The 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival got off to a strong start Tuesday night with the world premiere of two-time Oscar-winning director Asghar Farhadi’s familial kidnapping mystery drama Everybody Knows, with stars Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Ricardo Darin walking the fabled red-carpeted Grand Theatre Lumiere steps along with the Iran-born director.
The film itself played well — an accessible melodrama centering on the kidnapping of a teen girl that leads to a series of long-held family secrets being revealed. As some of the plot twists became known there were audible “ahs” in my section of the theater. It is a satisfying launch for Cannes, with very strong performances from its large cast.
This film which reps the first foray into a Spanish language production for the versatile Farhadi, should be one of the easy domestic sales out of Cannes for the right art house distributor like a Sony Pictures Classics, which handled the director’s 2012 Oscar-winning A Separation. Everybody Knows (Todos lo saben) definitely has commercial appeal on the specialty circuit.
One trade yesterday was floating the rather obvious notion that Netflix was interested, but who wouldn’t be? The bigger question would be why would Farhadi and his A-list Oscar-winning cast want to go that route and sacrifice the prestige theatrical break they have had in the past, but tons of cash would probably be the answer if the streamer were to prevail. This is something not everybody knows yet.
That the march up the Cannes steps comes the same day for Iran’s most famous born-and-bred helmer that U.S. President Donald Trump took America out of the landmark Iranian nuclear agreement was certainly ironic, or maybe we should say Iranic (sorry). After all, it was just less than two years ago that Farhadi refused to come to the Oscars for his then-nominated Foreign Language contender The Salesman after being offended by Trump’s attempted travel ban from seven Muslim countries including Iran. The film went on to win, and Farhadi crafted a powerful statement read for him on the Dolby Theatre stage.
With another Iranian director (and political dissident) Jafar Panahi being forbidden by his country to travel here for the Saturday premiere of his film 3 Faces (competing against Farhadi for the Palme d’Or, incidentally), world events will certainly creep into the conversation on the Croisette this week.
Before tonight’s film rolled, a Canal Plus broadcast of the opening ceremonies took place hosted by the charming Edouard Baer who opened with a not-so-subtly-disguised dig at Trump by saying he hoped everyone was able to successfully cross their borders to get to the Riviera. “We don’t like people who are trying to put up walls,” he said — or something to that effect as it was offered in a mix of English and French.
A clip from the 1965 Jean Luc Godard film Pierrot le Fot, also the image on the official 2018 Cannes poster, was shown and its co-star Anna Karina was introduced in the audience for pure nostalgic sentiment. Baer then brought on artistic director Thierry Fremaux who introduced the jury; president Cate Blanchett was in fact given the AFI-style film-clip treatment of her career before she was finally summoned onstage to say a very few words about being honored to serve, opening our hearts and minds to cinema and leaving “our agendas at the door. ” Juliette Armanette came on to sing Michel LeGrand’s Oscar-winning “The Windmills of Your Mind,” followed by a clip reel of all the films competing and not competing in the Official Selection. It was a handy Cliffs Notes-like collection giving you an idea of what to see — or skip.
By the way, I ran into Fremaux and Cannes festival president Pierre Lescure in the lobby of the Carlton Hotel on Monday night, and Fremaux told me he is especially pleased with the overall quality of this year’s selection. One of those movie clips shown on the reel is the closing-night film, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, which has been tied up in litigation leading finally to the movie’s release (in France at least) after Cannes. One of the producers is trying to stop it from coming to Cannes and took it to court. Fremaux and Lescure said the trial was Monday and the verdict would be issued Wednesday around 2 PM; whether it stays as the closing film obviously depends on what the judge says. Fingers crossed.
By the way, among the movies Fremaux gives high marks is Spike Lee’s long-gestating return to the festival with BlackkKlansman on Monday night, one of only two American movies competing. The director has been heard still complaining that he was robbed of a Palme d’Or for Do the Right Thing.
Tonight, however, was all about the glitz and glamour and of course the film for another opening of the world’s most famous movie orgy. Martin Scorsese came on at the end of the ceremonies to cement the deal and make it official, joined by his Aviator Oscar winner Blanchett.
And we are off and running.