Cannes Film Fest 2017: Thierry Fremaux on 70th Edition

Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux discusses the lack of Hollywood films, Ted Sarandos and Nicole Kidman’s strong presence.

Political films this year?

It’s not a statement; it’s because the movies we saw and the movies we picked up have this kind of content. Pablo Picasso, one of the greatest inventors of form, one day put his opinion on a canvas and that is Guernica. Sometimes artists want to talk about the world and what is going on around them.

Donald Trump

I mentioned Trump because it is the theme of a film. It’s not a judgment about Trump, but it’s a judgment about what is going on in the world, not only America. We have the same questions in Europe. I’m not going to give you a personal opinion about Trump–no one cares about my opinion, and it’s not about him. The world is full of several subject matters.

The tribute to Agnes Varda is about something internal in Poland. The work of Inarritu is not against Trump and the wall, and it’s about what has happened that people can’t stay at home. It has been a subject of Mexican cinema, and now it is a subject matter in Europe, from east to west, from south to north. Migration is not about politics; it’s about economics.

French election effect on the festival?

No. We open the festival 10 days after the results, and we are not worried about the festival, which is my only legitimacy. Since Charles de Gaulle we have had the same fidelity, the same support to art and cinema.

If Marine le Pen wins?

France is a strong country, and we have strong public policy to support cinema. Filmmakers in France and everywhere have strong voice and strong tendency to facts and to express the world they want to exist. Cinema is still important 122 years after its birth. Cinema will remain strong. Look at China–it has strong cinema culture.

Lack of Chinese films?

It’s a young country. We have two dimensions: one very auteur, one very commercial. The way China is becoming a strong culture of cinema is fantastic. It’s full of mistakes have already made in France, but it’s good.

We’ve had a lot of Chinese filmmakers in competition. To talk about Cannes, you need to talk about 10 years. You can’t make a statement based on only one year. It’s ridiculous at the press conference: “What about India? Spain?” I’d prefer someone to say, “Wow, there is a film from Slovakia.” We are very happy about that.

Netflix’s films?

We want to convince Netflix to pay attention to theaters the way they pay attention to filmmakers.  It’s really part of the sense, and the reason why cinema exists is to share something together. It’s not easy, and of course we have a lot of affection for all parts of cinema. We have to pay attention to how the world is changing. Me and Cannes–we open windows and doors to new experience and put it on the table and ask people to discuss it. David Lynch, Jane Campion–they are working! David went back behind the camera, which is great news. It’s good to have them in Cannes.

Adding TV series?

We won’t have any “TV series” section. But when I screened Olivier Assayas Carlos, it was a film made for TV. When a filmmaker makes a documentary and we screen it. Cannes is a big house, and we want artists to feel comfortable in it. I really want to share the experience of having David Lynch back at work. But I’m not saying Cannes is changing. I know there is a lot of pressure and it’s good for the trades to talk about it. It’s a reflection of how the world is changing. We still have our convictions about cinema.

Netflix’s Ted Sarandos?

We had a very nice lunch at the Four Season in L.A. We talked about cinema, art, and we also discussed the rest. We are still saying in France and in Cannes we support cinema in theaters. But we support filmmakers; we are a film festival. We will do something in Cannes with someone who has decided to change.

Lack of Hollywood films?

It’s because there are no big Hollywood films. Dunkirk is not finished. It will come out in July. Valerian is not finished. Alien comes out before Cannes. It’s timing. When films are ready, we have them. I regret it. I would have loved in the 70th year to have Warner with Dunkirk, or Fox or Pixar, because they are still supportive of Cannes. But we will have Netflix and Amazon.

Polanski’s film?

Polanski’s not finished. It depends on the work process.  We are open to anything. It’s not only about Polanski; it’s about some other filmmakers who are working.  For the selection, the film must be finished the day of the opening, so we have time.

Nicole Kidman’s record?

Maybe a record. I’m not sure. I also have to talk to Isabelle Huppert. She’s also got a record of films presented in Cannes.

Nicole Kidman in so many films?

No, I don’t care. When you cut the light in the screening room, you don’t care who’s in the movie. You just want to see the movie. You don’t care about nationality, famous or not, young or old — you care if it is good or not.  We do have a permanent dialogue, she is an artist and fantastic.

Selecting Grace of Monaco?

I never regret the bad reception of the film, which I think was not deserved. I never regret having taken a risk for films, because they are films I liked. When you are the head of a festival, you must be generous. Cinema is my passion.  I was sad, and I can’t understand why the press is so tough on movies. They are tough in May and they don’t have the same feeling four months later, when the film comes out.

New directors?

It’s a coincidence. When you have the usual suspects resting, it’s an opportunity to add some new names.

Criticism of Poster 

It’s a ridiculous controversy. We got criticism from newspapers that do it. When it is Cannes, anything can provoke. The artist who made that poster, which is great, did is what a graphic artist does. And he did it with Claudia Cardinale’s agreement. The original photo was not what we have, but a photo is a photo, and a poster is a poster. It was just a way to stir up controversy.

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