Interview with Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux - abstracted from today's Cannes festival press statement.
In 2004, the Cannes Festival Official Selection is composed of feature films presented in three categories: Competition, Out of Competition, Un Certain Regard. The Official Selection also includes the short film competition and film school competition (Cinefondation). A new section, Cannes Classics, groups together an ensemble of films constituting our cinema heritage, shown in the Buñuel Theater. And in addition to the Palais theaters (Lumière, Debussy, Bazin, Buñuel) is the recent newcomer, Cinema on the Beach, offering outdoor movie viewing.
Could you first point out the important facts and figures of this edition'
Cannes 2004 is presenting 56 feature films. There are a total of 46 world premières in the combined sections, more than in 2003 and 2002. Furthermore, the Selection is presenting 9 first films, twice that of last year.
The figure that stands out though is the number of films submitted: 3562 feature-length and short films. In 2003, there were 2498 (2281 in 2002, 1798 in 2001 and 1397 in 2000). Compared to last year, the number of films submitted has increased 42.5 %. It was not so long ago, at the end of the 90s, that less than 1,000 films were the norm.
Do you have an explanation for this considerable increase'
Filmmaking has been facilitated by the technology of digital imaging. Digital films are more and more present on the market these days.
You must also take into consideration that the Festival has been spreading the word that it is open to all types of films and that message has apparently been well received.
And finally, if the statistics can be considered any indication, the attraction for Cannes has not waned; this is true for the films seeking entry into the Official Selection as well as the Film Market.
The feature films alone total 1325 entries from 85 different countries for the 2004 edition, as compared to 908 in 2003, 939 in 2002, 854 in 2001 and 681 in 2000.
What necessary arrangements were taken in order to handle this increase'
We expanded our network, increased the number of correspondents and collaborators, and renovated the two selection committees so as to improve their functioning as a collective decision-making entity. This core group of 20 persons working on the different selections in Paris and elsewhere helped to multiply our horizons and visibility.
How do you explain the fact that the number of entries has increased yet the number of films in competition remains the same'
It is even fewer than usual - 18. We hope to not fall into the trap of "bigger is better", to maintain Cannes' prestige and the special distinction given to the selection. It is also in our interest to defend our film choices and to give them the best possible showcase. In 2001, 23 films were presented in competition. We would like to spend more energy on fewer films. The Cannes Festival is reticent to let its film exposition replace quality with quantity and therefore supports a limited Official Selection so as to assure a better presentation and reception. The Festival is a reflection of the latest available productions and these 18 films are that reflection.
Is this true for the selection of French films as well'
Yes. Three French films meshed with this criterion and join the other films in competition, as opposed to five last year and four the previous years.
Tell us about the 2004 competition'
Nine film directors will present a film at the Festival for the first time and twelve are presenting in the competition selection for the first time.
How would you qualify the films'
It is a competition marked by confirmations and discoveries.
Let's begin with the confirmations. For several months now, the talk has revolved around the Festival's capacity to draw auteurs to the Croisette...
The Festival confirms its engagements with a number of auteurs: Emir Kusturica (Life is a Miracle), Wong Kar Wai (2046), the Coen brothers (The Ladykillers), Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9-11) and Walter Salles (Diarios de motocycleta - The Motorcycle Diaries) will be present as hoped.
Two other confirmed filmmakers will also be attending: Jury President Quentin Tarentino is presenting Kill Bill: Volume 2 out of competition on Sunday May 16 and Pedro Almodovar is opening the Festival on Wednesday May 12 with La Mala Educacion (Bad Education). This marks the first time that a Spanish film kicks off the event.
And a competition of discoveries'
Yes. Festival-goers (press, professionals, public) come to Cannes to impress others and to be impressed. We are presenting an Official Selection that as a whole is composed of world premières, reinforcing Cannes as a privileged meeting place with the latest cinematographic creations. That is very much the thread of this competition.
