Cannes 2021: Annette by Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard kicks off the film festival
The Cannes Film Festival rolled out the red carpet for the first time in more than two years on Tuesday, kicking off the spectacular French Riviera with Leos Carax’s Annette premiere, Spike Lee’s jury presentation, and with high hopes to override a year of pandemic punishment for the cinema.
The 74th Cannes opened on Tuesday with as much glitter as it could call, directed by Annette, a fantastic musical starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard and written by musical duo Sparks. The opening ceremony also returned last year’s Palme d’Or winner Bong Joon Ho (for Parasite) and Jodie Foster, who first came to Cannes at age 13 with Martin’s Taxi Driver. Scorsese, for a Palme d’honneur.
The occasion drew a wide range of cinema luminaries to Cannes to celebrate the festival, which was canceled last year due to the Covid-19 virus. Pedro Almodovar, Jessica Chastain, Helen Mirren and Bella Hadid walked the red carpet, which was again lined with tuxedo photographers and surrounded by eager onlookers.
“So it feels good to go out,” Foster said in French.
” Long live France ! Lee declared.
The festival was officially declared open by Bong, Almodovar, Foster and Lee, in a mix of Korean, Spanish, French and English. Over the next 10 days, the Cannes Film Festival will attempt to resuscitate world cinema on a large scale.
Cannes has progressed in its usual form, with vibrant red carpet screens and a lineup from many of the world’s most revered filmmakers, including Asghar Farhadi, Wes Anderson, Mia Hansen-Love and Paul Verhoeven. Festival-goers are tested every 48 hours, seated side by side and masked for screenings.
Lee, who heads the jury that will decide this year’s Palme, arrived earlier today wearing a “1619” baseball cap and trying to keep a low profile. “I’m not trying to be a pig,” he told reporters, urging them to ask questions of his fellow jurors.
But Lee’s presence was hard to ignore. His face as Mars Blackmon from his 1986 debut feature She’s Gotta Have It (which premiered at Cannes) graces this year’s poster at the festival’s center, the Palais des Festivals. Lee is the first black person to lead the prestigious Cannes jury. In his first comments, in response to a question from Chaz Ebert, widow of Roger Ebert, Lee explained how little has changed since 1989’s Do the Right Thing, which made its controversial Cannes debut.
“When you see Brother Eric Garner, when you see King George Floyd murdered, lynched, I think of Ray (Radio) Raheem,” Lee said, referring to the character from Do the Right Thing. After more than 30 years, you “would think and hope,” said Lee, “that black people would have ceased to be chased like animals.”
Much of Tuesday’s talks in Cannes focused on injustice and survival. That the festival even took place, after the cancellation of last year’s edition, came as a surprise to some. Maggie Gyllenhaal, who will see all 24 films competing for the Palme as a jury member over the next 12 days, said it would be her first time in a movie theater in 15 months. When Parasite Song actor Kang Ho was invited to be a juror, he said, “I thought to myself: will there really be a festival?”
“The fact that we are here today is truly a miracle,” Song said.
Still, much of the usual pomp is toned down this year. There is a relative lack of top-to-bottom promotion on Cannes’ seaside promenade, the Croisette, and Hollywood has less of a role than in the past. Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho (Bacurau), juror, added that in some parts of the world the cinema is under siege. In President Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, he said, the national film library has been closed and its staff dismantled.
“It is a very clear display of contempt for cinema and for culture,” said Filho, who noted the tragedy in Brazil reaching 500,000 deaths from Covid-19 when, according to him, several thousand could have been be saved by a stronger government response.
This conversation was prompted in part by a Georgian journalist who questioned the jury members about the resistance. Russia invaded the former Soviet republic in 2008.
“The world is run by gangsters,” Lee said, listing former US President Donald Trump Bolsonaro and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In this context, the regular concerns at Cannes were perhaps overshadowed. But jurors made passionate arguments for the future of cinema – and a more inclusive future. The lineup for this year’s competition includes four filmmakers, a peak at Cannes, but they still only represent a fraction of the 24 filmmakers vying for the Palme.
“I think when women really listen to themselves and express themselves, even indoors, about a very, very masculine culture, we make films differently. We tell stories differently, ”Gyllenhaal said. She remembers watching Jane Campion’s The Piano (the only film directed by a woman to win the Palme) as a trainer and unfiltered. “It just came straight in.”
The rise of streaming has also been in the spotlight. Cannes refused to select films without distribution in French theaters for its programming in competition. The festival and Netflix have been at odds for several years. On Monday, Thierry Fremaux, director of the festival, cited the Cannes record for the discovery of filmmakers and asked: “Which directors have been discovered by the (streaming) platforms?”
Lee, who directed Da 5 Bloods last year for Netflix, didn’t bat an eyelid when asked about it.
“Cinema and projection platforms can coexist,” said Lee, who called Cannes “the world’s biggest film festival”. “At one point, we thought that television was going to kill cinema. So this stuff is nothing new.
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