The Cannes Film Festival doesn’t officially kick off until tomorrow, but controversy is already brewing here on the Croisette. This Sunday, the festival will pay tribute to veteran French actor Alain Delon with an honorary Palme d’Or, a move that has drawn rebuke from women’s groups and has inspired a Care2 petition given previous incendiary comments made by the Purple Noon star. That includes having talked about slapping women, opposing adoption for same-sex couples and showing support for the politics of the far right Jean-Marie Le Pen. Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux today defended the fest’s decision to present Delon with the award saying, “We are not going to give Alain Delon the Nobel Peace Prize. We’re giving him a Palme d’Or for his career as an actor.”
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Frémaux said the fest would honor Delon the actor with “100% enthusiasm.” He expanded that Delon “has said things and he has the right to express his opinion, not that I agree with him… Obviously, the Cannes Film Festival condemns (the remarks), but it doesn’t condemn freedom of expression.” He further opined, “It’s complicated to judge through today’s lens things that were said a few years ago.”
The festival today also tweeted the poster conceived for this year’s honor:
Told of the petition started in the U.S., Frémaux quipped, “I don’t understand why there aren’t more petitions in America” about the dangers of climate change “in which the U.S. President is complicit.”
The Delon Palme d’Or was just one of the subjects that came up with the press in today’s meeting with Frémaux ahead of tomorrow’s first red carpet. After signing the 50/50×2020 pledge last year here on the Riviera, Frémaux said the management of the festival is moving closer to gender parity.
But, the desire for equality on the administrative side “mustn’t be mixed with the Competition” lineup. Calling it a “dream” for the roster of films to be evenly split, Frémaux said it would never be by design. “All films in Competition in our eyes deserve to be there.” He added that the late Agnès Varda made him “promise” her that he would never select a movie just because it was directed by a woman.
In a less adversarial exchange with the press corps, Frémaux discussed what it means to have Quentin Tarantino back at the Palais this year. “He is one of the biggest filmmakers of his generation and an important filmmaker for this festival… He’s a friend and we like to have friends who are loyal to the festival,” said Frémaux.
Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is lending major star wattage to the red carpet next week after being finished under the wire to slot in for a May 21 world premiere – 25 years after Pulp Fiction debuted and went on to win the Palme d’Or. Frémaux voiced thanks to Tarantino and Sony boss Tom Rothman who pushed to have it ready in time. “Everyone felt it was important that someone like Quentin Tarantino, who is so important in the history of Cannes (be here), and also because it’s a film that talks about cinema.”
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