Fireworks and cold sweat at the 71st Cannes Film Festival
Prestige issue 290, June 2018
Cannes Film Festival by Marie-Jeanne Asmar
Saturday, May 19th 2018, the lockers were emptied, the microphones removed, no one in front of the computers in the press room. It’s the last half hour before the curtain closes on this 71st Cannes Film Festival. The Festival Palace is deserted. We just see a few people walking around here and there. While just three hours ago, the palace was still swarming with people. There were queues in front of the various screening rooms, as well as multiple journalists in front of the press conference room waiting for the closing ceremony and press conferences of the jury as well as the laureates. Before leaving the palace, drinking a last coffee, I thought back to my joy to have returned again this year, if only for this record that saw a Lebanese win the jury prize of the Festival. Even if, as Nadine Labaki emphasized during her press conference, I was, like her, divided between the joy of this prize and the discomfort with the theme dealt with in her «Capernaum». In fact, everyone was asking me what will Zain do, the child on which almost all the film rests, once returned to Lebanon.
Lebanon, Italy, Japan
or the revenge of childhood?
In fact, just like the director who also received the Ecumenical Jury Award for her film, I did not know what to say. But, deep in my heart, I thought that maybe one day he will become an award-winning actor in Cannes, like Marcello Fonte, the Italian actor who received the Best Actor Award for Matteo Garrone’s «Dogman». During the press conference, he returned to what he said when he received his award from Roberto Benigni: «I am very happy to be applauded,which reminds me of my childhood when I heard the rain falling on the lights of our tin house and that I imagined already then be applause.» He said that his father was struggling to make ends meet to feed them and that he managed to give them some bread. He added that he would be happy to know, that he had become an actor despite his physique and that he had already played in a few films, including Alice Rohrwacher’s first movie. Note that the latter won the best scenario award for Lazzaro Felice, another Italian film in competition. I thought that Zain, the little hero of Nadine Labaki, could also become a director like the Japanese Kore-Eda Hirokazu who, throughout his career has accumulated the films and the prizes until this year, obtaining the Palme d’or for his film, a Family Affair, from the hands of Cate Blanchett, the president of the jury, who, incidentally according to a colleague, had put a kimono for the occasion. To return to Kore-Eda who, in his film also speaks in a certain way, of children who manage as they can to «satisfy» their families. He told us during the press conference that when he was a kid, he lived in a small apartment and from his closet, he observed what was happening … While going down the stairs of the third floor to the exit,I also thought about the two films I saw that Saturday, the day of all the films in competition and which were rewarded. I was a little surprised about actress Samal Yeslyamova, the main actress of Ayka, to be awarded the Best Actress Award, a film from Kazakhstan that tells the story of a young Kazak woman who had fled to Russia without paper, who has just given birth. But I later understood that this film took years before it was finished and that the actress faithful to the director, patiently waited until they reach their goal and that she was happy. I was very happy that Spike Lee with Blackkklansman receives the grand prize of the Festival. I loved this film with true story inspired by a black policeman infiltrated in the local Ku Klux Klan of Colorado Springs. Film full of suspense and humor like all the other films of the director of which I am a fan.
