Former Cannes Festival President Gilles Jacob Dishes on "Oversized Monster" Weinstein in New Book

In his 800-page 'A Dictionary for Cannes Lovers,' Jacob revisits the festival's history, secrets, greatest films and biggest scandals.

As someone who’s attended the world's most prestigious film festival for more than 50 years and presided over it from 1978 to 2014, 87-year-old Gilles Jacob knows a few things about Cannes.

A critic-turned-artistic director who helped bring the Croisette into the modern age, courting Hollywood super-productions as well as more eclectic art house fare by creating the Camera d’Or prize and Un Certain Regard section, there’s a reason why Jacob has been dubbed "Citizen Cannes."

In his new book Dictionnaire amoureux du Festival de Cannes (A Dictionary for Cannes Lovers), he offers an A to Z guide to the fest’s movies, filmmakers and behind-the-scenes frenzy, including an entry on "W for Weinstein, Harvey."

Here are a few highlights:

C for Cries, Boos and Whistles

“Boos are a national sport in film festivals, particularly in Cannes,” writes Jacob, who recalls Croisette scandals from Luis Bunuel’s blasphemous Viridinia, in 1961, to The Last Face in 2016, which was “unanimously rejected with violence and irony.”

Yet not all boos are equal, and some are what Jacob calls “pure conspiracy” by publicists and producers trying to take down a competing film. One case was Jacques Doillon’s 1984 competition entry The Pirate, which was booed as soon as the opening credits rolled.

G for Godard, Jean-Luc

One would think the name Jean-Luc Godard would be synonymous with Cannes, but Jacob reminds us that the Franco-Swiss enfant terrible didn’t screen his first film there until 1980. New Wave classics like Breathless, Contempt and Pierrot Le Fou were all rejected by the selection committee, which found Godard’s work too provocative.

Not that JLG seemed to mind: In a 1962 interview, he said Cannes was “dying little by little” because of “too many movies and not enough starlets.” Similar complaints have been voiced this year when Godard’s new film Image Book will play…in competition.

O for Origins

It all began on a long train ride back to Paris from the Venice Film Festival in 1938, Jacob explains. There, a young Frenchman named Philippe Erlanger overheard two passengers complaining how Mussolini and Hitler had given all the prizes to their own movies. “How about a festival in a free country?” thought Erlanger, who pitched the idea to his boss at the Ministry of Culture.

Two cities — Cannes and Biarritz — were chosen as candidates, with the former winning out because of its climate (the fest used to take place in September). But the very first edition, which included The Wizard of Oz, was canceled on opening day: Sept. 1, 1939, the day the Nazis invaded Poland.

W for Weinstein, Harvey

Jacob spares no punches with the Hollywood mogul turned Croisette pariah, describing his “disgusting physique and manners” and calling him a “Falstaff of the Bronx” (Weinstein is actually from Queens, N.Y.). He recounts how the producer tried to intimidate him on countless occasions to get films selected, how he harassed Jacob so much to have My Left Foot programmed that the latter wound up rejecting it.

Another time Weinstein accosted Jacob at a restaurant in L.A., pleading with him to pick Sean Penn’s The Crossing Guard (he didn’t). Jacob claims he always stood his ground against an “oversized monster” who incarnated “Mr. Hyde…and Mr. Hyde.”

Dictionnaire amoureux du Festival de Cannes by Gilles Jacob (Plon, 804 pages, 25.50 euros), available now in French.