Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Steven Spielberg heads the Cannes Jury

The director of Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Lincoln will help select this year’s Palme d’Or winner.

Thu, Feb 28, 2013, 16:46


Poor old Cannes. The organisers must have longed to begin their press release “Three days after winning his third Oscar…”. As it happened, Mr Ang Lee stole Steven’s thunder and made their decision look a little like a consolation prize. Mr Spielberg does, however, follow where Nanni Moretti, Robert De Niro and Tim Burton recently tread to herd the array of cats that is the Cannes jury. It’s a great job. Twice a day (or so) he will get to parade up the red carpet and view one of the year’s most anticipated films projected to the highest possible standards. At the end of the affair, he will suffer brickbats as every film journalist in the world moans about some choice or other. It had already been announced that Jane Campion is to  heads the Cinéfondation section and short film jury.

“My admiration for the steadfast mission of the Festival to champion the international language of movies is second to none,” Spielberg mused. “The most prestigious of its kind, the festival has always established the motion picture as a cross cultural and generational medium.”

The decision prompts an interesting trivia question (look away if you want to have a ponder). When was the last time that a Spielberg film appeared in the official competition?  Might it have been Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Perhaps, one of his “serious” films such as Amistad or The Colour Purple made the grade. Was he ever up for the Palme d’Or? The surprising answer reflects quite well on the good people at Cannes. His only inclusion was for Sugarland Express — if you discount Duel, his first theatrical release — way back in 1974. That film went on to take the prize for best screenplay (chapeaux are doffed to that veteran writer Matthew Robbins). ET, playing out of competition, closed the old Palais in 1982, before the current aircraft  carrier was constructed.

So, it looks as if Cannes made a prescient choice back in 1974. Who knew that this kid — not yet 30, amazingly — would go on to become a director of note? To that point, he was best known (if at all) for decent work on telly such as the first formal episode of Columbo and the crossover TV movie Duel. He has reason to warm to the place.

What will he be looking at? Lars Von Trier’s people have announced that the great Dane’s latest picture, Nymphomaniac, will not be ready in time (but they may be fibbing). A few other exciting films do look like dead certs. Steve McQueen’s Twelve Years a Slave seems to be more or less done. The Coens’ Inside Llewyn Davis also looks to be set to ship. Pedro Almodovar’s I’m So Excited (see below) appears as “completed” on IMDb. What have I forgotten? You’ll be sick hearing about the omissions over the next two months.

It’s as if the Oscars never happened.

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