AS a show of togetherness, Madonna and Guy Ritchie's glittering red carpet parade at the Cannes Film Festival last week did little to scotch persistent rumours that their seven-year marriage is on the rocks. The superstar singer, resplendent in a sparkling black and white fitted sequined dress, was about to show her rather earnest documentary about the plight of Malawian orphans. But as she smiled and waved beguilingly at the assembled paparazzi, her husband stood woodenly by her side and could muster little more than a grimace. Indeed, Guy gave every appearance of being a man who had been forced into his designer tuxedo and paraded at yet another high-octane celebrity party for the benefit of marital solidarity - when he would have preferred to be down the pub with his mates instead. But this was Madonna's big event and Guy's appearance, however reluctant, was part of a deal they have struck to support each other's careers, even though their turbulent union is now based more on pragmatism than passion. As one observer put it: "They did not look like two people who were very happy in each other's company. She looked frail and pale, like someone under tremendous strain, and he seemed utterly miserable." The news will come as no surprise to those who have followed the turbulent marriage of these two volatile individuals who fell in love but who came from different worlds - she the celebrity former wild child turned diva and he the English gentleman and director of gangster films with a passion for country pursuits. Now it seems Madonna, 49, one of the richest women in the music industry, has had enough of the constant arguing "about everything" with Guy, who is  ten years her junior. She has complained he often treats her with cold indifference in public, drinks 'way too much for his own good' and spends little time with her and their three children - adopted son David Banda, who is two, 11-year-old Lourdes, Madonna's daughter by dancer Carlos Leon, and their own son Rocco, seven. Friends say the couple have been living virtually separate lives since the start of the year and have even divided their homes into his and hers quarters so they can avoid each other. There are indications that Madonna is now planning to live in New York. She has owned a 6,000sq ft duplex apartment overlooking Central Park - complete with gymnasium and beauty salon - for 20 years and is enlarging it to accommodate her children and staff. She has recently bought an adjoining apartment in her maiden name. One source said: "Madonna is miserable and has lost her desire to live full-time in the UK." She is planning a solo trip to New York next month ahead of her gruelling world tour and, apart from her 50th birthday celebrations, there appear to be no concrete plans to spend time with her husband. "Madonna is preparing for the busiest few months of her year," said the source. And now, despite both publicly insisting that their bond is as strong as it was on the day they married at Skibo Castle in Scotland at the end of 2000, The Mail on Sunday has learned that after years of rowing and long periods apart, the couple are heading for a trial separation . . . albeit a very civilised one. "She leaves for NY at the start of June and won't be back until October. She has talked about the children going with her but she hasn't mentioned Guy once." After a string of flops he is said to be deeply concerned that any negative publicity about their private life could spoil his chances of the movie becoming the hit he and his battered ego so desperately need. He has been devoted to the project for the past 18 months, keenly aware that it's been ten years since his biggest hit, the gangster movie Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels. And, as much as she needed him last week at Cannes, it will be imperative for him to have his powerful and glamorous A-list wife at his side at his premiere to give the occasion the kind of celebrity sparkle that can generate worldwide publicity. Of course, the couple have been dogged by rumours of disharmony for several years. Madonna herself admitted she can be difficult to live with and that the union has been punctuated by fall-outs. But it was evident to all who saw them at Cannes that, even though they shared the same hotel suite, they spent most of their time apart. A new source of friction is said to have been Guy's desire to promote his forthcoming movie while they were at Cannes. Madonna wanted publicity only for I Am Because We Are, her documentary about Malawi. This was to have been directed by Guy until his wife replaced him with  Nathan Rissman, who had previously worked as their gardener and "manny" for their children. "Guy wanted to talk about his film on the red carpet but Madonna told him this was about her movie," said one observer. "She made it clear to Guy that this event was about her and his nose was put out of joint." "Guy's problem is that he is in her shadow," said one source who knows them both well. "She is the star of the show and he feels a little emasculated by the marriage. "They've just drifted apart. It's all very sad. But they are trying not to make a drama out of it, for the sake of their children and their careers." - Daily Mail