It seemed essential to instill the audacity that the films themselves impose upon us. That explains the competition's double-surprise: two animated features and two documentaries. In addition to Shrek 2, which hopes to provoke the same impact as the first, Innocence from Japanese filmmaker Oshii brings the Manga to the Cannes Festival. Joining Michael Moore, who is presenting Fahrenheit 9-11 (what happened to the United States after September 11) considered an "activist film" very different from Bowling for Columbine presented in 2002, Jonathan Nossiter (known for his fiction features) offers MondoVino, a film that delves into his other profession... oenologist. With the spotlight on such animated features and documentaries, the Festival continues its preoccupations begun in 2001.
The Festival is also betting on young filmmakers this year and hopes to impose some new faces on the world map. The competition has been revitalized with twelve filmmakers presenting for the first time, many who have only made two or three films to date. Their names are for the most part unknown to general audiences and it comes as a surprise that they should even attain such a level this early in the game.
So who are these newcomers'
There's Argentine filmmaker Lucrecia Martel (La Nina Santa), Korean Park Chan-wook (Old Boy) & Hong San-soo (La Femme est l'avenir de l'homme), Italian Paolo Sorrentino (Les consequences de l'amour), Agnès Jaoui (Comme une image) & Tony Gatlif (Exils) from France, as well as Apitchapong Weerasethakul (Tropical Malady) - discovered in the Certain Regard section in 2002 with Blissfully Yours - marking the first time Thailand has a film in competition. And also Hans Weingartner (28 years old) who is bringing Germany back in the arena with his film Edukators. These film directors represent almost one half of the competition features.
Let's talk about the films. What are their main characteristics'
Aesthetically speaking, they are as varied as imaginable. There is nothing to compare between them, if nothing other than a very strong direction resulting in strong stylistic differences. A strong Cannes competition should be characterized by diverse geographical and aesthetic journeys. During the past few years, fiction filmmaking has sought to redefine the formal boundaries and quite often took radical turns that disturbed the general public. That is not true for the films presented in 2004. Indeed there are delicate moments, yet the filmmakers have managed to move the public above all. I'm talking about films such as those presented by Lucrecia Martel, Paolo Sorrentino, Hong Sang-soo, Hans Weingartner, Apitchapong Weerasethakul and Kore-eda Hirokazu. As for Emir Kusturica, Walter Salles, Wong Kar Wai, Olivier Assayas, Agnès Jaoui, the Coen brothers or Stephen Hopkins, their filmmaking is both auteur and for the general public, a premise that Cannes struggles to maintain.
And what are this year's themes'
A certain number of the films are very personal works and follow in the continuity of a previous work (Emir Kusturica, Wong Kar Wai). To relate these works along the lines of theme or story would be to underline their overriding atmosphere and originality.
Nonetheless we can underline several themes:
- an affirmation for comedy with Shrek 2 ("there's an ogre in all of us ") or the Coen brothers and the remake of The Ladykillers, in which a group of thieves headed by Tom Hanks plot a caper. Even if the Life and Death of Peter Sellers is not exactly a comedy (Peter Sellers' personal life was full of tragedy), director Stephen Hopkins brings back to memory the talented comic actor and some of the productions from the 60s that certainly make us smile.
- Genre cinema makes its return to the Lumière Theater. The competition feature Old Boy from Korean Park Chan-wook is this filmmaker's third film. From the out of competition selection Zhang Yimou's The Flying Daggers is both a love and a martial arts story, Kill Bill Vol. 2 from Quentin Tarentino is a true homage to genre(s) cinema, Troy from Wolfgang Petersen is an historical epic film in the grand tradition of the USA. Two midnight screenings
- several auteurs have anchored their films in the historical or political arenas such as Michael Moore and his extremely contemporary film about September 11 and the war in Iraq; Walter Salles retraces Che Guevara's motorcycle trip to the four corners of Latin America including its beauties and its tragedies; Jonathan Nossiter takes us on his view of the state of the world via his love for wine; Hans Weingartner reinvents the inter-generational dialogue so important to German society.
- search for identity (group or individual): through the eyes of an adolescent in Comme une image from Agnès Jaoui; a man at the end of his life who looks back on how chance designed his existence in Le conseguenze dell'amore from Paolo Sorrentino; children without a father nor mother in Nobody Knows;a woman who wants to forget the past and start over in Clean from Olivier Assayas, children lost in the perils of immigration and history in Exils from Tony Gatlif.
