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Cannes Film Festival 2019 Set to Raise the Bar

The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival opens this evening with Jim Jarmusch's zombie adventure 'The Dead Don't Die.'

Gautaman Bhaskaran | News18.com

Updated:May 14, 2019, 2:03 PM IST
Cannes Film Festival 2019 Set to Raise the Bar
Agnes Varda on Cannes Festival’s poster for this year.
The 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival opens this evening with Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die, a zombie adventure that hides a deep political message. The General-Delegate of the Festival, Thierry Fremaux, in fact made no attempt to hide this at a media conference he held here last evening. “It’s a very anti-Trump film. It talks about American hegemony. America is an extraordinary country. With Jarmusch, we can expect that he is not very happy with what’s happening at present.”

In a way, it would seem that history is all set to repeat. In the early years of 2000, Micheal Moore made it his mission to hit out at American President George Bush. Most people in the country were clearly unhappy with him, so too was Moore, whose Fahrenheit 9/11 walked away with the Palme dÓr – not that the movie deserved it, but most members of the jury, headed by Quentin Tarantino, were terribly unhappy with the Bush administration as well. And they wanted to send a strong message. What better forum than Cannes could there have been!

It is not different today in the US. Perhaps, it is no different with how Jarmusch feels.

The Dead Don't Die will be screened to the media late this evening – along with the rest of the delegates -- only because some journalists had made it a point to behave irrationally. Much to the Festival's chagrin and to the detriment of filmmakers, the scribes made it a habit to tweet even while a movie was in progress. Such half-baked reviews, according to Fremaux and many others, were not only unfair assessments, but also showed lack of respect for an artistic creation. And, the Festival decreed that the media would watch a film along with the delegates or even some hours later. So, it was a case of some bad apples spoiling the rest in the basket, and Cannes critics lost a long-enjoyed privilege.

Fremaux is known to take tough decisions, and this curb on the media is one.

The other step Fremaux just took was to honour the legendary French actor, Alain Delon, with an honorary Palme dÓr. The Cannes chief was severely criticised for this, because Delon has been very controversial. He has supported slapping of women and been known to back the extreme Far Right in France. Fremaux took this question head on at yesterday's conference when he laced his answer with delightful sarcasm. “We’re not going to give the Nobel Peace Prize to Alain Delon,” Fremaux said. “He is entitled to express his views. Today it is very difficult to honour somebody because you have a sort of political police that falls on you.” Fremaux had the guts to take on an international Media that can be mercilessly critical.

He also supported his stand on equal representation for women. Noting that equal representation of men and women on his juries and selection committees this year, he said “but the Festival never intended to programme a lineup with 50 percent of its movies directed by women. People ask Cannes to do things they don’t ask other festivals to do.”

And, yes, going beyond the issue of equality and other controversies, this year the Festival does have some hot titles. Just as everybody was giving up hope, Tarantino finished his ode to Hollywood – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Although the auteur has been contending that his film talks about his growing up years in the 1960s – often considered to be Hollywood's Golden Period, it also marked the horrific murder of a very young actress, Sharon Tate, wife of Roman Polanski. She was eight months pregnant, and reportedly pleaded with the Manson Family murders to spare her. With an excellent star cast of Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood may well be a masterpiece in the lines of the director's Inglorious Basterds and Pulp Fiction, whose 25th anniversary falls this year. The movie won the Palme dÓr.

Besides these, the Festival will screen titles like Young Ahmed by the Dardenne Brothers (about a 13-year-old boy whose destiny is sandwiched between an imam's ideals and the temptations that life offers); Terrence Malick's A Hidden Life (based on the real story of an unsung hero, who refuses to fight for the Nazis); Sibya by Justine Triet (who traces the troubled life of a rising cinema star)and; Blue is the Warmest Colour helmer Abdellatif Kechiche's homage to Paris through the lives of young students in Mektoub, My Love: Intermezzo.

Seems like a plateful of goodies!

(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival close to 30 years)
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