Tarantino up to the wire in Cannes

Festival director on suspense, gender parity and Alain Delon

by Richard Mowe

Cannes Festival head Thierry Frémaux on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: "The film wasn’t quite ready but I want to thank him for getting it done just in time.”
Cannes Festival head Thierry Frémaux on Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: "The film wasn’t quite ready but I want to thank him for getting it done just in time.” Photo: Richard Mowe

The on-off roller coaster suspense ride of whether Quentin Tarantino’s new film Once Upon A Time In Hollywood would make it in time for this year’s 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival, went right up to the wire, according to director Thierry Frémaux.

Addressing the assembled media troops today at a gathering before the Festival officially opens tomorrow (Tuesday) with Jim Jarmusch’s genre extravaganza The Dead Don’t Die, Frémaux expressed his admiration for Tarantino whom he described as “a friend,” adding: “He is one of the greatest directors of his generation and he is a major director in the history of the Cannes Film Festival. Of course it is very pleasant have one’s friends coming back to the Festival which is a sign of our friendship and loyalty. The same goes for the Dardenne Brothers, Pedro Almodóvar, Terrence Malick, and Ken Loach.

“The Competition has 50 per cent well known directors and 50 per cent new directors. For Tarantino it is his ninth film but I don’t think he calculated that he would also be here for what is the 25th anniversary of Pulp Fiction. And as for the suspense, he was running really late and only finished shooting it at the end of last year. He is late because now the film won’t be released at the end of July as planned. For films to be ready two months ahead of their release is one thing but to be ready in time for Cannes is a different matter. At the end of March we took stock. The film wasn’t quite ready but I want to thank him for getting it done just in time.”

Tarantino already has a Palme d’Or which he won in 1994 for Pulp Fiction, and has served as president of the jury. “He is important in the history of the Festival. And his film talks about the cinema as well. It is memories of his childhood. It is the Hollywood he knew, but I won’t say any more about it because you will discover it when you see the film.”

Frémaux believed the Festival was making advances towards gender equality. “We signed the petition for 50 / 50 by 2020 and we pledged to make progress. We are publishing figures which prove that on a certain number of points the Festival is moving towards equality and gender parity. That was already the case in certain areas. In the internal management of the Festival there are more women than men in the Festival’s offices in Paris. In terms of management things are extremely equal. Likewise the four juries - we have two men presidents and two women presidents and in the make up of the juries There is also parity when it comes to the opening films - in the Competition it is Jim Jarmusch (The Dead Don’t Die) but in Un Certain Regard it is a woman, Mona Choukry with A Brother’s Love.”

He cautioned against mixing up the desire for parity with the film selection. “It was never on the cards that when we signed this charter that the selection itself would be based on parity. There are 15 women directors in the official selections and 20 if you add in the shorts - and all these films are there because they really deserve to be. People ask Cannes to do things that other Festivals are not asked to do simply because it is Cannes. The Cannes Film Festival is asked to be absolutely perfect and impeccable. And off course we strive to be perfect.”

Frémaux noted that Agnès Varda, who features on the poster for this year, used to say that she did not want to be called a woman director but rather a director who happens to be a woman.

In 2011 there were no women filmmakers in the Competition - “and so we are at the beginning now of the big change. In cinema schools they can foster the emergence of women directors but we simply select the films and you judge them. When the lights go down you don’t think about whether what you are seeing is made by a man or a woman or whether they are old or young: you just watch the film. There were only 82 women directors who have appeared in the whole history of Cannes. What we have noted this year is that in the emerging African cinema there is a whole new generation of film-makers and many of them are women.”

Later the Festival released these statistics to back up their gender parity improvement claims. In the feature film category, 1845 features were submitted with 26 percent from female directors. Out of 21 films in the official competition, four are from female directors, coming in at just 19 percent. The Un Certain Regard section is more closely balanced, with eight out of 19 films from women – a stronger 42 percent. Including special screenings that means a total of 20 female directors are represented in the official selection, nearly double last year's 11 and a significant jump from 2015's six.

On the controversy of giving an honorary Palme d’Or to Alain Delon, whose right wing views and friendship with the ultra right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen as well as his attitudes to towards gay marriage and women, Frémaux underlined that they were not bestowing a Nobel Peace prize but am award that recognised the sum of his career in cinema and not his private life.

Frémaux said “He is entitled to express his views even if I and others do not necessarily agree with them. Luchino Visconti was his mentor and he was very right wing. Don’t forget that Delon helped to produce and appeared in Mr Klein which was made by the ultra left-wing Joseph Losey who was kicked out of the States in the McCarthy witch hunts. It is difficult to give out honours because there is a kind of political police who descend to take issue with things from their past. Our honour to Alain Delon will be delivered with 100 per cent enthusiasm.”

The Cannes Film Festival runs from 14 to 25 May.

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