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Cannes: Day One, from Le Pizza Buzz to Meeting the Jury

Cannes: Day One, from Le Pizza Buzz to Meeting the Jury

The Cannes Film Festival is up and running. I took the Air France red eye from Los Angeles to Paris, managing to grab a few nods of sleep despite a screaming baby nearby, with a short layover in Paris and some more snoozing on the flight to Nice.

I shared a cab to Cannes with iTunes exec Matt Dentler, who ran the SXSW festival for years, followed by a Cinetic Media stint in New York. He now curates and promotes iTunes placement on indie films with his global distribution partners and filmmakers, many of whom will be meeting with him here. As Amazon and Netflix and their cable rivals amp up their subscription relationship with film consumers, it will be fascinating to see how iTunes evolves. 

The whole question of the VOD-theatrical market is front and center as buyers navigate each project’s worth. Amazon and Netflix are using original films and TV as bait to lure new subscribers–they can afford to plunk serious money down for world rights they can control. Netflix spent $12 million on Cary Fukunaga’s “Beasts of No Nation.” Will they really make a theatrical partnership deal and chase an Oscar? That new frontier could build the kind of credibility Cannes requires to book a Netflix release in the official selection.

A Tuesday Cannes ritual brought a gaggle of Cannes journos to Le Pizza at the Old Port to down chilled rose and yummy thin-crust pizza, including Indiewire’s Eric Kohn and Nigel M. Smith (with whom I share a noisy third-floor apartment near the Palais), Hollywood Elsewhere’s Jeff Wells, The Toronto Star’s Pete Howell, the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Eugene Hernandez, Variety’s Peter Debruge and Guy Lodge, Vulture’s Kyle Buchanan and Jada Yuan, and Brooklyn film critic and videostore owner Aaron Hillis.

Everyone seemed equally high on George Miller’s “Mad Max: Fury Road”–a potential Oscar contender which world premieres here tomorrow–and I was raving about another likely Oscar entry, Pete Docter’s animated “Inside Out,” which screened at CinemaCon. Hope springs eternal that something new and exciting will hit us hard. The advance word from London on Michael Fassbender’s “Macbeth” is upbeat. Everyone wants to see Todd Haynes’ “Carol.”

One key question: will the slate of foreign filmmakers make strong transitions to working with English-speaking actors? Today brings Italian Matteo (“Gomorrah”) Garrone’s “Tale of Tales,” starring Vincent Cassel and Salma Hayek. Sorrentino apparently delivers with his second English-language film, “Youth,” which has sold to Fox Searchlight. Lionsgate comes into the festival with already-proven French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve’s latest, Mexican border drama “Sicario,” starring Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro.

Lionsgate is coming on strong, acquiring “Genius” starring Colin Firth, and partner Roadside Attractions just picked up American Gus Van Sant’s cerebral film “The Sea of Trees,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe, ahead of its screening here.

The opening night movie “Standing Tall” was a well-executed domestic French drama about a young juvenile delinquent’s second family: the French court, personified by a tough but empathetic judge played with authority and sensitivity by the great Catherine Deneuve, who adds red carpet glamour to Wednesday night’s opening night ceremony. Newcomer Rod Paradot is a major breakout and actress-filmmaker Emmanuelle Bercot is a director to watch. (My coverage here.)

At the jury press conference, each of the nine jurors who will choose the Palme d’Or winner from 19 competition films revealed their personalities, although Brit actress Sienna Miller did not have much to say.

French actress-director Sophie Marceau said they were already a team, eager to get to see the films. They will meet every two or three days, they have already decided.

Co-president Joel Coen revealed that he and Ethan are eager to see what looks like “a strong interesting lineup of movies. We don’t have that much time to see movies so this is a huge unusual treat.” Ethan admitted that he hasn’t watched “a TV show in decades, it’s something I’m alienated from.” Joel further explained that he and Ethan don’t have time to watch television: “It’s not the furrow we are ploughing.” 

When asked about the new media for consuming film, Joel responded: “How do we feel about someone watching ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on their iPhone? For or against? There’s something special about seeing cinema with a crowd of people on the big screen. Nothing can compete with that, it’s something that film festivals like this keep alive.”

Almodovar regular Rossy De Palma described cinema as “a universal language. There’s no borders, it’s a different world. It’s sort of gastronomic if you like. There’s no Spanish film, unfortunately.”
African singer songwriter Rokia Traore looked forward to watching cinema and not looking at it from a musician’s POV.
Jake Gyllenhaal: “I’ve never seen the back of the Coen brothers’ heads before…I’m thrilled to be seeing films before everyone else in the world will see them…

On having actors on the jury:

“This festival is director-oriented, as films generally are, but as an actor…it’s very important to figure out who you admire and would want to work with. A lot is about watching directors work all the time, they’re in control, the ones you want to work with. Otherwise the directors up here would be telling other directors how great they are. We can’t have that going, we have to throw a wrench in the mix.”

Guillermo del Toro joked that he had wanted to get thinner and get into his old suits, and was happy that this was the first time he was not in production. “I jumped at the chance to celebrate film…We’re here not as a panel of stern judges of what’s good and bad. We are here to say what we love that we see. It’s not a sentence of freedom or prison.” He bought new suits with him.
The youngest jury member, Xavier Dolan, looked tired and anxious–perhaps because as he waits to start shooting his follow-up to “Mommy,” “The Death and Life of John F. Donovan,” his first English-language film, he starts a new film (“It’s Only the End of the World”) in 12 days. He admitted that he doesn’t know the film work of Ingrid Bergman well enough to comment on it. 
Among the comments on Ingrid Bergman: 
Gyllenhaal: “My father’s Swedish. I deeply hope I’m related to her in some form, she’s extraordinary. My mother [screenwriter-director Naomi Foner] asked me to bring back a poster.” 
Del Toro loved Bergman in Hitchcock movies, especially “Notorious.” She’s a marvelous woman who is powerful and strong and natural on screen, and also a movie star.”

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