The Cannes Film Festival always knows how to make an entrance and, while questions still remain about whether the shaky global theatrical experience and China’s buying power will affect the festival (coupled with issues involving the festival’s online ticketing platform), it wasn’t evident on the red carpet.
Cannes Welcomes Johnny Depp
The opening night feature, the Maïwenn-directed “Jeanne du Barry,” a period piece starring Johnny Depp as Louix XV, kicked off the first night of the festival. Reviews from critics were tepid but, as TheWrap’s Steve Pond said in his review, “It’s hard to say that Depp’s performance justifies the fuss, because the movie’s all about Jeanne, not Louis.”
Regardless, the film garnered a seven-minute standing ovation for Depp who said at the film’s press conference that “everything that the majority of you have been reading for the last five or six years with regard to me and my life is fantastically, horrifically written fiction.”
From the minute the festival announced its opening night film, opinions flew fast and furious. Cannes president Thierry Fremaux defended the festival and its choice to show Depp’s feature by saying, “If you thought that it’s a festival for rapists, you wouldn’t be here listening to me, you would not be complaining that you can’t get tickets to get into screenings.” It didn’t help matters that Maïwenn herself would be embroiled in controversy, admitting she spit on a journalist in the lead-up to the film and having said journalist accuse her being against the #MeToo movement.
Prior to the screening, a letter, signed by 100 French actors, was published in the newspaper “Liberation,” decrying Cannes for “rolling out the red carpet to the men and women who assault,” though it didn’t specify who it was referring to.
Even at the opening day press conference, Depp was the question of the day, with Marvel actress Brie Larson being asked to give her opinion on the film before even seeing it. “You’re asking me that?” Larson replied. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the correlation or why me specifically.” When pressed further, the Oscar-winning actress said, “You’ll see, I guess, if I will see it. And I don’t know how I’ll feel about it if I do.” Even Helen Mirren had to comment that a fan she held while walking the opening night red carpet, with the hashtag #WorthIt, was not in reference to Depp’s ex-wife, Amber Heard.
French Film Guilds Gearing Up for a Strike?
In what’s said to be a similar move to America’s current WGA strike, French film groups ARP and directors guild SRF published a letter, signed by 500 members of the French film industry, critiquing practices like censoring films for television as copyright infringement and threats to auteur filmmakers. ARP, the guild for writers, directors and producers, as well as SRF, the directors guild behind Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, want the final version of edited features, as well as opening and closing re-edits, to be signed off by the film’s director and writers, as well as have their names listed on all promotional material.