Festival director Thierry Frémaux: 'The job [of a film-maker] is not the same and we want to explore what the younger generation think of it all at what is an important crossroads' Photo: Richard Mowe
First up was a salvo about the stark contract between Cannes glam and glitz and the war in Ukraine. Frémaux was quick to point that there was no “official” Russian representation in the Festival - and there were no journalists or film professionals who toed the party line.
There were some Russians at the festival - but mainly those who had “escaped”. Frémaux sympathised with some hard-line Ukrainians who wanted a more radical response. “After all they’re living with bombs,” he said, adding that the Festival had made its position clear in support for the Ukrainian people.
Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Mariupol while working on the film Mariupolis 2 Photo: UniFrance
Two films by Ukrainian filmmakers: Sergei Loznitsa’s The Natural History Of Destruction and Butterfly Vision, from director Maksim Nakonechny, are in the selection alongside Mariupolis 2 by Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravicius, who was killed in Mariupol, the Ukrainian city heavily bombarded by Russian forces, nearly a month ago while working on the film. His fiancée Hanna Bilobrova, who finished the project, will present it.
As for the frenzy around the long-awaited première of Top Gun: Maverick in the presence of Tom Cruise he suggested there was no discrepancy in showing a blockbuster at the festival any more than there was anomaly in director Ken Loach resplendent in a dinner jacket for the screening of one of his hard hitting social dramas.
Frémaux who’s association with the festival stretches back over 21 years, applauded Cruise’s commitment to cinema as an art form. “He is one of the few stars of his stature who has resisted any overtures from platforms or series or even clips,” he says. “If you want to see the latest Tom Cruise then it has to be in a cinema.”
Following French Government advice the festival has become unmasked after two disrupted years although Frémaux pointed that was no obligation to not wear a mask if individuals felt safer with one. To make everyone feel more comfortable all the hostesses and controllers in the Palais des Festivals would still be masked.
Cannes' Truman Show inspired 75th artwork Photo: Richard Mowe
Frémaux defended the festival’s position on gender balance and female inclusion. “France is a country where are a lot of female filmmakers, more so than most places. Major prizes including the Palme d’Or were awarded to women. Twenty or 30 years ago who could have imagined it. We don’t have any quotas and I don’t think it’s necessary."
Despite major hiccups with the online ticketing system and a tsunami of complaints on social media by the journalists and film professionals, partly because a bug attacked the system and nuked it for a few hours, attendance is looking buoyant across the board with between 30,000 and 35,000 accreditations issued and still rising. “I think it’s a much better system than last year,” said Frémaux to incredulous journalists. “We were attacked by robots who ordered 1500 tickets in one second and we’ve tried to fix that.”
One outlet, Deadline, had accused Frémaux of censorship after he sought copy approval of interview and allegedly took out some of his own remarks. "I like making sure what I say is correctly reported. I don’t care if the journalist attacks me. I prefer speaking normally and freely. It’s not a big deal."
The festival opens tomorrow with a zombie film, Final Cut (Coupez!) by French filmmaker Michel Hazanavicius, who changed the title from Z, like Z to take away any reference to the letter which has become associated with the war in Ukraine. The festival runs until 28 May.