The 68th Cannes Film Festival began last night in marginally more low-key fashion than usual. Following criticism of last year's opening film, Grace of Monaco, festival delegate general Thierry Frémaux surprised pundits by kicking off with an obscure movie from a relatively unknown French director.
Emmanuelle Bercot's La Tête Haute, the tale of a troubled youth coming of age, does, however, feature Cannes royalty in the form of Catherine Deneuve.
The great lady added her glamour to a red carpet flanked by the usual phalanx of screaming fans and tuxedo-clad photographers.
Frémaux had, on announcing the programme, declared his objection to “selfies” being taken at such events. “We don’t want to prohibit it, but we want to slow down the process of selfies on the steps,” he said and went on to describe the practice as “ridiculous and grotesque”. One or two punters defied the edict to proffer phones.
The new seriousness will be tempered slightly tomorrow when the festival unveils the already highly acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road. George Miller, director of all four Mad Max films, told The Irish Times: "I think the thinking is that it [being at Cannes] helps differentiate your film. It is where the media is. It implies there is something worth seeing. They are film-maker oriented and this implies they respect the film-making."
Mad Max: Fury Road plays out of competition, but the shortlist for the Palme d'Or, the festival's main prize, reflects Frémaux's desire to restore some solemnity to Cannes.
Two previous winners return to the Croisette. Nanni Moretti is here with Mia Madre, a serious comedy, and Gus Van Sant presents Matthew McConaughey and Naomi Watts in an off-centre drama entitled The Sea of Trees. New films from Todd Haynes and Paolo Sorrentino are also among favourites for the top gong.
Domestic interest is maintained with The Lobster, an Irish co-production from Element Pictures, premiering in the main competition tomorrow night. Supported by the Irish Film Board, Yorgos Lanthimos's film stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in an absurd drama set among citizens of a dystopian nowhere.
"Yorgos is one of the most visionary film-makers working today," Ed Guiney, producer of the picture, said. "The Lobster is a profoundly moving, brilliantly funny and disturbing meditation on modern love. Cannes competition is the perfect place to launch this film."
Screening in 10 days, Justin Kurzel's Macbeth, the last film in the competition, sees Michael Fassbender take on the role of Shakespeare's most henpecked husband.