The Lumière Festival was created by Cannes chief Thierry Frémaux and Lumière Institute President Bertrand Tavernier six years ago here in Lyon, the birthplace of cinema. As the week-long event that wraps tomorrow has grown, it has become a favorite stop on the calendar for filmmakers, film buffs and friends of Frémaux to attend. It includes restorations, masterclasses and retrospectives, but no competition. And it’s not just art-house either — tonight’s program includes an Alien marathon presented by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and a screening of Die Hard with John McTiernan hosting. Last year’s Prix Lumière winner, Quentin Tarantino, spent several days soaking up the scene here in 2013. This year’s recipient of the Lumière Prize, which has previously also gone to Milos Forman, Gérard Depardieu, Ken Loach and Clint Eastwood, was Oscar-winning Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.
On Friday night, a two-and-a-half hour tribute to Almodovar concluded with a rousing karaoke version of Resistiré – a song identified with the helmer ever since 1989’s Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! — and about 3,000 invited guests lent their voices. There was no hint of the controversy that sprung up in July when Almodovar and his frequent collaborators and fellow Oscar winners Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem put signatures to a statement accusing the Israeli military of “genocide.” One European industry veteran told me today that they hadn’t heard about the statement, or ensuing upset this summer. Given this own person’s ignorance of the situation, they suggested that artists’ political views are often less headline-making on the Continent.
Neither Cruz nor Bardem, who later clarified their statements this summer, were present in Lyon, although Cruz sent a video message expressing her love for the director. Antonio Banderas also sent a message from the set of period picture Altamira in Santander, Spain. Those who were in attendance included such members of Almodovar’s troupe as Rossy De Palma, Marisa Paredes, Elena Anaya and his producer brother Agustin. Each offered heartfelt tributes from the stage. Also in the audience was Michael Barker of Almodovar’s U.S. distributor Sony Pictures Classics, as well as festival attendees Michael Cimino, Isabella Rossellini, Bérénice Bejo, Paolo Sorrentino, Keanu Reeves, Xavier Dolan, Juliette Binoche, Alberto Barbera and McTiernan.
Today, Almodovar, Sorrentino and Dolan participated in “remaking” a version of the original Lumière shorts, a now-annual custom for the Lumière Prize winner and others.
Tarantino’s tribute ceremony for the Lumière Prize last year was a rollicking affair that drew the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel and others. Friday night’s event was just as expansive, if different in tone. Frémaux flew in flamenco singer Miguel Poveda who performed several songs. Dolan, French actor Tahar Rahim and French filmmaker Guillaume Galienne read a poem penned by Almodovar to his late mother. A technical glitch came during a montage of clips from Almodovar’s movies with the image freezing after about two minutes, while the sound carried on. “That’s the trouble with digital,” Frémaux quipped from the stage before running it again from the beginning, sans glitch.
Almodovar, who won a Best Foreign Language Oscar for 1999’s All About My Mother and a screenplay Oscar for 2002’s Talk To Her, said the evening had been “a real rollercoaster” and was indeed quite emotional in his thanks. Frémaux often refers to the Lumière Prize as the Nobel of cinema. Almodovar, who is a Cannes staple but has never won its top prize, said to Frémaux, “This is my Palme d’Or.”