Cannes Report: Day 1

Melissa Anderson on day one of the 64th Cannes Film Festival

Left: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris, 2011, color film in 35 mm, 100 minutes. Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, and Woody Allen on set. Right: Poster for the sixty-fourth Cannes Film Festival.

“IT’S A BIG TRAP to think that living in another time would be better,” Woody Allen offered at the press conference this morning following the screening of Midnight in Paris, which opens the sixty-fourth Cannes Film Festival. The director, a Cannes perennial—eleven of his forty-two films have played at the festival; five have opened it—was explaining the misplaced nostalgia of his movie’s main character, Gil (Owen Wilson), a screenwriter and aspiring novelist on vacation in Paris with his termagant fiancée (Rachel McAdams) who finds his wish to live in the City of Lights in the 1920s come true.

While Allen feebly joked that there “was no Novocain, no air-conditioning,” in the era Gil is so besotted with, the left-leaning French daily Libération proposed a provocative question about the future of the esteemed cine-orgy on its cover: Le dernier Festival de Cannes? Though debates will continue about the necessity of film festivals in an age of constantly changing viewing technologies and platforms, it’s highly doubtful that Cannes will ever disappear—especially with so many manufactured crises and outrages to ensure its perpetuity. Robert Guédiguian, whose The Snows of Kilimanjaro screens as part of Un Certain Regard, wrote in Libération that he would not see Allen’s movie out of political protest: Making her film debut, Carla Bruni—Mrs. Nicolas Sarkozy—has a small role as a tour guide at the Rodin Museum in Midnight in Paris.

At its best, Cannes collapses past, present, and future. A dramatic 1971 photograph of Faye Dunaway—eyes downward, her left hand clutching her neck, her legs featured prominently—taken by Jerry Schatzberg, who directed her in his first film, Puzzle of a Downfall Child (1970), graces the official poster of this year’s festival. Both Dunaway and Schatzberg were spotted at baggage claim at the Nice Airport yesterday; they’ll be present for tomorrow night’s screening of a restored print of Puzzle. “Will I see you at the Marché?” Dunaway hopefully asked an acquaintance, referring to the film market (the largest in the world) that runs simultaneously with the festival. But will she be buying—or selling?