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Thierry Frémaux • Artistic Director, Cannes Film Festival

“Nobody’s perfect; neither is Alain Delon. And I’m sure you aren’t either”


- CANNES 2019: As Thierry Frémaux, Artistic Director of the Cannes Film Festival, held a small pre-festival chat with early-arriving members of the press, a couple of touchy subjects arose

Thierry Frémaux • Artistic Director, Cannes Film Festival

“I’m very happy to have Alejandro González Iñárritu as chairman of the jury. To my recollection, he may be the first-ever jury head with a beard.”

It was at least partly chummy business as usual when Thierry Frémaux, Artistic Director of the Cannes Film Festival (14-25 May), received the press for a semi-impromptu meeting at noon on Monday in the refurnished press conference room (new chairs!) on the third floor of the Palais des Festivals. Lighter subjects ranged from his thoughts on the new Tarantino (“I don’t really think about this year as the 25th anniversary of Pulp Fiction; for me, it’s the year of the ninth film by one of the greats of his generation, and I’m happy he managed to finish it in time”) to the cheerful demeanour of “serious” directors like Ken Loach and the Dardenne brothers. “They are all friends, and it’s very pleasant to have one’s friends back at the festival."

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Asked for an evaluation of the gender-equality pledge that the festival signed in May 2018, Frémaux explained that there was a majority of females working at the Paris office headquarters, while security staff were primarily male. This year’s competition titles were picked by four women and four men, “and we have two male and two female jury heads this year, as well as a male opener in the official competition – Jim Jarmusch – and a female one in Un Certain Regard – Monia Chokri.” He proudly counted 15 female-directed titles (“Even more, if we include the shorts”) in the Official Selection, stressed the fact that the pledge would never result in a selection based on gender parity (“It would show a lack of respect to select a film just because it’s made by a woman”), and spiced things up with a quote by this year’s official poster girl, Agnès Varda: “Agnès used to say to me, ‘I’m not a woman director; I’m a woman and a filmmaker – promise me you will never simply select a film because it’s made by a woman’.” Thus, there will be no favouritism and no positive discrimination at Cannes, Frémaux asserted.

The room became agitated when the touchy subject of Alain Delon arose, with assorted allegations of sexism, racism and fascism directed towards this year’s recipient of the Honorary Palme d’Or. How, wondered a journalist through some “please-not-again” moans, after last year’s zero-tolerance statement from the festival concerning harassment and abuse, can this be justified? “I know you have to ask,” a lenient Frémaux responded. “Look, we’re not giving Delon the Nobel Peace Prize; we’re honouring his career as an actor. And Delon is a great actor. People are full of contradictions. If you’ve seen Delon in Mr. Klein, you would agree. It’s a film directed by a blacklisted member of the communist party, Joseph Losey. Delon produced this film, and it was made because he wanted it made."

Frémaux then moved on to a few whatabouteries regarding, on one hand, an American petition calling to ban Delon from the festival (which is closing in on 18,000 signatures) and, on the other, the lack of petitions concerning climate change and the US president. “It’s complicated. Nobody’s perfect; neither is Alain Delon. And I’m sure you aren’t either,” concluded Frémaux to some applause, after which he cracked a small joke about not getting any Netflix questions.

As for bearded jury heads, Frémaux may well be correct – at least if one doesn’t count Louis Lumière, the chairman of honour at the 1939 edition of the festival, which was cancelled owing to the sudden outbreak of World War II.

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