Cannes Film Fest: Secrets Behind the Official Selection

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The fest’s artistic director talks to THR about French auteur cinema, a "lighter" competition and why the President of France might not be seen on the Croisette anytime soon.

As the world discovered the official selection of the 64th annual Festival de Cannes, King of Cannes, aka fest artistic director Thierry Fremaux took time off from the media madness to chat about this year's lineup.

Fremaux highlighted the strength of this year's Un Certain Regard selection that includes top directors typically chosen for Competition slots like Gus Van Sant, Kim Ki-duk and Robert Guedigian. "We have to look at the selection as an ensemble. Just because you're not in competition doesn't mean that your film isn't as good," Fremaux explained.

As for the films from his native country, Fremaux pointed out a new trend developing among French auteurs both young and old. "There's a new French auteur cinema today- auteur films that also appeal to broader audiences," he said, adding: "The selection shows that there's no absolute truth. An auteur film can be a comedy or an action film."


While "comedy" and "action" aren't typically genres associated with the Festival de Cannes competition, Fremaux pointed out that, in fact, "The selection is less somber than usual this year, maybe even lighter."


Other out of competition titles like Xavier Durringer's politically-charged drama about the current French President, Woody Allen's fest opener that co-stars said President's wife, a film with Jodie Foster behind the camera and Mel Gibson in front of it and a band of pirates led by international heartthrob Johnny Depp will no doubt shake things up on the Palais red carpet. 


"American cinema is always an eventful cinema and a film directed by Jodie Foster starring Mel Gibson, that's something people are waiting for," Fremaux said of the choice to screen The Beaver.


According to Fremaux, it's no coincidence that such out of competition titles were selected. "A film like Pirates of the Caribbean, we couldn't imagine putting it in competition. A film like that lends itself to the out of competition category and it's important for Cannes." He added: "We're very happy to see Disney come back." 


As for Durringer's controversial title, will Fremaux sip champagne with Sarko this year? "I don't think the President will come," Fremaux said of Durringer's The Conquest. "It's the first time France has a film like this. It's very rare. And it will definitely be a major event."


Notably absent from today's press conference was the unveiling of Robert De Niro's jury.


"It was our choice to do it separately," Fremaux explained, opting to give the selection its day in the spotlight before announcing the jury "early next week," he said. Fremaux plans to unveil the juries along with the Cannes Classics selection next week.


And will the 19 film-strong Competition be getting any bigger in the coming days?  "Yes, maybe," Fremaux said. In the meantime, the world waits anxiously for Fremaux's next announcement as the countdown to fest kickoff on May 11 begins.