CANNES: “We need a new Chaplin who will prove that cinema is not silent” in the face of war: the Cannes Film Festival immediately gave a political tone to its 75th edition by offering a platform, from kyiv, to the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
The surprise appearance of the face of the Ukrainian president, in fatigues, on the screen of the Palais des Festivals, was followed by a long ovation by the gratin of world cinema, gathered for the opening ceremony of a festival which promised that the war would be “on everyone’s mind”.
“We will continue to fight, we have no other choice (…) I am convinced that the + dictator + will lose”, continued Volodymyr Zelensky, in reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Charlie’s film Chaplin, whom he quoted several times.
“I say to everyone who hears me: do not despair, hatred will eventually disappear and dictators will die. We must win this victory and we need cinema that will ensure that this end is, every time, on the side of the freedom,” he continued.
This intervention writes a new page in the long political history of the Festival, founded in 1939 to oppose the Venice Film Festival in fascist Italy, but whose first edition, due to world war, could only be held in 1946.
“Weapon of Massive Emotion”
“The Festival has never ceased to welcome, protect and bring together the greatest filmmakers of their time”, underlined before the president of the jury, Vincent Lindon, recalling the “artistic and civic line” of this world event. “Can we do anything other than use cinema, this weapon of massive emotion, to awaken consciences and shake up indifference? I can’t imagine it!”, he said.
In addition to the banishment of official Russian delegations, announced after the invasion, the official selection also bears the shadow of war this year. Starting with the film which will open the competition on Wednesday, “Tchaikovsky’s wife”, by Russian dissident Kirill Serebrennikov. Seeing this filmmaker, selected three times, climbing the steps for the first time will be a strong symbol.
Later in the festival will also be shown the films of the Ukrainians Sergei Loznitsa or Maksim Nakonechnyi, as well as the last film of the Lithuanian director Mantas Kvedaravičius, killed at the beginning of April in Ukraine, “Mariupolis 2”.
Despite the context, at Cannes, “the show must go on”: actors Julianne Moore, who plays in Jesse Eisenberg’s directorial debut (“The Social Network”) and Forest Whitaker ensured the glamorous quota, the latter receiving an honorary Palme d’Or for his career.
At 60, the actor with a career marked by an Oscar for his interpretation of Amin Dada, the Ugandan dictator, in “The Last King of Scotland” (2007), or his role as a killer with Jim Jarmusch in “Ghost Dog” (1999), is a regular on the Croisette, where he won an interpretation prize in 1988 for “Bird” by Clint Eastwood.
This prize “changed my life, it allowed me to be recognized as an artist and to be respected as an actor all around the world. I was really a kid at the time [26 ans], insofar as I was not used to interviews and I did not know what to answer. I remember that the day before the awards ceremony, I was in my room in Cannes with my brother and he said to me: + Imagine it’s you tomorrow +. I said to him: + Are you serious? +”, he remembered.
The atmosphere then changed radically, with the opening screening of “Cut!”, by Michel Hazanavicius, a crazy parody of zombie films and a declaration of love for all films – even the most failed ones.
Shy bursts of laughter, then real uncontrollable giggles punctuated the screening. The room even offered a few rounds of applause at the best moments, and a standing ovation at the end.
The film, released simultaneously in French theaters, must act as an outlet for a world of cinema which is trying to recover from the pandemic: “Cut!” “is joyful, it highlights the people of the cinema, and I hope it makes you want to do it,” the director told AFP.
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The Cannes Film Festival opens with Zelensky, who summons the spirit of Chaplin