By Indiewire | Indiewire May 18, 2006 at 2:55AM
At an opening ceremony hosted by French actor Vincent Cassell, the 2006 Festival de Cannes kicked off Wednesday night in France, with the actor presenting the jury, including its president Wong Kar-wai. The esteemed auteur, a favorite of the festival, was greeted with a clip from his film, "2046" and a live operatic performance. He responded with a few words in Chinese. Actor Sidney Poitier officially opened the event and the cast and crew of the opening night film "The Da Vinci Code" were welcomed to the festival. Unfortunately for those involved with the movie, however, the high spirits of the evening may have been dampered a bit by the tepid reaction the movie received ahead of its worldwide release tomorrow. A number of negative reviews have greeted the film and an informal poll of those who saw the movie yielded some quite negative reactions.
Talking About "The Da Vinci Code"
The man who closed the 1988 Festival de Cannes with his film "Willow," Ron Howard returned to The Croisette for the fourth time this year with his latest, "The DaVinci Code." Held back from advance screenings because the director said it was only finished about a week ago, the film is opening worldwide this week and arrived in Cannes Wednesday night in time to kick-off the 2006 festi. An adaptation of the best-selling book of the same name, cast and crew downplayed any sense of controversy at a press conference in Cannes Wednesday.
During the conversation with the press, Howard sought to play up the film's entertaining elements, explaining, "I really wanted the movie to operate on a number of different levels." When prodded by one journalist who said she felt that the film played better as a humorous movie than a serious one, he agreed, saying "I hope it works as a very entertaining, sometimes funny, summer enjoyment." On the other hand, Howard acknowledged that the film also deals with issues that might stimulate the mind or stir conversation.
Asked by the media whether any of the cast or crew believed the controversial central premise of the book and film -- that Jesus Christ was in fact married -- director Howard weighed in saying, "I am not going to share my conclusions, that's not very important...its up to the viewer. Audiences are very, very intelligent and I think they are often underestimated and they can arrive at their own conclusions."
"Life is a continuing mystery and one of the virtues, one of the gifts that we have -- from God if you will -- is our mind," Howard concluded. "And we have a curiousity and a desire to know and understand -- to try to hold it back is working against nature."
"I am very happy to believe that Jesus was married," offered Ian McKellan, "And I know that the Catholic Church has problems with gay people, so I thought that this was absolute proof that Jesus was not gay."
Meet The Jury
Journalists flocked to the Palais de Festivals for the 2006 feature film competition jury headed this year by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai. Also serving this year are director Elia Suleiman, actress Helena Bonham Carter, director Lucrecia Martel, actress Monica Bellucci, director Patrice Leconte, actor Samuel L. Jackson, actor/ director Tim Roth and actress Zhang Ziyi. Some attending journalists creatively questioned individual jurors about their individual tastes in film, but most agreed that disagreements were inevitable.
"It really comes down to subjectivity," said Wong. A cadre of Chinese journalists aimed their questions at Wong and Zhang, with one asking a long question in Chinese and both Wong and Zhang responding in their native language, prompting the panel's moderator to ask for a "re-take" because no festival translator was present to offer the exchange in another language.
Several other questioners were interested that the age of Zhang, who at 27, is one of the youngest Cannes jurors ever. "It is an honor to be here," she replied.
Monaco Touts New IETFF for '07
Several dozen press, industry and even a couple of celeb Cannes early- birds jaunted out to the Principality of Monaco Tuesday evening for a pre-launch cocktail party celebrating the new International Emerging Talent Film Festival.
The ambitious new event, which will take place May 12 - 15, 2007 in the Principality just prior to next year's Cannes, is being organized in support of emerging talent. Twenty-two new projects made by filmmakers with no more than one film that has received distribution, will screen during next year's event and organizers plan to provide various incentives to help new talent establish themselves in the industry.
American producer Effie Brown, who is on the new festival's board commented about the new event, "Anything that can give [filmmakers] a platform, I am absolutely for..."
IETFF's founder and director, Max Ryerson, offered some details about next year's event and its benefit for filmmakers. He said that he is planning an intimate event in which industry professionals will work with a select group of new talent to perfect their craft in their respective fields.
Actor Billy Zane, also a board member, announced during IETFF's presentation what should most likely be a big attraction for merging talent. "We're looking to guarantee at least a small distribution in the United States for the winner of the festival. The fact that a city that is synonymous with privilege is giving [a platform] to emerging artists is right and just and should succeed."
Ryerson, whose background includes filmmaking and acting, commented, "I'm a filmmaker at heart, and I want to welcome and help other filmmakers."
[For more information, visit their website.]
[Get the latest from the Festival de Cannes throughout the day in indieWIRE's special Cannes '06 section.]