A still from ‘Bird People’
A still from ‘Bird People’

Cannes Film Festival | Glamour, old-new names and surprises behind the curtain

Asides and observations from the prestigious movie event

To be at Cannes is to be at an annual pilgrimage to the Mecca of the cinema world. The Cannes Film Festival (14-25 May), which is in its 67th edition this year, is a den of frenzied deals, a haven for hangers-on and, for many Indians, an excuse to go party-hopping, discover an Indian restaurant and visit the casino at Monaco next door.

According to Thierry Frémaux, the festival’s powerful artistic director, 1,800 films were received this year. The Official Competition section shortlisted 18 films, while Un Certain Regard chose about 20 films making this a year of comebacks for some film-makers (Xavier Dolan), debuts (Ryan Gosling) and swan songs (Ken Loach, Jean-Luc Godard).

While being asked on the curatorial policy, why some films are chosen in the Competition while others are placed in the Un Certain Regard section, and the difference between these sections, Frémaux explained: ‘The editorial policy is established by the works themselves. We don’t define anything in advance, we are at the mercy of the film. A selection has to gather together different generations, styles and geographical origins. And, it’s the sum total of these films that constitutes the editorial policy, if there is one! Fundamentally, the only policy is the quality of the films because once the lights go out in the theatre, the only thing that counts is the film itself; we don’t give priority to anything other than the strength of the work that’s been put forward to us!"

This year Un Certain Regard has 20 films, including Indian debutant director Kanu Behl’s Titli, which is also contesting for the Camera d’Or (prize for a first time film-maker). What’s the difference between the Competition and Un Certain Regard? My observation, having attended Cannes for several years, is that since it is not possible for all the films to be in the Competition, either because of the restriction on numbers or because they are not all robust enough to endure such an ordeal. Un Certain Regard works as a counter-programme to the official competition selection—it is different, unique, fragile and young.

However, Cannes receives so much attention from around the world that one can easily forget that the official line-up is actually quite small and much of it lacks surprise, particularly this year. While this year’s edition certainly includes highly anticipated films that will fulfill any cinephile’s dreams, some films surprisingly did not end up making the cut. Liv Ullmann’s Miss Julie, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden, Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman, Thomas Vinterberg’s Far from The Madding Crowd, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, J.C Chandor’s A Most Violent Year, Morten Tyldum’s The Imitation Game, Saul Dibb’s Suite Française and Abel Ferrara’s Welcome to New York are not in the line-up, either because the films were not ready on time, a strategic move to screen them elsewhere or maybe because Cannes selectors rejected them. Thankfully, these high-profiles films are now now official contenders for other prominent film fests , including Venice, Toronto and Telluride.

The famous red-carpet star wattage possibilities this year include Meryl Streep, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Tim Roth and Kristen Stewart. Will Pattinson and Stewart walk the red carpet together or not? This is the question on every one’s mind ahead of the opening day, not discounting the controversy over the opening film, Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco.

For more on that, stay tuned to this blog. Until then, à bientôt.

Sunil Doshi is a producer, talent agent and founder-director of Lumiere Movies and The Adaptation Company. He lives in Mumbai and France.

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