Weekly Roundup: The Return of La Grande Dame de Cannes

This week, we devote our full attention to the Cannes Film Festival. The venerable festival announced their Official Selection on Thursday and Morgan Gabereau was on the ground at the presser.

By Morgan Gabereau

According to Festival de Cannes Président Pierre Lescure and General Director Thierry Frémaux, there will be no hugs or kisses on the red carpet of the 74th edition, which after last year’s unprecedented cancellation, takes place July 6-17 rather than its usual mid-May slot. Touting the upcoming Festival as the “first post-pandemic global cultural event”, Lescure and Frémaux unveiled the Official Selection in Paris on Thursday.

Spike Lee will be President of the Jury, while actor/director/producer Jodie Foster will receive an Honorary Palme d’or “in recognition of a brilliant artistic journey, and a unique personality with a modest yet strong commitment to some of the major issues or our time.” Foster’s first appearance at the Festival de Cannes was in 1976, at the age of 13, with Taxi Driver. Previous recipients of an Honorary Palme d’or include Jeanne Moreau, Bernardo Bertolucci, Jane Fonda, Jean-Pierre Belmondo, Manoel de Oliveira, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Agnès Varda and Alain Delon. 

Newly announced Competition films include Sean Penn’s Flag Day, Nanni Moretti’s Three Floors (Tre Piani), François Ozon’s Everything Went Fine (Tout s’est bien passé), Sean Baker’s Red Rocket, Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person in the World, Jacques Audiard’s Paris, 13th District (Les Olympiades), Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, Justin Kurzel’s Nitram, Asghar Farhadi’s A Hero, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s Lingua, Catherine Corsini’s La fracture and Kirill Serebrennikov’s Petrov’s Flu.

Previously announced Competition films include Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta,and Leos Carax’s Annette, which will screen as the Opening film.

The full Official Selection list.

Out of Competition screenings include Todd Haynes’ The Velvet Underground, Tom McCarthy’s Stillwater, Han Jae-Rim’s Emergency Declaration, and Valérie Lemercier’s Aline.

Un Certain Regard returns to its roots as a showcase for emerging talent with a broad and eclectic programme of films whose points of origin range from Iceland to Israël, Bangladesh to Haiti, Bulgaria to Mexico, and Norway to Turkey.

An inaugural programme entitled Cannes Premières will host a new iteration of Oliver Stone’s Kennedy assassination fascination with JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, Charlotte Gainsbourg’s directorial debut with Jane par Charlotte, Andrea Arnold’s Cow, Ting Poo and Leo Scott’s Val, Hong Sang-Soo’s In Your Face, and Mathieu Amalric’s Serre-moi fort.

Welcoming the “triumphal” return of cinemagoing following its pandemic-induced near-death experience, Frémaux has curated a poetic and auteur-driven selection with themes of “loss” and “combat” at its heart. It will be “a celebration of the departed” he said.

Frémaux also stated that a healthy dose of youthful exuberance will permeate the programme. Some prominent trade media suggested that Cannes’ commitment to inclusion has yet to be realised with only 4 out of the 24 Competition features directed by women. A dearth of Chinese films in the Selection prompted an insinuation of anti-China bias, which Frémaux quickly quashed by citing a large backlog of high caliber films. He continued to opine about the elusive nature of what constitutes the basis upon which a film is chosen for inclusion in the selection. Not a single Canadian film was announced.

With a plexiglass divider separating Lescure and Frémaux, trepidation hung in the air of the UGC Normandie cinema on the Champs-Élysées. Is this going to work? Will people respect social distancing? Will the festival pull it off or will it become another high-profile super spreader event? 

France has announced that, starting June 9, visitors from “Amber” countries will no longer need to quarantine and will only need to present a negative test result or a vaccination health pass to enter the country. It now appears considerably easier for Americans, Canadians and Brits in particular to travel to the Festival. An onsite daily testing lab will operate with obligatory testing every 48 hours for those who haven’t had a double vaccination, with at least 14 days having elapsed since their second shot. Lescure also referred to “non-intrusive” saliva-only testing. This should prove a major enticement for many to make the journey to the Cote D’Azur. However, if the attending journalists at the press conference offered any indication offered any indication of what’s to come in terms of observing social distancing protocols, having the public attend screenings will present enormous logistical headaches. The lack of clarity about whether the European Medical Agencies will approve the Chinese or Russian vaccines in time for filmmakers to make the trip to Cannes remains controversial. 

Cannes’ famous filmmaker dinners will be limited to six. Thus, a calmer, more intimate social experience is expected to prevail. Even though masks will be mandatory on the red carpet, one has to wonder what the policy will be when masks are inevitably removed during photo calls, or what will happen if someone chooses controversial political or commercial messaging on their mask. Like previous years’ banning of selfies, the masquerade promises to be a game of “catch me if you can”.

The Netflix Question: While recognising and acknowledging the prominence of major streamers such as Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon, WM Discovery and Disney+, Frémaux continues to maintain an orthodox and defiant tone. Despite an ongoing dialogue with the streamers, the Competition will remain exclusive to films with a French theatrical release. Outside of the competition? ‘Bring it on’ he said.

As a nod to the desperation of the Cote d’Azur hospitality sector, and the economic need to welcome the public back to the Croisette, Frémaux teased that a soon-to-be-announced “crowd pleasing, globally significant blockbuster” will premiere outdoors on the Cannes beach. 

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