RogerEbert.com publisher Chaz Ebert's second video dispatch from the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, directed and edited by Scott Dummler of Mint Media Works, covers the jury press conference headed by Spike Lee and the opening night premiere of Leos Carax's "Annette." Following the embedded footage is a transcript of the video...
Bon soir madames and moisieurs…I finally got a chance to dress up for the first time in almost two years. Cannes may be back, but of course COVID is still directly affecting the Festival….the crowds are definitely not as big as usual… and where there used to be large tents housing international film commissions and television networks, there is now just an empty plaza.
But the Festival is taking COVID seriously. Indoors, everyone is masked at all times, and to enter the press conferences or the Marche’, a European vaccine or negative COVID test is required. So for those us of us from outside the European Union, we are currently required to get a COVID test *every* 48 hours. The tests are a “spit test”, and let me tell you, it’s extremely unpleasant. I HATE TO SPIT! And those test results are manually checked by security each time you enter. If you don’t have the right paperwork - you’ll be sent away.
For those of us able to get into the Palais, we were treated to a lively opening press conference featuring this year’s prestigious jury, and I was pleased to open up the questions to Jury President, Spike Lee. This year’s jury has a majority of female members, and Maggie Gyllenhaal was asked if that might bring a different perspective to the awards.
For all of us lucky enough to be here, we’re all thankful that Cannes - and moviegoing - has returned. Madame Mati Diop from Senegal, who became the first African woman director to have her film at Cannes, and who won the Jury Award in 2019, talked about the special vibe that Cannes has this year.
The opening ceremony was the usual glamorous affair, featuring stars from all over the world. This year’s honored guest was Jodie Foster, who received an honorary Palme d’Or, presented to her by Pedro Almodovar, for her many contributions to cinema through the years as an actor, writer and director. As I mentioned in our Preview segment, my late husband Roger frequently recalled how impressed he was meeting her for the first time here in Cannes in 1976, and how she spoke perfect French. She put that talent on full display for the crowd in Cannes, and they loved it.
Spike decided to be true to his roots and he chose to speak Brooklynese rather than French. The last Palme d’Or winner - Bong Joon-ho for “Parasite” - was on hand to officially open the festival. And he got a little help so the Festival could be opened in four languages: Spanish, French, Korean, and English.
With the Festival officially open, it was time to screen its first film - “Annette” from Leos Carax, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Driver plays an angry standup comic, and Cotillard an opera singer - both famous in their own right, and at the beginning, very much in love. And it’s a musical in the form of a rock opera with almost all the dialogue sung, featuring music by the Sparks Brothers, who co-wrote the story and screenplay. But this is no musical comedy. It’s a dark look at the downside of fame and ambition as two famous entertainers struggle to keep their relationship together: something Cotillard spoke to at the press conference.
If you are familiar with Carax’s last film at Cannes, “Holy Motors,” you know to expect the unexpected - and this film did not disappoint in that regard, with one wild choice after another. I hope I am not giving too much away by telling you the baby Annette, is portrayed in a very unusual way. This film is dark and wild, but I enjoyed it’s unique flavor and inventive imagination. It certainly delivers something I hadn’t quite seen before in one sitting. And the enigmatic director made another wild choice at the press conference, leaving before it was over….
Well, it’s time for us to go too. Coming up later in the week, we’ll feature more films in and out of competition, including two documentaries - one about actor Val Kilmer, and another about the rock band, the Velvet Underground.
So be sure to check in often at RogerEbert.com/Festivals for regular reports by Ben Kenigsberg and our other correspondents along with our regular video reports. Until then, a bientot.