Cannes opens with Greta Gerwig’s jury and honorary Palme d’Or for Meryl Streep

14 May 2024, 20:34

Meryl Streep poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film The Second Act during the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
France Cannes 2024 Awards Ceremony Red Carpet. Picture: PA

A 10-day stream of stars will soon begin flowing down Cannes’ famous red carpet.

The Cannes Film Festival has opened with the presentation of an honorary Palme d’Or for Meryl Streep and the unveiling of Greta Gerwig’s jury, as the French Riviera spectacular kicked off a potentially volatile 77th edition.

A 10-day stream of stars began flowing down the Cannes red carpet with the opening night film, The Second Act, a French comedy starring Lea Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel and Raphael Quenard.

They play squabbling actors filming a movie directed by an artificial intelligence.

Meryl Streep holds the honorary Palme d’Or during the opening ceremony of the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
Meryl Streep holds the honorary Palme d’Or during the opening ceremony of the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

The festival’s first lengthy standing ovation, though, went to Streep, who was awarded an honorary Palme d’Or during Tuesday’s opening ceremony.

After Juliette Binoche introduced her, Streep alternatively shook her head, fanned herself and danced while the crowd thunderously cheered.

“I’m just so grateful that you haven’t gotten sick of my face and you haven’t gotten off of the train,” said Streep, who soon thereafter declared Cannes officially open with Binoche.

“My mother, who is usually right about everything, said to me: ‘Meryl, my darling, you’ll see. It all goes so fast. So fast’,” added Streep.

“And it has, and it does. Except for my speech, which is too long.”

The reception was nearly as rapturous for Gerwig, the first American female filmmaker to serve as president of the Cannes jury that will decide the festival’s top award, the Palme d’Or.

Jury president Greta Gerwig poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film The Second Act during the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
Jury president Greta Gerwig poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film The Second Act during the 77th international film festival in Cannes (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

Thierry Fremaux, Cannes’ artistic director, on Monday praised her as “the ideal director” for Cannes, given her work across arthouse and studio film and her interest in cinema history.

And, Fremaux said: “We very much liked Barbie.”

In the days to come, Cannes will premiere George Miller’s Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga, Francis Ford Coppola’s self-financed Megalopolis and anticipated new films from Paolo Sorrentino, Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrea Arnold and Kevin Costner.

But much of the drama surrounding this year’s Cannes has been off screen.

After French actor Judith Godreche earlier this year accused two film directors of rape and sexual abuse when she was a teenager, the French film industry has been dealing with arguably its defining #MeToo moment.

Juliette Binoche, left, embraces Meryl Streep during the opening ceremony of the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
Juliette Binoche, left, embraces Meryl Streep during the opening ceremony of the 77th international film festival in Cannes (Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

On Wednesday, Godreche will premiere her short Moi Aussi.

Asked about #MeToo expanding in France, Gerwig told reporters in Cannes on Tuesday that it is progress.

“I think people in the community of movies telling us stories and trying to change things for the better is only good,” Gerwig said.

“I have seen substantive change in the American film community, and I think it’s important that we continue to expand that conversation. So I think it’s only moving everything in the correct direction. Keep those lines of communication open.”

Gerwig, coming off the success of Barbie, is president of the jury that will decide Cannes’ top award, the Palme d’Or.

Jury president Greta Gerwig, fourth from right, with jury members JA Bayona, from left, Juan Antonio Bayona, Kore-eda Hirokazu, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ebru Ceylan, Nadine Labaki, Pierfrancesco Favino, Eva Green, Lily Gladstone, and Omar Sy during the jury photo call at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
Jury president Greta Gerwig, fourth from right, with jury members, from left, JA Bayona, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Ebru Ceylan, Nadine Labaki, Pierfrancesco Favino, Eva Green, Lily Gladstone and Omar Sy during the jury photo call in Cannes (Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)

Thierry Fremaux on Monday praised her as “the ideal director” for Cannes, given her ability to work across arthouse and studio film and her interest in cinema history.

And, Fremaux said: “We very much liked Barbie.”

Joining Gerwig on the jury is Lily Gladstone, star of Killers Of The Flower Moon, French actress Eva Green, Spanish filmmaker JA Bayona, French actor Omar Sy, Lebanese actor and director Nadine Labaki, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, Turkish screenwriter Ebru Ceylan and Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino.

“I thought I just got over my impostor syndrome last year,” said the Oscar-nominated Gladstone.

“But I’ll start all over again.”

The jurors were asked how the many real-world concerns outside the festival might affect their deliberations.

One film in competition, Ali Abbasi’s The Apprentice, stars Sebastian Stan as a young Donald Trump.

And Labaki was asked if the war in Gaza might be on her mind.

The Cannes sign is pictured above the old town ahead of the the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
The Cannes sign is pictured above the old town ahead of the the 77th international film festival (Andreea Alexandru/AP)

“I truly believe that one of the tools to really change something in the situation we all live in right now, which is a situation I think is not that great, is really through art and through cinema,” said Labaki.

“It may propose a more tolerant way of seeing things and seeing each other as human beings.”

Filmmakers, Favino said, play the important role of reminding the world of where it can find beauty.

“This is why I decided that I could be here without feeling guilty as a human being,” said Favino.

“Because if we look for beauty, then we might look for peace.”

Other concerns are also swirling around this year’s Cannes.

Festival workers, fed up with short-term contracts that leave them unqualified for unemployment benefits in between festivals, have threatened to strike.

On Monday, the Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, whose film The Seed Of The Sacred Fig is premiering next week in competition in Cannes, said he had fled Iran after being sentenced to eight years in prison and flogging.

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof in Cannes in 2013
Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof in Cannes in 2013 (Francois Mori/AP)

The film is said to be a critical depiction of the Iranian regime.

As Cannes continues, though, many will be focused on the stars parading the festival’s famous red carpet.

They will include Emma Stone, Anya Taylor-Joy, Demi Moore, Selena Gomez, Nicolas Cage and Barry Keoghan.

At the closing ceremony on May 25, George Lucas is to receive an honorary Palme d’Or.

Regardless, the 77th Cannes will have a lot to live up to.

Last year’s festival, widely celebrated for its robust line-up, produced three Oscar best picture nominees: Anatomy Of A Fall, The Zone Of Interest and Killers Of The Flower Moon.

To help rekindle last year’s spirit, Messi, the canine star of Anatomy Of A Fall, is back in Cannes for a series of brief French TV spots.

Messi the dog poses for photographers upon arrival at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film The Second Act during the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France
Messi the dog poses for photographers at the awards ceremony and the premiere of the film The Second Act during the 77th international film festival (Daniel Cole/Invision/AP)

A good Cannes will help France keep the global spotlight through the summer.

The festival will be followed by the French Open, the Tour de France and the summer Olympics in Paris.

On May 21 in Cannes, the Olympic flame will be carried up the steps to the festival’s hub, the Palais des Festivals.

By Press Association

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