Even though the fireworks were called off due to the tragedy in Manchester, Cannes Film Festival’s 70th Anniversary went on with everyone including Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Uma Thurman, Christoph Waltz, Marion Cotillard, Claudia Cardinale, Roman Polanski, David Lynch, and former vice president Al Gore in attendance last night at the Grand Theatre Lumiere.
Through sizzle reels and speeches Cannes chiefs Thierry Fremaux and Pierre Lescure as well as two-time Cannes-winning actress Isabelle Huppert walked the audience through the history of the world’s most prestigious film festival; a nonstop voice in global politics, which has never shied away from controversy.
Said Lescure, “From Vietnam to decolonization to the crumbling East to the tragedy in the Balkans and South America, the terrible tragedy of these attacks are so profoundly shocking and haunting…obviously, cinema is with Manchester.”
While the Oscars are often accused of overlooking female directors, Cannes’ record is worst according to Huppert who provided various facts about the fest throughout the night: “70 Years, 76 Palme d’ors, but only one has gone to a woman — no comment,” exclaimed the Elle actress as the theater’s camera cut to The Piano winner Jane Campion to great cheers. Preceding her dinging, Huppert spoke about the fest’s early days with Orson Welles and Jean Cocteau , the latter “Who will forever be our honorary festival president,” said the actress. One French legend constantly overlooked by Cannes for a Palme d’or? Jean-Luc Godard, “a genius nonetheless,” said Huppert who has the Michael Haneke film Happy End in competition this year.
Huppert also made a plea to filmmakers to pull Gene Hackman –her favorite actor– out of retirement. He starred in two back-to-back Palme d’or winning films in 1973 and 1974: Jerry Schatzberg’s Scarecrow and Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation.
“American filmmakers bring back Gene Hackman, even on Netflix if you must,” said Huppert then joking, “Don’t tweet that!”
Guillermo del Toro was one of the few Cannes directing alums (he served as a 2015 jury member and premiered Cronos and Pan’s Labyrinth here) to take the stage. After a sizzle reel that showed Universal’s classic monsters, del Toro addressed the “monsters” in our society; an obvious allusion to U.S. President Donald Trump without calling him out.
“We are use to viewing very boring monsters everyday in the newspapers and on TV, smiling and lying,” said del Toro in his message about tolerance.
“I think this is where the values of fame and power can restore our sense of place in universe, this is when our narratives need angels and demons,” said del Toro about speaking truth to power.
“Today, in the post-truth era we live in, we need to talk about monsters. Gauge them against those we live with. Find a renewed sense of empathy. Forgive our sins and imperfections and rebel against those who claim that it is ‘the other’ that we should beware of. Against those who tell us that there is an ‘us’ and ‘them’, who we must reject, and who demonize anything that stands out from the norm,” said del Toro.
Of those reels shown, two were highlights of previous festival winners, from 1946-2001, and then 2001-current. Applause broke out as certain titles hit the screen including The Leopard, Blow Up, A Man and a Woman, Taxi Driver, MASH, The Piano, All That Jazz and Paris, Texas.
Overall, it was an upbeat ceremony –with over 100 jury members and Palme d’or winners showing up at the vent. With most of the world’s filmmakers under one roof, attendees were asked to line up an hour and 15 minutes ahead of time to get through security. The red carpet alone lasted close to an hour with not only this year’s celebrity jury members Will Smith and Jessica Chastain making an appearance, but France’s leading ladies (Emmanuelle Bercot, Berenice Bejo, Elodie Bouchez, Isabelle Huppert, Emilie Dequenne and Juliette Binoche), Mexico’s finest in cinema (Gael Garcia Bernal, Salma Hayek, Diego Luna and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Emmanuel Lubezki) and 13 Cannes-winning Palme d’or directors (Jane Campion, Ken Loach, Michael Haneke, Costa-Gavras, Cristian Mungiu, Nanni Moretti, David Lynch, Bille August, Claude Lelouch, Roman Polanski, Jerry Schatzberg, Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina and Laurent Cante) who were the last group to enter the Grand Theatre Lumiere. Polanski himself did as the Romans do here in Cannes and started taking cell phone photos on the red carpet.
Everyone in the GTL sang “Happy Birthday” twice: At the top of the event led by Huppert and at the end when all of Cannes’ royalty was invited onstage following a performance by French singer Vianney who reinterpreted the songs from such Cannes faves as Pulp Fiction (Chuck Berry’s “You Never Can Tell), Youth (the Retrosettes’ “You’ve Got the Love”), Wild at Heart, The Long Absence and Moulin Rouge.