Magazine article Screen International

Comment: Cannes Film Festival Issues a Defiant Call to Arms

Magazine article Screen International

Comment: Cannes Film Festival Issues a Defiant Call to Arms

Article excerpt

The message from Thierry Fremaux at today’s press conference was clear: Cannes is fully behind the theatrical experience.

It was interesting to hear delegate general Thierry Fremaux liken Cannes 2019 to Cannes 1939 – the inaugural Cannes Film Festival which never took place, cancelled due to the war. In a way, the press conference for the 72nd edition – Cannes finally held its first festival in 1946 – felt like a call to arms.

The message: Cannes is for cinema, fully behind the theatrical experience. Its allies are its old friends the studios, the cinemas which will now simultaneously show some of the festival’s films, and a mix of venerated auteurs with some exciting new – mainly female – talent in official Competition. Cannes had a role in rebuilding cinema after the war, said Fremaux, and it certainly sees one for itself now in the second age of the small screen.

Much of Fremaux’s line-up had been predicted, and it’s tempting to look at a page with names like Pedro Almodovar, Ken Loach, Jim Jarmusch, the Dardenne Brothers, Marco Bellocchio, Terrence Malick and Elia Suleiman and wonder whether this is a Competition line-up from 20 years ago. (Fremaux did use the word “comeback” more than once.) But that’s not quite right. Although it seems as if these auteurs are sticking to their comfort zones when it comes to subject matter, they are the lions of cinema – people you want on your side when it comes to a battle.

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Cannes reveals 2019 Official Selection

They are all masters of the seventh art who can sell tickets to the cinemas with which Cannes is now physically as well as spiritually allied. (The festival is co-operating on French release dates: the opening ceremony and film will be beamed live into 400-odd French cinemas, and some Competition titles will be released commercially during the second week of the festival.)

The closing film slot is currently empty, and it seems clear from Fremaux’s comments that the festival is still hoping that Quentin Tarantino’s not-quite-ready 35mm Once Upon A Time In Hollywood will defiantly close this cinematic event 25 years after Pulp Fiction was the last film to play in Competition – and won. Fremaux’s Cannes press conference had several messages: we’re about cinema, we’ll fight for it, we’ve been here a long time, things will change and we’ll change with them, and there are more names in the game than Netflix. …

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