.

She also starred alongside Jesse Eisenberg in Woody Allen's Cafe Society, which opened this year's festival.

The other movie competing on Tuesday is Aquarius from a Brazilian newcomer, critic-turned-director Kleber Mendonca Filho.

In the film, Kiss of the Spider Woman star Sonia Braga plays a 65-year-old widow who is the last resident in a building battling developers trying to evict her.

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