Cannes femmes in the eye of the storm

Riviera #MeToo clouds gather as festival launches with Streep, Gerwig and Arnold to the fore

by Richard Mowe

Rolling out the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival where #MeToo controversies threaten to cause disruption.
Rolling out the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival where #MeToo controversies threaten to cause disruption. Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Festival director Thierry Frémaux on the eve of the Festival: 'This year we decided to host a festival without polemics to make sure that the main interest for us all to be here is cinema'
Festival director Thierry Frémaux on the eve of the Festival: 'This year we decided to host a festival without polemics to make sure that the main interest for us all to be here is cinema' Photo: Richard Mowe
Ahead of tonight’s official opening of the Cannes Film Festival with Quentin Dupieux’s wacky comedy The Second Act, Festival director Thierry Frémaux held his traditional pre-match kick-off media gathering yesterday (13 May) at which he addressed concerns in particular the #MeToo murmurings and how they might affect the festival.

With outspoken Meryl Streep due to be given a career achievement Palme d’Or as part of tonight’s opening ceremony and the UK’s similarly fearless Andrea Arnold due to be honoured by the Directors’ Fortnight as well as her new film Bird in Competition, and Barbie’s Greta Gerwig as President of the main jury, the scene is set for some outspoken female-centric flurries as Call My Agent’s Camille Cottin presides over the opening event and 83-year-old Faye Dunaway makes an appearance for a documentary entitled simply Faye, in Cannes Classics.

The context is heightened by rumours that a French media organisation Mediapart is about to publish some new #MeToo allegations with a secret list of ten men in the industry who allegedly have been “abusive to women” in the wake of refuted allegations around directors Jacques Doillon and Benoît Jacquot as well as veteran Gérard Depardieu.

The allegations about Doillon and Jacquot were made by actor and director Judith Godrèche whose short film Moi Aussi, around the theme of abuse in the industry, will be given pride of place on Wednesday at the opening of the strand Un Certain Regard.

Frémaux, addressing the media yesterday afternoon, set the tone with what may be some wishful thinking: “This year we decided to host a festival without polemics to make sure that the main interest for us all to be here is cinema.” Referencing the presence of Johnny Depp for the opening night last year of Maïwenn's Jeanne Du Barry which caused a stir in some quarters Frémaux admitted there may well be “some controversies” in this year’s 77th edition - “but we will try to avoid them.”

The festival, he stressed, was “about the movies and whether they deserve to be part of the selection or not, in aesthetic or artistic terms. There is no ideology guiding the selection committee”.

The main image for this year’s Cannes Film Festival: from Akira Kurosawa's 1991 Rhapsody In August
The main image for this year’s Cannes Film Festival: from Akira Kurosawa's 1991 Rhapsody In August Photo: Cannes Film Festival/Création graphique © Hartland Villa)
He mused on whether in five years hence “what’s happening today, with the new social relationships, and the rapports between women and men will spur new types of stories”. He added: ““These are discussions that we have with people who buy, produce and distribute films. There might be a momentary influence, because there are cycles of creation.”

On a less serious note Messi, the border collie who stole attention during last year’s Festival as “star” of Justine Triet’s Anatomy Of A Fall and went on to perform a similar trick at the Oscars, is back on the Croisette with his own TV show voiced by a French comic Raphaël Mezrahi, a series of one-minute clips.

His canine thunder may be rivalled this year with the appearance of Jodi, a griffin cross and star of actor-director Laetitia Dosch’s directorial debut Dog On Trial in Un Certain Regard.

The Competition is definitely hotting up at least in the Palme Dog awards “for canine excellence on the big screen”, started in 2001 by journalist Toby Rose.

All round the stakes have never been higher, especially given the potential for industrial action by hundreds of temporary workers at the Festival such as projectionists and front of house staff about pending reductions in unemployment benefits.

The Cannes Film Festival starts tonight and continues until 25 May.

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