Cannes Film Fest 2019: Opening Ceremony–Tribute to Varda, Impassioned Speech by Jury President Inarritu

Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, and Selena Gomez walked the red carpet outside the Palais des Festivals on Tuesday night to kick off the Cannes Film Fest with the premiere of Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die.

They weren’t the only big names parading past a firing line of photographers and fans. Javier Bardem shook his hips before waving to the crowd, Elle Fanning dazzled in a flowing pink gown with an elaborate cape, and Tilda Swinton, wearing her blonde hair in a pompadour, looked coolly elegant in a sparkling dress. It was an intoxicating mixture of glamour and cinephilia, a signature cocktail that has made the seaside gathering perhaps the most famous gathering of film stars and auteurs in the world.

The display of star power comes as the festival is trying to navigate a changing media landscape, one in which the festival’s reverence for the primacy of the theatrical experience threatens to seem retrograde.

Once again, Cannes has barred Netflix from screening its films in competition. French exhibitors don’t want to highlight movies from the company because Netflix refuses to adhere to a mandated 36-month window between a film’s theatrical release and its premiere on streaming services.

During an opening night presentation, host Édouard Baer appeared to take a swipe at Netflix, stating that contrary to the streaming revolution currently unfolding, “cinema is theater.” In his remarks, jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu, the Oscar-winning director of “The Revenant” and “Birdman,” praised “the liberating power of cinema,” adding, “stories and ideas can changes lives. This communal experience is beautiful.”

Inside the Palais, the stage had an empty director’s chair with the name “A. Varda.” It was a tribute to Agnès Varda, the Belgian-born French film director behind “Cléo from 5 to 7,” who died in March at the age of 90.

Varda, considered a giant in the New Wave, is the subject of the festival’s poster this year. The image shows her balancing precariously on the shoulders of an assistant as she stares into a camera, willing to do almost anything to get the perfect shot.

Politics had surfaced earlier in the day at the festival, when Cannes jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu made a reference to Trump during the jury press conference, while talking about his Mexican border crossing virtual reality installation that premiered at Cannes in 2017, Carne y Arena.

Politicians “are basically ruling with rage and angriness…and are basically writing fiction and making people believe that those are facts,” Iñárritu said. “The problem is ignorance. People do not know their history, so it is very easy for politicians to manipulate them.”