Paris – The Cannes Film Festival returns next week, promising to bury the long months of darkness and solitude under an avalanche of celebrity, champagne and chin-stroking Arthouse cinema.
It is billed as nothing less than a resurrection. “Cinema is not dead!” festival supremo Thierry Fremaux declared last month. It is the first major fully-fledged film festival since the pandemic, and a truckload of Hollywood stars — from Timothee Chalamet to Nicole Kidman to Matt Damon — are expected on the Croisette between July 6 and 17.
It’s not quite a return to normal, of course, even if France’s Covid numbers have been steadily improving and most restrictions lifted. There will be no “bises” — the French-style peck on the cheeks — at the top of the fabled steps to the Palais des Festivals. And some of the glitz will be toned down, with many after-parties cancelled and the big galas cutting their invite lists in half to meet social distancing guidelines.
Organisers are also slowly waking up to the fact that the sight of celebrities and moguls arriving on private jets and mega-yachts doesn’t seem so chic in an age of impending climate disaster.
So this year: no plastic, lots of electric cars, and most symbolic of all: a red carpet that is half the size and made from recycled material. But our collective need to gawp at megastars on the Cote d’Azur will not be denied.
One film in this year’s competition accounts for an outsize share of the celeb-count: Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” includes Chalamet, Benicio del Toro, Bill Murray and many more.
Two other stars of that film — Tilda Swinton and Lea Seydoux — will be near-ubiquitous on the Croisette, with appearances in a remarkable eight movies between them.
Damon is in town for the premiere of his latest thriller, the Marseilles-set “Stillwater”.
But Cannes is all about the filmmakers, and after last year’s edition was cancelled due to the pandemic, a particularly rich crop of festival alumni is competing for the Palme d’Or.