Star Wars, Grease and …
Vertigo on the Croisette
It is midnight and I am finally out of the palace. I take a look at the red carpet that saw Sting sing and all the laureates dance, the jury members, the organizers, the art director, who smiled, shook hands, gazed at their palms with joy. I decided to take a walk on this beautiful evening on the Croisette, and I stop in front of the movies screen on the beach. There, I reviewed my immense happiness of May 15. In the afternoon, I watched Di Qiu Zui Hou De Ye Wan, of Chinese director BI Gan, competing in the section Un Certain Regard. With 3D glasses, I went back to the theater and there we were told to put them simultaneously with the hero in the movie. Indeed, it was the story of a man who returns to his homeland in search of the woman he loved, wearing his glasses while dreaming of this meeting. The evening of May 15, so, wrapped under a blanket, sitting on a deck chair on the sand, I watched Vertigo of Hitchcock, when suddenly the screen turns off and in a flashing way of the sea, Star Wars with its music and magnificent fireworks invites itself. It was true that day on the red carpet, Ron Howard had landed with Solo: A Star Wars Story. I wanted to share this moment on my Facebook page but I learned at my expense that I could not broadcast all the music, due to a problem of rights. Nothing, however, could ruin my joy and on May 16, in the morning, looking at the cloudy sky, I wondered if the lunch offered by the mayor to the members of the jury as well as the journalists at the Suquet, will take place or will be canceled because of the weather. But at 1 pm, the sky clears, the sun shines and here we are, on the heights of Cannes to share the aioli and drink. I do not know why, but for me, the rosé drunk there, has another taste. I go down, a little drunk from the heights and rush to the Buñuel hall inside the palace, to meet John Travolta. Waiting more than an hour to find an actor who has made good films, had an exceptional career and who, surprise, agrees to answer all questions for about three hours, is worth it. This year the Festival has decided not to offer a single «masterclass» but four appointments with different film professionals. If I missed the meetings with the two directors Ryan Coogler and Christopher Nolan, I could not miss the one with Travolta. Especially that it coincided with the 40 years celebration of Grease and its nightly projection on the beach, in the presence of Danny himself who swung accompanied by the audience. To return to this memorable afternoon, Travolta introduced us to his family: his wife, his daughter, his sister … He highlighted the talents of each, evoked his way of playing, to prepare for his roles, from his collaboration with the directors, emphasizing that for him, to play in a TV series or in feature films is the same. He mentioned the first «Italian» film that made him want to become an actor. Above all, he responded with a lot of humor to students from different film schools. One who proposed to be selected as an actress in one of his films, one who wanted to propose him a role in a film that he would realize and finally a fun exchange with a girl that the parents called Sandy, like Olivia Newton John in Grease…
Looks at Brazil,
France and Kazakhstan
Towards the end of the day this Wednesday I decided to travel to Brazil with a couple of fellow directors in life. His name is João Salaviza. Her name is Renée Nader Messora and with their film, Chuva E Cantoria Na Aldeia Dos Mortos, they won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize, chaired by Benicio Del Toro. Beautiful meeting in the north of Brazil, in Pedra Branca, with the indigenous Kraho community, and its rituals. Very beautiful landscapes and beautiful photos … It is not easy when one is native to flee to live in urban area. On Thursday, May 17th, I go to the Bazin Hall room and there I decide to see «The Crossing» by the French Romain Goupil and Dany Cohn-Bendit. I was expecting a classic road movie. I had forgotten that they were ex-68 and during this trip, they show us the hopes, problems and successes of the French. The most amazing and fun is their meeting with President Macron, a real surprise. In the evening, at the premiere of Capharnaüm Nadine Labaki’s film, I receive a punch, when I hear people crying next to me and I do not know where to hide. I console myself a little with the poetry of a film from Kazakhstan whose title in French is «La tender indifférence du monde». The story of this young woman who lives in her world, made of poetry and elegance far from her sordid reality should be sad. But the very beautiful pictures soften the whole thing. Congratulations to director Adilkhan Yerzhanov.
Gary Oldman, Vanessa Paradis …
Fortunately, Friday is sunny. I hurry to the Palace for the press conference of Vanessa Paradis, which I wanted to attend out of curiosity. Having arrived a little late, they do not let me in. What does it matter to me? I watch her speak on the screen of the pressroom next door. I realize that this is probably one of the few actresses who did not use plastic surgery and who accepts her imperfections. I take some photos of her during the «cigarette» break. Then I return to the press conference of the Lebanese movie with Nadine Labaki, Yordanos Shifera, Zain Al Rafeea, Khaled Mouzanar … At the end of the conference I run to the Buñuel hall to wait for Gary Oldman. Obviously I am not the only one. But after two hours, we find the British actor, who won the Oscar for his role in Winston Churchill, with lot of English humor and seriousness. During this meeting we learn that from his filmography, he likes to watch especially JFK by Oliver Stone, film in which he played the role of Oswald, the assassin of the president. He talks about the filming, the freedom given by the director. He admits that the film he loves the least is Dracula. He explains to the students how he works his voice, evokes the difference between the preparation of the actors in England and the United States, the difference between playing theater and cinema … A great lesson in cinema by a great actor. My only regret for this 71st Cannes Film Festival, is not having been able to attend, the steps of Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, a couple of actors that I like.