The Coens start Cannes jury duty

Looking at how to choose the winners.

by Richard Mowe

Some of the jury line-up under the watchful gaze of Ingrid Bergman (from left) Xaiver Dolan, Sienna Miller Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, and Sophie Marceau.
Some of the jury line-up under the watchful gaze of Ingrid Bergman (from left) Xaiver Dolan, Sienna Miller Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, and Sophie Marceau. Photo: Richard Mowe

You can tell that the Cannes Film Festival is well truly off the starting blocks when the jury - this year headed by the Coen Brothers Ethan and Joel - gather to give thoughts on topics ranging from the privilege of sitting in judgement on their peers to why television will never trounce the cinema-going experience and how they’re all going to get along together.

From the evidence on view at Wednesday's meeting with journalists, the answer would seem to be just fine. Besides the traditional awards they have also been told by the Festival organisers that they have the freedom to create their own particular award for an aspect of the films in Competition.

Never a shrinking violent, Sienna Miller thought that she could get the prize while Mexican director Guillermo del Toro feigned mock upset at the prospect. As the Coens had just met them all they found the banter “rather alarming.”

Meanwhile actor Jake Gyllenhaal revealed that the jurors had shown their allegiances with the brothers by dividing themselves into Joel and Ethan camps but he declined to be drawn on who had sided with whom. “It was based purely on personality,” he suggested. Gyllenhaal was energised at the possibility of seeing films before anyone else in the world. “And they’re free” he said incredulously.

The Coens whose diaries just happened to be cleared for the dates in question, was about the changing ways audiences can watch films. “How do we feel about people watching ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ on their iPhone?” asked Joel, to a round of applause. “There’s still something special about sitting with a big crowd of people watching a movie on a big 80-foot screen.”

As for the influence of television, neither of the Coens is a couch potato. Ethan said: “I haven’t watched a TV show in decades. It’s an alien world to me.”

When quizzed about sharpening their critical faculties Joel decided to make it clear that they did not regard themselves as film critics. “We’re looking at the films from the point of view of film-makers or actors. As for whether we get with the critics when they talk about us, that is an area I would rather avoid,” said Joel.

Quebec director Xavier Dolan, 26 and the youngest of the bunch, was keen to stress that his approach was not to judge but to react to films that would touch his emotions and heart.

Guillermo del Toro, who may be the locker in the pack, took the responsibilities seriously. He opined: “I know what it feels to be in Competition. It is important for any film-maker to get recognised. We are here to say what we like and what we love. We are here to take it seriously. As a Mexican I come here to support my country and its films, but I come without an agenda.”

The jury comprises: Sophie Marceau, Coen brothers Joel and Ethan, Jake Gyllen­­haal, Rokia Traoré, Guillermo del Toro, Xavier Dolan, Sienna Miller and Spanish actress Rossy de Palma.

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