The billboards are up, the red carpets dusted off and the conversation is flowing. As the movie industry gathers en masse on the French Riviera, this year’s Cannes Film Festival is in full swing. The 75th event of the world’s most famous cinematic celebration began on Tuesday night with a glitzy opening premiere for Final Cut, a riotous zombie comedy by French director Michel Hazanavicius, who previously launched his Oscar-winning silent movie The Artist in Cannes.
Scroll through the gallery above to see photos from opening night.
The sense is that Cannes is on an upwards curve again after the 2020 edition was cancelled owing to the pandemic. Last year’s festival moved into a one-off July berth, with a reduced number of attendees, many of whom were forced to test for Covid-19 every 48 hours in a bid to keep the virus at bay. Now, with French laws relaxed — even masks on public transport are no longer mandatory — the feeling is that Cannes is ready to party again.
“I think there is a buzz about the place,” says Charles McDonald, a British publicist who is representing several key films at the festival, including two competition entities, Ruben Ostlund’s Triangle of Sadness and David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future. “The Americans are back in force. The Asians are less represented here, but it does feel like a return to normal. And as usual, a very interesting mix of films. There’s lots to anticipate.”
Indeed, this year’s Cannes is rolling out the big guns. On Wednesday, Tom Cruise drops into town to beat the drum for Top Gun: Maverick, the daredevil sequel to his 1986 blockbuster about hotshot pilots in the US Navy. Cruise will even sit down for a career retrospective interview in front of the lucky few who scrambled to get tickets. Other anticipated red carpet events over the coming days include the world premiere of Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis, starring Austin Butler as rock ’n’ roll king Elvis Presley.
As for the competition titles vying for the prestigious Palme d’Or, this year’s selection is, well, very Cannes. Four former Palme d’Or winners will play, including Japan’s Hirokazu Koreeda, back with Broker four years after he won for Shoplifters. “I would say it’s a very traditional Cannes … meaning there are a lot of well-known names,” says Marco Consoli, a leading writer for Italian daily La Stampa. “But I wouldn’t say it’s a very provocative line-up. There is not, for example, a Titane … I don’t see the new Titane.”
Last year’s Palme d’Or winner, Julia Ducournau’s controversial body-horror Titane, shocked audiences, but its director became the second woman to ever win Cannes’ top prize. This year, with only three female directors in competition — including American Kelly Reichardt, who reunites with Michelle Williams for Showing Up — the chances of a repeat are drastically reduced.
The festival’s first get-together with a digital platform includes having 20 TikTok creators from different countries arrive in Cannes, recording micro-videos of their experiences and posting them on the app. TikTok hosts will also be on the red carpet interviewing celebrities, while a jury led by French-Cambodian director Rithy Panh will also judge a contest for emerging and experienced filmmakers to make a short anywhere between 30 seconds and three minutes in length. Cash prizes are on offer for the best film, best script and best editing.
Compared to previous years, when the festival even banned selfie-taking on the steps of the Palais, this seems like a giant step forward. “Look, good luck to Cannes,” says McDonald. “Maybe it’s a move towards an acceptance that TikTok is an absolutely viable platform. It’s something that an awful lot of people use and have fun with, and it’s a good place for [young] filmmakers. So there is a logic to that hook-up and maybe there’s some hope that we all have to move with the times and change.”
While it might be viewed as a publicity stunt, it has raised eyebrows in some quarters. “It’s surprising considering that Cannes is very traditional, not accepting Netflix films, being against the digital world,” says Consoli. The festival remains at loggerheads with the streaming service, which last screened a film on the Croisette in 2018. Since then, the relationship broke down after French cinema exhibitors protested against the streamer’s mandate to put films on its platform immediately, bypassing the traditional exclusive "window" when movies only play in theatres.
Consoli also finds the TikTok partnership with a festival that prides itself on showing "difficult" art house cinema an irony. “Films are something that require a good attention span, and TikTok is killing the attention span for the new generation of viewers. That’s an interesting contradiction,” he says. “At the same time, I think it’s a bad sign for festivals. It’s [showing] festivals will be in the future. Everything will be consumed in one minute, 30 seconds! And studios — they don’t need journalists and critics any more. They just need influencers, fans, nerds.”
Cannes Film Festival runs until May 28