Palme d’Or battle expected as 70th Cannes Film Festival opens

Festival features thousands of producers selling horror, romance and comedy films


The 70th edition of the Cannes Film Festival has kicked off in tasteful style with the premiere of Arnaud Desplechin’s elegant, persuasive Ismael’s Ghost.

Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Mathieu Amalric star in the tale of a director whose life is sent into disorder when a former lover turns up as he is about to begin shooting his next film.

In the past, Cannes has opened with such blockbusters as Moulin Rouge, The Da Vinci Code and Pixar’s Up. In picking Desplechin’s film, Thierry Frémaux, the festival director, looks to be honouring the domestic industry’s contribution to France’s most important cultural jamboree.

A number of cinema greats will be in Cannes for special 70th anniversary events. New Zealand director Jane Campion, the only woman to have won the Palme d’Or, will present all six episodes of her television series Top of the Lake: China Girl.

David Lynch, a past winner of the top prize for Wild at Heart, will be here for the premiere of the new series of Twin Peaks. Frémaux bristled slightly at the suggestion that these screenings – both out of competition – signified the festival was properly embracing television.

“Cinema remains a singular art, and we want to emphasise this while keeping our eyes open on the world that surrounds it,” he said. “Some filmmakers who are artists, like David Lynch, Iñárritu and Campion, are pioneers who experiment and try to invent new narrative means.”

Clint Eastwood, president of the jury in 1994, will present a restored edition of Unforgiven and will engage in a “70th Anniversary Masterclass” with the distinguished critic Kenneth Turan.

Palme d’Or

As ever, many satellite events will spin out from the main competition for the Palme d’Or. That race is potentially among the most competitive for many years with new work by Sofia Coppola, Todd Haynes and Michael Haneke premiering over the next 10 days.

Colin Farrell appears in two films in the main strand: Coppola’s feminist western The Beguiled and Yorgos Lanthimos’s characteristically odd The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The jury consists of starry presences such as Jessica Chastain and Will Smith.

Speaking at a press conference, Smith pulled himself up straight and remarked: “I’m working on my juror face.”

Many visitors to Cannes will, however, get nowhere near the films jostling for the Palme d’Or. In the halls beneath the Palais des Festival and in the small screening rooms that pepper it, the Cannes Market plays host to thousands of producers hoping to flog Dutch horror films, Fijian romances, Brazilian documentaries and Nigerian romantic comedies.

As ever, many domestic film-makers will be among their number. Some of the Irish films seeking international interest are Aoife McArdle’s Kissing Candice, Stephen Burke’s Maze and Tom Ryan’s attractive romantic comedy Twice Shy.

The 70th anniversary comes at a neat point for The Irish Times. Michael Dwyer, this newspaper’s former film correspondent, first attended the event 35 years ago. True, for his first five years, he was there for another publication, but we celebrate continued attendance for close to half the festival’s existence.