Thierry Frémaux: 'If actors or directors or screenwriters who are here want to talk about it [the screenwriters’ strike], then they are welcome to do so' Photo: Richard Mowe
Apart from many titles already showing a sell-out on the online grid - especially irksome in the case of the latest Indiana Jones - he was quick to dampen down hostility in a relatively jocular fashion. The barbs provided a running theme for his discourse.
He preferred to field questions about the US writers’ strike and what impact that might have among the Stateside contingent. He suggested the organisers were not so up to speed with the situation “because we were busy preparing the festival,” adding, “I don’t know what consequences it will have it. We have to respect their standpoint. If actors or directors or screenwriters who are here want to talk about it, then they are welcome to do so”. He was similarly sanguine about the potential effect of French protesters flagging up their animosity to President Macron’s pension reforms.
The face of this year’s Cannes Film Festival: Catherine Deneuve adorns the front of the Palais des Festivals Photo: Richard Mowe
Frémaux said that Haenel was simply wrong in making such accusations. He defended the Festival’s record in supporting women filmmakers, including a Red Carpet Me Too event in a previous edition and the fact that were seven female directors in this year’s official selection.
A journalist writing for the showbiz Bible Variety weighed in to the fray on the topic of Johnny Depp, who appears in tomorrow night’s sumptuous costume drama Jeanne Du Barry alongside director Maïwenn. Frémaux opined he was the last person to ask about Depp’s reputation in the States following the Amber Heard dispute. “I have no idea about his image in the US. This came up once the film was announced. I don’t know why Maïwenn chose him but you should ask her.” He added that he watched films for their artistic merits rather than any “noise” swirling around them.
On the choice of Triangle Of Sadness director Ruben Ostlund (Palme d’Or winner last year) as head of the jury for the official competition he said: “I told Ruben we wanted a woman for the role, but he was the first choice among the men. He’s a great cinephile and through him we’re highlighting this new generation of filmmakers from Northern Europe including Joachim Trier. The timing seemed to be right to try new things.”
Perhaps sensing he might get himself in to more trouble Frémaux avoided commenting on the fact that Woody Allen’s new film Coup de Chance (his 50th outing and for the first time in French) fails to feature in the various line-ups despite having a stellar cast of Lou De Laâge (The Innocents), Valérie Lemercier (Aline), Melvil Poupaud (Summer of 85) and Niels Schneider (Heartbeats).
Chipper to the end Frémaux announced he was off to meet local film lovers (Cannes Cinephiles) and he would be doing so on his official bike as part of the Festival’s ecological bent. “I am the first director of the Festival to be given a bicycle to go about my duties,” he beamed.