Dear Diary, so, the swallows have returned, the wisteria is in full bloom and bank holidays are ten a penny. This can only mean one thing: it’s time to shut myself in a dark room and rarely glimpse daylight, for the Cannes Film Festival is upon us. Before I even got here, Cannes managed to make a slew of contentious decisions and get us poor journos rankled. First of all, there’s the frankly pathetic number of female directors (three of them) in the official line-up. The festival organisers insisted that their final choice was based on merit and not on gender and countered this embarrassing omission by pointing out that their juries are very PC in terms of gender equality and ethnic diversity.
They have also created a hotline for Cannes attenders who experience sexual harassment during their stay. Thanks a lot, Cannes! #MeToo and Time’s Up salute you! Then there were the strict new rules regarding selfies and the odious, ubiquitous selfie-stick. This I can live with. The other new rule is harder to swallow: journalists are unable to view films before the official red-carpet screening. Cannes doesn’t want their party pooped by nasty reviews appearing before the director and co. have had their moment of glory. Festival director Thierry Frémaux says embargos don’t work, but this simply isn’t true.
Other festivals such as Venice impose press embargos and they work just fine. Plus, all the festival has to do is pull the offender’s badge in order to bring journalists into line. The repercussions of this decision will be seen later tonight when we’ll have the first scuffles to get into the opening film, the highly anticipated Everybody Knows, directed by Cannes favourite Asghar Fahadi and starring Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem.
Which brings us to the other contentious decision: Cannes banning Netflix films. This notion has been applauded by some as a brave opposition against the streaming behemoth, yet derided by many as a monolithic approach to cinema. Netflix has been making festival-worthy films (Beasts of No Nation, Mudbound, The Meyerowitz Stories…) for years now and the idea of pulling the plug on them seems a little shortsighted. In a new twist, it transpires that Cannes’ mortal enemy is now thinking of acquiring Everybody Knows, possibly as a direct snub to Fremaux and his team. Add to all this the decision to un-ban Lars Von Trier and it is safe to say that Cannes is off to a belligerent start. Plus ça change, as we say in France, and let the Cannes begin!