Cloudy Skies Ahead for Cannes Film Fest

By Setoodeh, Ramin; Lang, Brent | Variety, May 2, 2018 | Go to article overview

Cloudy Skies Ahead for Cannes Film Fest


Setoodeh, Ramin, Lang, Brent, Variety


IF A FILM festival takes place in the South of France with almost no movie stars, will the rest of the world care?

That's the conundrum facing the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival. The annual celebration of cinema has never faced so many questions about its future and just how much clout it still has with U.S. studios, filmmakers and A-list actors. Though the kickoff for Cannes is still six days away, the elite gathering is already swirling in controversy.

In April, Cannes took a swing at Netflix by caving in to French theater owners and banning the streaming service from showing any of its movies in competition.

In keeping with an anti-technology stance, the festival is also forbidding selfies on its glamorous red carpet (good luck with that). And in the era of #MeToo and Time's Up, there aren't many female directors or stars in the lineup. The most visible representation of women will come from the jury, headed by Cate Blanchett, who will sit alongside Ava DuVernay, Kristen Stewart, Léa Seydoux and Burundian singer Khadja Nin.

Unlike Sundance, Tribeca or CinemaCon, Cannes hasn't updated its code of conduct to explicitly outlaw harassment. But organizers are working with the French government to create a hotline through which witnesses or victims can report misconduct.

"Cannes cannot be a substitute for the justice system or police: There are laws against harassment and sexual assaults and we will remind people of them," said festival director Thierry Frémaux in an interview with Variety last month.

As for this year's movie lineup, one highlight will be the international premiere of Disney's "Solo: A Star Wars Story" which is screening out of competition on May 15. Ron Howard and Alden Ehrenreich will have to make up for some missing movie-star glamour. Some of the pictures that will debut in competition include the opening-night film, Asghar Farhadi's "Everybody Knows," starring Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem; Spike Lee's "BlacKkKlansman"; and David Robert Mitchell's thriller "Under the Silver Lake," with Andrew Garfield (who will not attend since he's in Broadway's "Angels in America").

The truth is that Cannes' influence and effervescent mixture of celebrity and cinephilia has been fading for several years. It costs tens of millions for studios to fly directors and stars to the Mediterranean town, an expense that shrinking indie players can't afford.

"The world got smaller," says Tom Bernard, co-head of Sony Pictures Classics. "You don't have to make as much noise as you once did. You don't see big giant Howard Stern floats selling 'Private Parts' or seven jets spelling out the name of the latest Cannon movie. …

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