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By Severine Benzimra

Milla and that Iranian guy at the Cannes 2005

Cannes Festival 2005


Après la pluie, le beau temps[1]


The 58th opus of the Cannes Festival was clearly the most satisfying one in quite a few years. The quality of the movies which were presented, the lack of scandal or political grandstanding, the not-too-surprising award choices, the correspondence between the movies and the tastes of both the audience and the critics, from Star Wars, Episode 3 (presented off-competition) to Last Days (Gus Van Sant) or Kirikou et le fétiche égaré (Kirikou and the lost Fetish, by Michel Ocelot), presented to children of all the primary schools of Cannes and surroundings, let space for a comfortable recapitulation.


Recapitulation looked compulsory this year. Several books about the history of Cannes were published right before the opening of the festival[2]. Journalists tirelessly counted the years passed since a French movie last won the Palme d’Or (it was Sous le soleil de Satan, by Maurice Pialat, in 1987), or the number of film-directors who won it twice and who could win it for a second time this year… Cécile de France, the Belgian actress who presented the award ceremony, played on it, quoting unverified statistics about the quantity of coffee the jury drank, the number of migraines the intensive film-watching caused, and the the insignificant snoring ratio.


Obviously, the festival is more and more media-saturated than ever before. Some 4,000 accreditations were given to journalists in 2004, making the festival the third largest global event, after the Summer Olympic Games and the Soccer World Cup. Canal Plus dedicated about two hours each day to the festival (and sent 250 persons in Cannes to follow the event), followed by Arte. Among the press, Le Monde dedicated 3 pages to the movies each evening, Le Nouvel Observateur and Télerama put critics and rumors on line every day. Top models have replaced the starlets. The sight of Laeticia Casta, Noémie Lenoir, Anna Mouglalis, the insolent Milla Jovovich, (she caressed the cheek of the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, who already had some trouble on his arrival in Teheran after a French actress kissed him on the cheek while giving him the Palme d’Or in 1997), excited both TV reporters and crowd to a rare point. L’Oreal was certainly delighted with the results of its sponsoring.

[1] After the rain, sun comes back.

[2] « Le Festival de Cannes sur la scène internationale », Loredana Latil, Ed. Cinéma et Cie

« Cannes fait son cinéma », Nathalie Cuman, Timée-Editions.

The festival was inspired by the anti-fascist, neutral and humanistic ideals of the eve of the WWII. French organizers wanted  to offer in 1939 an alternative scene to international movies while the Venice Mostra consecrated more and more movies of fascist inspiration. The war caused the cancellation of the first festival. It took place in 1946, but was cancelled in 1948 and 1950 for budgetary reasons. It was cancelled again in 1968 because of the French events. In 2005, it seems solidly settled.


Directors from the southern countries reproached in the late 60’s to the French directors who took Cannes as a platform for debating exclusively French issues to forget that Cannes was an international festival. The opening to the world is now clear. 1540 films were presented this year by 97 different countries, to compete in the Sélection Officielle – only 20 were chosen by the committee of Gilles Jacob. Considering all the sections, 50 movies were presented during the Festival in world preview. An official Chinese delegation came on the Croisette to celebrate the first century of the Chinese cinema, while an African delegation celebrated the 50th birthday of African cinema. The Senegalese director Sembene Ousmane, whose film Moolaadé won the price Un certain regard in 2004, gave a “cinema class” during the festival. A new section opened this year during the festival, dedicated to the Cinemas of the World; it gathered personalities from 7 countries.  Is there a risk that the festival turns into an over-weight organism, like some international cultural institutions, drowning under the weight of its good intentions, hypocritical, torn between the will of the participants? When one looks at the numerous awards distributed during the festival, before the official prize ceremony, it seems that the risk is important… the jury of the official selection Un certain regard gives 3 awards; 4 awards are given to movies presented to the international week of the Critics; 7 awards to those presented during the Quinzaine des réalisateurs; the French Minister of National Education, the radio France Culture, the jury of the Cinefondation… also give awards and help to film-makers, confirmed or students.


The festival grows and evolves… but the core of it doesn’t change. About 20 movies, in the framework of the Sélection officielle, are presented to a jury as the best movies shot during the year around the world. The jury is constituted of a president chosen by the organizers, usually a film-director, and the members he invited. They debate, after a week of projections, about the movies seen. They are given one day to make their prize-list. The main award they give is the Palme d’or, followed by the Grand Prix du Jury, given to a movie that could have won the Palme d’Or. Quentin Tarantino, president of the jury in 2004, fought to give the palme to the corean movie Old Boy, to finally give it the Grand Prix.


