The 66th Cannes Film Festival is underway, with Steven Spielberg as its elected jury president. He has the enviable task of choosing which of the 20 films on show will take home the coveted Palme d’Or.
In light of entries from legends like Roman Polanski, the Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, and James Gray, the festival’s director, Thierry Frémaux, acknowledged the need for a president who would command respect from such an illustrious roster.
Frémaux told euronews: “These are great filmmakers and these great filmmakers must get something legitimate from the jury. And when you have someone like Steven Spielberg to be president, we have the legitimacy of that.”
Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ – starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire – was the festival’s first screening, and for Frémaux, it’s the ideal way to kick things off – in true Cannes style.
He said: “I don’t want to say it’s a perfect example of Cannes but it is almost that. An auteur – Baz Luhrmann, a great star – Leonardo Di Caprio, and one of the legendary stories and legend of literature. And with people like Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman for the first time on the red carpet for the opening night, this is part of the dimension and the legend of Cannes.”
Amongst Gatsby’s challengers is ‘La Grande Bellezza’, directed by Paolo Sorrentino. Starring Sorrentino regular Toni Servillo, it tells the story of an ageing writer as he reflects, with considerable bitterness, on the passions of his distant youth.
Elsewhere ‘Heli’ is a powerfully moving narco-drama directed by Amat Escalante. Set in a dusty Mexican town, it explores how love and family can provide solace for those otherwise besieged by drug cartels, corrupt policemen and sexual predators.
Familiar faces can also be found, however. Not least Benicio Del Toro’s, who stars in the drama ‘Jimmy P. Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian’ – a film based on the real-life friendship between a Native American former soldier and an anthropologist in the years immediately following the Second World War.
‘The Past’ is the latest feature from the celebrated Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, who took home an Oscar last year for the internationally acclaimed ‘A Separation’. This time round he tells the story of an Iranian who deserts his French wife to return to his homeland; bleak detachment, as ever with Farhadi, forms the film’s central theme.
For those lucky enough to gain entry to the glamour, Cannes the festival promises to be anything but.