Surrounded by friends, the Festival de Cannes celebrated its 70th anniversary in an evening that was less of a ceremony and more an opportunity for discussion. A chance to talk about cinema, the history of film and the Festival, with directors from every generation, and actors and actresses too… Earlier that day, an exceptional photocall had brought together over one hundred artists for a family photo: Palme d’or winners, Presidents and Jury members…
At 7 pm, the Grand Théâtre Lumière’s stage curtain rose for a first montage that chronicled Grand openings of the Festival de Cannes before Thierry Frémaux welcomed guests, including: Pedro Almodóvar, Andrea Arnold, Jane Campion, Alfonso Cuarón, Guillermo Del Toro, Matteo Garrone, Michael Haneke, Alejandro Iñárritu, Ken Loach, George Miller, Nicolas Winding Refn, Jia Zhangke, Claude Lelouch… But someone was missing… Isabelle Huppert perhaps? Waiting in the wings, she took to the stage to introduce a film that looked back at her illustrious career.
“Tonight, we join together to celebrate 70 years of marriage between Cannes and the cinema… For Jean Cocteau, who presided over the Jury in 1953, the Festival had no real meaning unless it was “a meeting of hearts and minds”. Perhaps this is the secret to a long-lasting marriage, the secret of a 70-year love story, the meeting of hearts and minds.”
The actress, who presided over the evening alongside Thierry Frémaux, then introduced the second themed montage on the history of the Festival, this time with a focus on women. For it has to be said, as she made clear in her introduction, that the Festival has, year in and year out, highlighted the profiles, stories and views of women.
Other montages filled the celebration with memories and emotion: including a film looking back at Palmes d’or winners and another on memorable prize giving ceremonies, as well as montages focusing on scandals, and even childhood, as Thierry Frémaux recalled: “We, the cinema enthusiasts, both those who produce films and those who celebrate them, have refused to grow old. Because cinema is also about continuing to delight the child in all of us…”
Next it was the turn of Guillermo Del Toro, one of the most influential members of the new wave of Mexican cinema and a global success, to deliver a speech on tolerance. “Today, in the post-truth era we live in, we need to talk about monsters. Gauge them against those we live with. Find a renewed sense of empathy. Forgive our sins and imperfections and rebel against those who claim that it is “the other” that we should beware of. Against those who tell us that there is an “us” and “them”, who we must reject, and who demonize anything that stands out from the norm.”
On the musical side, the evening featured two live performances to commemorate soundtracks from key films in the Festival’s history. The first was performed by Camélia Jordana and Babx as a tribute to The Piano, Orfeu Negro (Black Orpheus) and Un homme et une femme (A Man and a Woman). The second performance was delivered by Vianney, accompanied by Manu Katché and Laurent Vernerey reinterpreting Pulp Fiction, Une aussi longue absence (The Long Absence), Youth, Wild at Heart, We Own the Night, Moulin Rouge.
As the evening drew to a close, all that remained was to hear the deep, captivating voice of Vincent Lindon. The French actor and winner of the Best Actor Award in 2015 for La Loi du marché (The Measure of a Man) drew on the words of Vaclav Havel, Albert Camus and André Bazin to launch an appeal to the profession, to those who, more than anyone else, have the power to change the world.
“Today we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the guardian of a strenuous sense of integrity, without which the world would not be the place it is today. This obstinacy has resulted in Cannes becoming the world’s greatest film festival. Each of us can change the world. I am one of those people who believe that a great director has this power, that it is the duty of actresses and actors to be chosen by the best, those who carry within them a vast and unique world, those who never fail to challenge received opinion, who seek to show and tell rather than to please.”
“Cinema replaces our vision with a world that matches our desires”
Before departing, the extended cinema family came together once again on the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière to sing an “Happy Birthday to you!”. On the front row, one of its prodigal sons, Jean-Pierre Léaud.