Cannes Report: Day 1

Left: Promotional poster for the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. Right: Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, Up, 2009, color digital film, 96 minutes. Publicity image.

THE TITLE OF THE OPENING-NIGHT FILM at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival is Up, though many expect the number of festival attendees and movies bought to be down. The lousy economy has kept many away, and swine-flu heebie-jeebies may have also persuaded others not to travel to the south of France this year. On the Delta direct JFK-to-Nice flight on Monday, May 11, all passengers had to fill out a contact form in case the virus was detected, as required by the French Ministry of Health; this afternoon, the first journalist wearing a surgical mask was spotted.

Masks are optional, but at the morning press screening of the Pixar film Up, the first animated film ever to open the festival, 3-D glasses were a must—eyewear that looked curiously like the fabulous lunettes de soleil resting atop the head of festival perennial Henri Behar, the moderator of the press conference with the competition jury. Could the worldwide blahs have even Behar, famous for his florid circumlocutions, feeling low? Introducing the nine members of the jury from left to right, Behar’s descriptions of each were uncharacteristically to the point: “American actress Robin Wright Penn; South Korean director-screenwriter Lee Chang-dong . . .” Fortunately, he rallied a bit when presenting jury president Isabelle Huppert, announcing, “I’ll save the lady in the middle for last,” before this Beharism: “She’s part of Cannes as much as Cannes is a part of her.”

What does the lady in the middle think of her role as madame le president? “I don’t think we are here to judge. We are here to love films,” Huppert responded, switching from French to English as the situation required. A French journalist asked the jury members how willing they’d be to disagree with their leader. After no one replied, Huppert regally asserted, “I’ll go against myself if necessary.” To a British reporter’s remark that she is only the fourth woman to head the jury, Mme Huppert, perhaps not wishing to add gender war to a season of economic misery and pandemic fear, coolly noted, “They are four women who count for a lot, so it’s OK.”