Cannes Film Fest 2015: Opening Night–Paying Tribute to Women

The 68th edition of the Festival de Cannes opened on Wednesday with “Standing Tall,” a French drama about a socially aware judge (played by mega-star Catherine Deneuve) who counsels a juvenile delinquent and troubled teenager, powerfully played by Rod Paradot, who is a rising star to watch.

American Stars

Hollywood stars, dominated by women, made a strong impression. Natalie Portman, whose directorial debut, “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” plays in the official selection.

Naomi Watts attended too, she has a film in competition, “Sea of Trees,” directed by Gus Van Sant, which is showing later in the week.

Isabella Rossellini, whose mother, Ingrid Bergman, graces the official festival poster, is this year’s jury president of the series, Certain Regard.

As Variety reported, even though the festival had suggested it would be cracking down on selfies on the red carpet, many of the guests came armed with iPhones and snapped away, to the frustration of ushers who tried to push them along.

Julianne Moore took the stage to welcome everybody to Cannes, and also pick up her best actress prize from last year for “Maps to the Stars” (she had left the South of France early and not been able to attend the 2014 awards ceremony). “I’m so honored,” said Moore, who can add the award to a shelf of trophies she collected for the drama “Still Alice,” which earned her the Academy Award in February. “I never imagined I would receive a prize in Cannes.”

Paying Tribute to Women

The pre-show was hosted by Cannes emcee, French actor Lambert Wilson, who opened the ceremony with a  retrospective paying homage to women both in front and behind the camera.  Wilson also paid tribute to the work of Thierry Fremaux, who put together an impressive exhibit on the 120th anniversary of Lumiere brothers’ invention of cinema.

The homage  was choreographed by Natalie Portman’s husband, dancer Benjamin Millepied, with his dancers performing to classic movie clips.

The Cannes jury this year is headed by the Coen brothers, who received a standing ovation after a reel showed some of their greatest hits from “Fargo” to “No Country For Old Men.” The applause continued for jurors Jake Gyllenhaal, Sienna Miller, Xavier Dolan (the director of “Mommy”) and Guillermo del Toro. Rossy de Palma, who is also on the jury, evoked memories of all the Pedro Almodovar movies she was in.

Among the French stars who attended were Guillaume Gallienne, Emmanuelle Devos, Leila Bekhti, Marie Gillain, Emmanuelle Beart, culture minister Fleur Pellerin, CNC president Frederique Bredin,producer Sylvie Pialat and directors Abderrahmane Sissako and Agnes Jaoui.

For this 68th edition, which marks Pierre Lescure’s first year as president and is taking place only a few months after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack in Paris, artistic director Thierry Fremaux chose to open with a French social melodrama rather than a big-budget U.S. film, as Cannes has done in the past, in order to highlight the fest’s responsibility to show movies that deal with contemporary social issues.

“Standing Tall” earned a positive response from Cannes audiences, ending with a standing ovation that left the cast in tears.