Covid-conscious Cannes was meant to kiss goodbye to traditional French “bisous” this year, but Gallic habits have been swiftly unmasked.

The film festival’s president has broken a coronavirus kissing ban during the event’s first red carpet by giving pecks on the cheek to female guests, Jessica Chastain and Carla Bruni.

Stars on the red carpet are traditionally greeted with the customary French kisses on the cheek, but “la bise” has been banned amid fears of new Covid-19 variants being spread.

Festival president Pierre Lescure immediately went against the rules by welcoming Hollywood star Chastain with kisses on the red carpet for the event’s opening ceremony.

He then applied “la bise” to singer Bruni, the wife of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, and was spotted moving to kiss the hand of film star Melanie Laurent.

Representatives of Cannes have acknowledged that red carpet regulations, which stipulate guests must “greet each other without physical contact”, were breached.

It comes following the festival’s own statement that the effectiveness of sanitary rules was a “question of collective responsibility” that “requires that everyone scrupulously respects the sanitary protocol”.

Cast members of Tout s'est bien passe (Everything Went Fine) Sophie Marceau and Geraldine Pailhas kiss Andre Dussollier

Credit: Johanna Geron/Reuters

The ban on bisous was announced by festival director Thierry Fremaux, who himself reportedly shared a hug with Parasite director Bong Joon-ho ahead of the opening ceremony on Monday evening.

He said that the customary greetings at the top of the step leading to the Palais, where major premieres are held, would be curtailed in the interests of safety in keeping with French health minister Olivier Véran’s guidance on “la bise” issued in 2020.

“We have the habit of kissing each other on the steps,”  Mr Fremaux said in June. “We won’t kiss anymore, but our heart will be present just as much.”

Despite the early flaunting of rules it is understood the ban on kissing will remain in place for the duration of the festival.

This ban will run alongside stipulations that stars wear their masks on the red carpet, and only take them off for the benefit of assembled photographers when invited to do so.

Masks are also obligatory inside the festival’s complex on the seafront in Cannes, although guests in black tie attire have been spotted without face coverings inside screenings.

Social distancing, which was to be “required and enforced at all times within event venues”, has been hindered by queues hundreds of yards long to enter cinema screenings.

Festival director Mr Fremaux previously lamented limitations Covid-19 has placed on the traditional cocktail parties at Cannes, but assured the press that dinners with seated guests would likely be safe to go ahead.

Standing and mingling at drinks receptions in the French resort town has nevertheless taken place.

Access to the festival complex itself on beachfront boulevard La Croisette has remained tightly monitored, with proof of double vaccination or a negative Covid test necessary to enter.

Those braving the restrictions for the festival this year include jury president Spike Lee, Sean Penn, Wes Anderson, and Oliver Stone.

Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard attended the annual event to premiere their film Annette, which opened the slew of screenings at the festival, and which was attended by Chastain, Bruni, and Laurent.

It is among the 24 films in the running for the Palme d’Or accolade in a bumper year, due to the 2020 ceremony being cancelled due to Covid-19, a selection which includes no British films.

The UK is represented in several films outside the competition, including Andrea Arnold’s Cow, a documentary about the life of livestock, and Eva Husson’s Mothering Sunday.

There is no British pavilion among the national hubs on the beachfront, which competes for space with France’s summer tourists as well as the usual Cannes delegates due to the competition taking place in June instead of the traditional dates in May.