The Cannes film festival is fast approaching, an edition where the stars will be presented in a “huge” fashion, according to Thierry Frémaux, director of the festival. Before we hit the red carpet, we join up with him at the Institute Lumiere, in Lyon, where he is also the director. We are with him on the Hanger Film set, where the Lumiere brothers made the movie, “Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory”, considered to be the first-ever film. Thierry Fremaux, welcome, and thanks for having us at this symbolic location.
Frédéric Ponsard: Could we compare your job with that of a football coach, because you have to choose films, like players, and is it quite heartbreaking?
Thierry Frémaux Yes, it’s heartbreaking because first, we saw 1800 movies I’m not going to say that all were brilliant – but from that 1800, 200-300 are in contention for around 50 places. There are 20 in competition, there is also a selection called Un Certain Regard.
There are many movies that we love and that we can not take, that’s heartbreaking. There are many people we love and can not invite, that’s also heartbreaking. And we often remark, critically,“It’s always a bit the same.” Indeed, one might say in a funny way: “You see 1800 movies, and it’s always Ken Loach, the Dardenne Brothers and Woody Allen!”
Its also heartbreaking to continue to be faithful to directors – whom it is clear that they have to be there at their best, at the top of their game, to make the cut in the official selection. In addition we have to also make room for the younger generation.”
Biography: Thierry Frémaux
- 1983 Starts working at the Institute Lumière in Lyon
- 1995 Becomes director of the Institut Lumière
- Cannes Film Festival: Artistic Director from 2000, Director since 2007
- Organiser of the Lumière Festival in Lyon since 2009.
Frédéric Ponsard: You said yourself at this the selection that this is going to be a year of the stars …
Thierry Frémaux: “Yes, they are not stars because they come to Cannes, they are stars because they are in the movies. Nowadays you are a star at the click of a finger. If you present the weather, you are a star … if you do reality TV, you’re a star.
George Clooney and Julia Roberts are in Jodie Foster’s film. Foster was a star as an actress and then became a director. But she started off as a comedienne.
Then we have Marion Cotillard who stars alternatively with Xavier Dolan, the young prodigy from Quebec, and Nicole Garcia, so two types of cinema.
The same goes for Kristen Stewart, who has a lead-role in the Woody Allen film, while being paid very little, bare minimum, like Woody Allen actors; and then in a completely different film, she stars in the film by Olivier Assayas where she plays an American in Paris, who spends her life sending text messages.
So all these people are here because they are took part in the films. But for us, the most important thing of all is the film.”
Frédéric Ponsard: There are also absentees. Such as Martin Scorsese or Kusturica. Kusturica’s film could not be seen?
Thierry Frémaux: “Both films are not ready. Scorsese’s film comes out December 2016 at the end of this year. And Marty must not delay the post-production. The same goes for Kusturica, whose film has been three-to-four years in the making. He showed me a very long version and I think we’ll see his film in the autumn.”
Frédéric Ponsard: What is it that makes Cannes the most publicised, glamorous and biggest film festival in the world?
Thierry Frémaux: Because Cannes Film Festival rests on four pillars. It rests on the directors, meaning the film. There’s artistic credibility. We go to Cannes to see the best of the moment. We don’t say the best of the year because, as I’ve just told you, for Martin Scorsese or Kusturica, all is not ready by the time Cannes arrives.
Then there is glamour, we just spoke about that too.
Then there is the industry, meaning the film market. People don’t just come to go to the beach, or to watch the films or for pleasure. They come to work. Buyers, sellers, distributors, producers, directors, all sorts of people. Now TV people are coming, because it’s their job.
Then there’s the press, all of you who make make Cannes what it is. The press is interested in who’s treading the red carpet but also all the rest too.
And basically our job is just that. Cannes has to be the place to be. It’s just where it’s all at.
Each year there are major themes. This year, of the 21 films, 14 are from the old continent …?
Thierry Frémaux: The important question today is, does cinema still count when stacked up against TV series and the internet. But it’s cinema. A TV series, it’s cinema, it’s the language of cinema. What we are doing is the language of pure TV. It’s information, it’s live, it’s football.
However the question of going to the cinema arises again. In China, a country making great strides economically, dozens of cinemas are opening each week and since 2015 it’s the leading country in terms of the cinema and box office. So we see that when a country emerges economically, one of the most important things is the cinema
Frédéric Ponsard: Coming back to the festival, what’s it like day-to-day. You who have the best position to see the members of the jury, the artists … what’s a typical day like for the boss of a film festival
Thierry Frémaux: I arrive at my desk at 9. At 10am it’s already time for the first press conferences and conference calls?? I present a lot of films. This is important because you have invited many important guests. You have to welcome them. Then I have loads of meetings with foreign delegations.
I do see the jury but, strangely, we don’t really talk about the selection. We talk about the weather, whether it’s sunny or rainy.
For lunch I usually meet up with Pierre Lescure, the President of the festival, guests, whether artists or professional. In the evenings there are parties, red carpets … for the parties I leave before 3am. I need at least five hours sleep. Fewer than five hours and it’s difficult to have a clear head.
Frédéric Ponsard: At Cannes, there’s glamour, glitter and several years ago we had a touch of rock n roll. notably when we saw Bono. This year we will have Iggy Pop, who was the subject of a Jim Jarmush documentary. Then there’s a tribute to Prince. Was it you that brought us this frisson of Rock n Roll?
Thierry Frémaux: In fact, music is important. We have the magnificent trailer for the red carpet, the Cannes Generique Marche Festival, with the Carnival of the Animals by Saint Saens.
And for several years it has promoted several initiatives, beach concerts, red carpet concerts. U2 came to celebrate Cannes 60th anniversary by singing some songs to an absolutely huge crowd. So yes, Iggy Pop will be there. Prince and Bowie, we don’t know yet what type of tribute that we will have for them.
Frédéric Ponsard: To round off this interview, you’ve been head of the festival for almost 15 years, what’s your best memory?
Thierry Frémaux: I used to say that my best memory is the first. It’s Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge. It was my first red carpet with Nicole Kidman, with whom I became good friends and who, for me, is kind of a mascot for the festival.
There are only good memories, even the bad ones, dare I say, are not bad. The history of cinema is one of highs and lows and this is what makes it beautiful.
Whereas life is not made up of only the beautiful things, often we have painful moments that bring strong emotions
Frédéric Ponsard: Thierry Frémaux, merci beaucoup, et très bon festival.
Thierry Frémaux Thank you very much