By Gautaman Bhaskaran
The 68th edition of the Cannes Film Festival, which opens today — May 13 — will go down in the annals of history as one with several firsts.
Cannes, known for its novelty that has always kept it flying higher than just about every other movie festival in the world, will unroll its Red Carpet at the Grand Theatre Lumiere on Wednesday evening with the screening of La Tete Haute (Standing Tall) by Emmanuelle Bercot. This is the first ever occasion that a film by a female director will set the Projectors rolling.
La Tete Haute talks about a juvenile delinquent, Malony, and the efforts of a social worker to try and reform the boy as he travels into adulthood. Rod Paradot will play Malony, along with such celebrated actors as Catherine Deneuve, Benoit Magimel and Sara Forestier. The work is said to make important statements about modern society and focusses on universal issues.
In another first, the Festival will close on May 24 with a documentary. Luc Jacquet (who helmed the Oscar-winning March of the Penguins) will present his Ice and the Sky at the Grand Theatre Lumiere.
Ice and the Sky is about the scientific discoveries of Claude Lorius, who first went to the Antarctica in 1957 to study the region. In 1965, he was the first to warn about global warming and its effects on the planet.
Today, though aged 82, he continues to dream. “I believe that men will be still up. Men will find the solidarity that will lead the people living on this planet to another type of behaviour,” he says.
“Cannes is a huge opportunity for this movie,” avers Luc Jacquet. “I am pleased and impressed. Showing this film in the world’s largest movie festival will contribute to this huge challenge facing humanity and the future of the planet. My language is cinema. In different times, I would have made other films. But I make fierce cinema, political cinema, cinema that has no choice.”
In yet another first, the festival’s main competition jury will be headed by two men — brothers Joel and Ethan Coen. This is to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Lumiere Cinematograph. Auguste and Louis Lumiere were brothers who are recognised as the first moviemakers. They patented the cinematograph, which, in contrast to Edison’s ‘peepshow’ kinescope, allowed simultaneous viewing by a multiple number of people.
The Coens will lead a distinguished jury. The jurors are key figures in the world cinema from Canada, Spain, the USA, France, Mali, Mexico and Britain. A brief look at each of them:
Rossy de Palm is an icon of Spanish cinema and Pedro Almodóvar’s muse: she inspired his 1986 film Law of Desire, performed in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!, Kika and The Flower of my Secret , and then Broken Embraces (2009 Cannes). She rose to international acclaim in the early 1990s with directors like Robert Altman, Mike Figgis, Patrice Leconte and Mehdi Charef. She is set to appear in Pedro Almodóvar’s next work.
Sophie Marceau, a French actress, won a Cesar when she was just 16. Her career grew phenomenally after this. Here films included Police by Maurice Pialat, and L’Amour Braque by Andrzej Zulawski. She caught international attention for Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995) and the Bond movie The World Is Not Enough (1999). Here other notable credits include Don’t Look Back, directed by Marina de Van and presented at Cannes in 2009. She has also written and directed two features, Parlez-moi d’amour (2002) and La Disparue de Deauville (2007).
Sienna Miller is a British actress who first gained recognition with her role in Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake (2004) and later in Sam Mendes’ Cabaret, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher (which debuted at the 2014 Cannes) and in American Sniper by Clint Eastwood. She has just finished filming High Rise by Ben Wheatley.
Rokia Traoré is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Mali. Traoré has charted a distinctive course between tradition and modernity. Influenced by a nomadic childhood spent between Europe, the Middle East and Mali, the first disk by this singer songwriter with a captivating voice, Mouneïssa (1998), was highly acclaimed.
Guillermo de Toro is a Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist. He is one of the most inventive among the new generation of Mexican directors, alongside Alfonso Cuarón and Alejandro González Iñárritu. Del Toro, who started out as a make-up artist and special effects specialist, now lives in the US. His filmography boasts a rich array of distinctive and flamboyant works shot through with fantasy and imagination. Toro presented Cronos, his first movie, in a parallel section at Cannes.
Canadian director Xavier Dolan after shooting his first full-length movie, I Killed My Mother, at 20, directed Heartbeats and Laurence. Both got an enthusiastic reception at Cannes’ A Certain Regard. His Tom at the Farm was shown at the Venice Film Festival, where he was awarded the FIPRESCI (Critics) Prize. His latest , Mommy, clinched the Jury Prize at last year’s Cannes. Dolan is now working on his next feature, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.
American actor Jake Gyllenhaal was raised in a family of artistes and made his cinema debut at 11. He was first noticed in 2001 in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko, and he built a career composed of both independent cinema and blockbusters. Considered one of Hollywood’s increasingly bankable stars, he appeared in Jarhead by Sam Mendes, Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain (Golden Lion in Venice) and in Zodiac by David Fincher (Cannes in 2007).
* Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 25 years, and may be e-mailed at [email protected]
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