The jury also gives awards to an actress and an actor (whatever the importance of their part is), to the best director, to the best screen-play writer who worked on the movies presented in the official selection. It gives a “Prix du Jury” to a movie, director, actor; another Palme d’Or to a short movie; the Caméra d’Or to the best first long-movie presented in any of the selections (Selection officielle, Quinzaine des Réalisateurs or Semaine Internationale de la Critique).



Cronenberg's CRASH was booed at Cannes.









In 1999, after a very controversial award ceremony, the president of the jury David Cronenberg explained in the French daily Libération: “The chosen movies are those for which we had the purest heart blow. We had no political intention... We obviously expressed our feelings on cinema, but... we weren’t a band of  subversive agitators. Hollywood gave a brainwash to the entire world. Why, after all, have a jury? If popularity is the only criteria, one should let the audience vote. You must understand that Cannes became an insult for the Americans”.


The jury presided by Cronenberg gave the Palme d’Or to Rosetta, by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, and the Grand Prix du Jury to L’Humanité by Bruno Dumont. Critics depicted these movies as “ultra-documentaries”, “sadly naturalists”, “pessimistic social-realists”…


Six years later, the movies of the Dardenne brothers don’t shock anymore. Their come-back to Cannes was welcomed, as David Cronenberg’s, whose film Crash was hooted in 1996. The hootings of the public don’t mean much: Fellini received some in 1960 with La Dolce Vita, Marco Ferreri for La grande bouffe and Jean Eustache for La maman et la putain in 1973, Pialat in 1987, Michael Haneke in 1997 for Funny Games. No hootings in 2005, though the end of the French movie Peindre ou faire l’amour surprised a part of the audience. The main part of the movies of the Selection Officielle represented successful returns of respected directors – David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Jim Jarmush, Gus Van Sant, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Michael Haneke, the brothers Dardenne or Larrieu,  Dominique Moll, Lars von Trier, Amos Gitaï. Most of them well known on the Croisette… Amos Gitai comes for several years, Jim Jarmush received an award in the early 80s, Gus van Sant, Lars von Trier, the Dardenne and Wim Wenders received a palme d’Or, Dominique Moll, Hong Sang-soo (Conte de Cinéma) and Carlos Reygadas (Battalla en el cielo) already came once…


No major discovery in the Sélection officielle, apart from Tommy Lee Jones as director (The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada), but a confirmation of the strength of the Mexican and of the diversity of Asian cinema. No major discovery, but this didn’t mean no emotions and no surprises. The selected movies talked a lot about family – husband and wife, father and son – and the isolation of the individual inside or outside the familial cell. They talked about the past, hidden or denied, that doesn’t go. The members of the jury declared having hesitated between Hidden, Broken Flowers, and L’Enfant for the Palme d’Or. It seems they gave it to the movie who needed it the most. The actress Salma Hayek and the writer Toni Morrisson also defended The Three Burials and Shanghai Dreams (Wang Xiaoshuai), who received other awards. Emir Kusturica during the press conference taught about the high quality of Don’t Come Knocking (Wim Wenders), A History of Violence (David Cronenberg) and Manderlay (Lars von Trier), the big omissions of the prize list in the opinion of the critics, with Last Days (Gus Van Sant).


Northern America arose this year more fascination than fear, through the myths it created. Rock’n roll clichés, western, life in the south, insecurity and self-defense, ordinary hero… The distant, neutral, foreign point of view with Lars von Trier, made them more attractive. The most remarked documentary movie in the festival, the British Power of Nightmares dealt too about American mythology. Several almost mythical figures, both popular and respected on this side of the Ocean, climbed the stairs of the Festival Palace – Woody Allen, Georges Lucas, Sharon Stone, Dennis Hopper, Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman. They represented for Europeans the plurality, creativity, the very human ambiguity and sensitivity of the USA, making the team of Sin City and their false cowboys costumes, invisible.


France was too absent, some journalists regretted. Guillermo Arriaga, scenarist on The Three Burials, shown a Mexican flag. Igor Strembitskyy, winner of the Palme d’Or for his short movie Podorozhni, claimed his pride for being Ukrainian. The only French movie that won a price was Hidden – not considered as representative of French contemporary streams, as directed by an Austrian. Peindre ou faire l’amour was the favourite French movie of the French journalists, who noticed with a faint surprise that French societies or public institutions had taken part to the production of 2/3 of the movies who competed for the Palme d’Or.


Date: March 2005

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