Dialogue: Thierry Fremaux
Cannes' artistic director puts a U.S. stamp on the international event.
Thierry Fremaux: No. Six months ago, I met people who said, "Next time is the 60th -- it will be wonderful because the films will be wonderful!" But two years ago, when the filmmakers started their productions, they didn't think about the fact that this was the 60th. However, I can say that (within) this selection, there is some connection with the history of Cannes: We have four former Palme d'Or (winners) in competition: Quentin Tarantino, the Coen brothers, Emir Kusturica and Gus Van Sant -- these people are part of the story of Cannes. It is a way to pay tribute to Cannes. But, with Gilles Jacob, we wanted to avoid the celebration of Cannes itself; we want a celebration of cinema.
THR: Speaking of Gilles Jacob, who is now president of the festival, how do you divide your responsibilities?
Fremaux: Gilles used to have my job. During three years, we worked together, and he was like my professor; then he let me take charge of the selection since 2004. Sometimes, when I have a problem, I will ask him, "What would you do in my place?" And it is good for me because he has experience.
THR: You have a U.S.-heavy competition this year. Was that deliberate?
Fremaux: The films select themselves, but the reality is, this year, American cinema seems to be great.
THR: How is your relationship with the studios?
Fremaux: It used to be a problem in the past, but we have had studio films like (Warner Bros. Pictures') "Ocean's Thirteen" and (2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand"). One of the first things Gilles Jacob said to me was, "You will have to pay attention to the studios and be very close to them," which is easy for me because I grew up with a love of American cinema.
THR: You have all these American films, but no Americans on the jury. Why?
Fremaux: It is to make a balance with the competition.
THR: You've also got a strong contingent of Eastern European films.
Fremaux: Yes. In the '60s and '70s, Eastern Europe used to give a lot of films to Cannes. Then after the Berlin Wall fell, after the end of Communism, we had some kind of absence. But for the past two or three years, we have started to pay attention to the young generation of Eastern European directors in Romania, Poland, Hungary and Russia. Last year, we even had a Lithuanian film.
THR: You also have a film by a leading Asian director, Wong Kar-Wai, opening the festival: the Weinstein Co.'s "My Blueberry Nights." Are you worried that there will be a repeat of three years ago, when his film "2046" didn't make it on time?
Fremaux: The first time I mentioned to Wong Kar-Wai that I wanted to invite him for the opening night, he started laughing. "You really want to take the risk?" To be serious, Wong Kar-Wai was sorry for what happened, and it was not his fault. It was a technical problem -- a problem of the print and the travel to Cannes. Now, it is part of the legend of Cannes -- having a private plane to bring it and having the French police (close off) the roads for it to be on time. Just to bring a print! Not a star, not the president of the republic -- a print of a film.