The 74th Cannes Film Festival kicked off in earnest Tuesday evening as big names came out to support the event that’s just getting back to business after last year’s cancellation and this year’s delays. Assembled together, 2019 Oscar and Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon-ho, Cannes veteran Pedro Almodóvar, jury president Spike Lee and the night’s honorary Palme d’Or recipient Jodie Foster paid tribute to the event and officially opened the 2021 proceedings in a mix of Korean, Spanish, English and French.
It was an emotional and important step for the festival. As the media has gathered on the ground here in the run-up to tonight, there’s been some confusion and concern about Covid testing, accessing venues and crowd-wrangling, but things appear to have gone smoothly this evening. Deadline’s Diana Lodderhose reported from the Palais that entry was swift, although security also requested she wear a mask outside while celebrities appeared to be exempt.
The team from the opening-night film, Leos Carax’s Annette, was stopped briefly before entering the Lumière and each were handed masks including stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard, but ultimately were not shown wearing them in their seats during the ceremony. Indeed, once inside the theater, most attendees removed their masks, or let them slide down. There were reportedly no reprimands despite the fact that face coverings are mandatory indoors.
The fluent-in-French Foster received two standing ovations, the first when she came on stage early to deliver a rousing, “It feels good to get out, huh? Here we are, finally. Did you miss it? A little bit of glamour?” She continued saying she had rediscovered the films of Akira Kurosawa, Martin Scorsese, Lee and Bong during “this year of transition” and said that even if theaters were closed, “cinema continued” and “always defends itself.” After a long career, Foster added that the art form “still gives me chills. I will never lose my wonder at and gratitude for the cinema.”
The jury and Lee came out next with Lee quipping, “I have one thing to say before I sit down: I wish I could speak French like Jodie Foster.”
After a montage of the films in official selection, Almodóvar took the stage to present Foster with the honorary Palme. She was succinct in her second set of remarks, noting it was more than 45 years ago that Taxi Driver had won the Palme d’Or here and remarking on the importance of “being in this room.” She added, “I am so proud to be part of this community.”
And then came Bong who explained that Cannes’ Thierry Frémaux had asked him to help with the opening ceremony to act as a liaison between the last festival in 2019 and this year. “Seeing you all here,” he said, “I really have the impression there hasn’t been a break. Maybe the festival had a break, but cinema never stopped.”