- finally, love leaves its trace everywhere, possible or impossible love but always love says Lucrecia Martel in La Niña Santa, Hong Sang-soo in Woman is the future of Man, Wong Kar-wai in 2046, Stephen Hopkins in Life and Death of Peter Sellers and of course in the work from Emir Kusturica whose message feeds the entire 2004 Cannes competition - LIFE IS A MIRACLE!
What does the section Un Certain Regard attempt to present'
The Certain Regard section is quite different from the competition. The films present a particular perspective, whether the work of a young filmmaker or a confirmed auteur. In this regard, the young Austrian Jessica Hausner, Lea Fazer from Switzerland and Yang Chao from China will mingle with Sembene Ousmane from Senegal making a trip back to Cannes at the age of 83.
What's in store for Certain Regard 2004'
We intend to present films from the five continents and especially countries whose cinema is rarely seen elsewhere. This year, festival-goers will see films from Hungary (Kontroll from Antal Nimrod), Switzerland (Bienvenue en Suisse from Lea Fazer), and Kazakhstan (Fifty Fifty from Gulshad Omarova). From Latin America, the line-up includes Uruguay (Whisky from Juan Pablo Rebella & Pablo Stoll), Ecuador (Cronicas from Sebastian Cordero) and adding to these there is also Brazil and Argentina (in Competition) which illustrates the importance of Latin America in global filmmaking.
Diversity is the main objective of this section. It is especially noted as a laboratory of young filmmakers, but not only. Nine first films will be presented, along side films and Abbas Kiarostami or Youssef Chahine who have both previously won prizes in the official competition.
The facts and figures'
The figures conform to our objectives of revitalization and attempts at presenting rare film territories. The number of countries represented is on the increase, up to 19, as compared to 14 in 2003, as is the number of first films up to 11 compared to 7 en 2003 (6 en 2002 et 5 en 2001).
Why are films presented out of competition'
Since we limit the maximum number of films in competition from 18 to 20 (a full load for the jury), it would be a shame not to invite certain works to the Croisette, especially those that are entertaining, festive or that take us on a journey.
What's new this year'
Certain films will be presented in the Debussy Theater for a change - Bad Santa, a comedy from Terry Zwigoff and Notre musique allowing the Festival to salute this work from Jean-Luc Godard.
Since 2000, out of competition films have also screened in the Buñuel Theater'
Yes and we will continue this year, screening documentaries on the history of cinema, Salvador Allende, the film by Patrizio Guzman and La Porte du Soleil, by Yousri Nasrallah.. There will also be the last segment of Histoires de Festival entitled Words in Progress, to be shown in the Bazin Theater.
Cannes 2004 is truly devoted to confirmations and discoveries as we said and it is upheld with profusion and enthusiasm. The entire landscape of cinema will be accounted for: auteurs, works that we are unable to label, works that rely on very precise traditional aesthetics, animated features, documentaries, genre films...
and the stars '
Even if we began by qualifying the distinctions and the competition as the force behind Cannes, in second place would have come glamour. It is also the meeting place of some of the most reputed actors and actresses for their craft, and viewed from that angle, Cannes is going to glitter.
Actresses expected in Cannes for the Festival are Charlize Theron, Agnès Jaoui, Ashley Judd, Maggie Cheung, Emily Watson, Sophie Marceau, Zhang Yiyi, Leonor Watling, Cameron Diaz, Jeanne Balibar, Gong Li, Isild le Bescot, Michelle Williams, Penelope Cruz, Emmanuelle Devos, Naomi Watts, Uma Thurman, Diane Kruger, Beatrice Dalle. As for actors, festival-goers will get a glimpse of Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks & Eddie Murphy making their first appearances on the Croisette, and also Sean Penn, Alain Chabat, Toni Servillo, Kevin Kline, Gael Garcia Bernal, Tony Leung, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Sergio Castelllito, Nick Nolte, Geoffrey Rush, Nicolas Duvauchelle, Vincent Perez, John Leguizamo'