CANNES FILM FESTIVAL head Thierry Frémaux recently admitted that this is a “difficult” year for the twelve-day cine-feast, referring to the disappointment that several titles many had hoped would be in the lineup weren’t completed in time, like Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. Forces of nature have added to the complications: Freakish twenty-foot waves buffeted the Côte d’Azur last week; lingering Icelandic volcanic ash has delayed the flights of many festival attendees.
Those journalists who did arrive on time gathered this morning at the Salle Debussy for the press screening of Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, essentially a prequel to the legend of the outlaw hero who robbed from the rich to give to the poor. As the opening-night film at Cannes, it’s a slightly perverse choice—the French, battling the English, are portrayed as marauders, rapists, and would-be baby killers. At the post-screening press conference, Russell Crowe, who plays the title role, had a different take, explaining the significance of one scene in the film sure to stir Gallic pride: “Richard the Lionhearted was killed by a crossbow shot by a French cook—that’s why we’re opening the festival.” Crowe was joking, but several journalists were not, earnestly—if inexplicably—asking the actor, a sports enthusiast, what he thought of various international soccer teams and his predictions for the World Cup.
Weightier inquiries were directed toward the nine members of the competition jury, presided over by Tim Burton this year. A reporter from The Guardian asked both Burton and juror Kate Beckinsale what they thought of the fact that there were no women directors in competition. The British actress declined to answer. But Burton, after gently reminding his interlocutor that he and his colleagues don’t decide which films are selected for the festival, replied more broadly on the dearth of female helmers, in Cannes and elsewhere: “It’s an interesting question, and I think you should ask the people who have the power to greenlight movies, some of whom are women.”