This year’s Cannes Film Festival celebrates the rebirth of cinema for the umpteenth time, following the last-minute cancellation of the 2020 event, which was overshadowed by COVID, with big names such as David Cronenberg and Baz Luhrmann, and Tom Cruise’s blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, which will be screened for the first time on the French Riviera. Because of the invasion of Ukraine, the organisers have banned official Russian delegations from the festival, but have opened the doors to filmmakers, many of whom are at odds with the Putin regime. Russian director Kirill Serebrennyikov’s film Tchaikovsky’s Wife is in the main competition programme, with the director recently released from house arrest,.
What didn’t work at the Oscars has now worked at Cannes… The guest of honour at Tuesday’s opening ceremony was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who addressed the audience via video link. He spoke of Charlie Chaplin’s classic The Great Dictator, quoted Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and drew parallels between the fictional war and dictators and the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Jury President Vincent Lindon argued passionately for the continued relevance of the event. Acknowledging the thundering noise of the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic, the French actor said, “In this festival, we can be the mirror. And I believe that culture is the fundamental proof of what the world was like when we lived in it. So, it’s crucial, and that’s why we have to keep the festival”. The nine-member jury this year includes Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, American writer-director Jeff Nichols, and British actor-director Rebecca Hall. The diversity of the jury is also a major focus of the festival each year. “We all grew up in different countries, in far-flung places”, said Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, who is also judging this year’s films. This year, Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker received the Palme d’Or for lifetime achievement, honouring not only his exceptional acting but also his career as a producer. The festival will also screen his documentary about the war in South Sudan, For the Sake of Peace.
The internationalism of this year’s film programme also seems to be underlined. The Palme d’Or nominees range from the banlieue in Paris to the circus in Poland, from the streets of Cairo to the Iranian holy city of Mashhad, but there is also a place for Saim Sadiq’s Joyland, the first Pakistani film to be included in the official Cannes selection. This year’s festival opened with Michel Hazanavicius’ zombie comedy The Last Cut, a remake of the Japanese horror film One Cut of The Dead. Among the 21 films in competition are returning directors such as the aforementioned David Cronenberg (Crimes of the Future), French director Claire Denis (Stars at Noon), 2007 Palme d’Or-winning Romanian filmmaker Crisitan Mungiu (R.M.N.) and South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Decision to Leave).
But this year, David Lynch’s name is in vain in the programme guide. Although there had been rumours that he was secretly making a film that would also debut at Cannes, a few weeks before the event the director himself denied the rumours and clarified that he would not be attending the French festival this year.