Cannes: Festival's Closing Night Film Breaks From Tradition

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After moving the Palme d'Or awards ceremony to Saturday night, the festival failed to fill the open Sunday night spot, but is offering a Quentin Tarantino-hosted screening of "A Fistful of Dollars."

CANNES – This year's Festival de Cannes has no official closing night film, one of the most prestigious programming slots at what is widely regarded as the world's leading film festival.

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While this year Cannes organizers have made key scheduling changes, including moving the Palme d'Or ceremony from its traditional Sunday evening slot to Saturday night (officially because of European elections), there was no expectation that the festival would do away with the high-profile closing night screening.

But with just a few hours to go before Cannes kicks off with the Nicole Kidman starrer Grace of Monaco, the official line is that Sunday, May 25, the festival will end with what will essentially be a repeat showing of whichever movie wins the Palme d’Or.

Last year’s closing night film, the Forest Whitaker and Orlando Bloom starrer Zulu, directed by Jerome Salle, ended the 12-day festival with a star-studded red carpet and all the bells and whistles expected from a Cannes ending.

Away from the Palais, French industry sources have speculated that this year was a slot too far in terms of the risk-reward equation of staging a high-profile Cannes screening on Sunday considering the likely low-key media response as the exodus begins and attention turns away from the Croisette and toward the elections.

And with the awards shifting to Saturday night, stealing that particular headline-grabbing element away, some French distributors were wary of the cost-benefit rationale this year’s closing night offers.

So while festival organizers touted Sunday night as an opportunity for distributors, their ministrations fell on deaf ears.

“It’s so expensive to be part of the closing night [as a distributor] and I don’t think this year it is justifiable. Everyone is leaving to vote and there are other things going on,” one industry insider said.

Even so, festival organizers are working around the clock to ensure the festival remains in the hearts and minds of all until the end.

Late Tuesday afternoon, it was announced that Quentin Tarantino would host a special screening of Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars on Saturday evening following the awards ceremony. The self-proclaimed spaghetti Western and Leone fan will introduce a restored digital copy of the film starring Clint Eastwood in what organizers are billing as an event “to close” this year’s festival.