The Cannes Film Festival

Cannes opens with Palme d’Or for Meryl Streep, spotlight on female icons of film

Author: Editors Desk, Benjamin DODMAN Source: France 24
May 15, 2024 at 06:32

After a tense build-up marked the threat of further #MeToo scandals, the glitzy film gathering finally got the ball rolling on Tuesday with an emotional tribute to Streep, who was treated to a long and thunderous standing ovation.

French actor Juliette Binoche broke into tears as she delivered an honorary Palme d’Or to the beloved Hollywood icon, who was making her first appearance in Cannes in 35 years.

Streep said that watching the ceremony’s retrospective clips of her career was “like looking out the window of a bullet train, watching my youth fly into my middle age, right onto where I am standing on this stage tonight.

The 74-year-old Oscar winner added: “I'm just so grateful that you haven't gotten sick of my face and you haven’t gotten off of the train.

She and Binoche jointly declared Cannes officially open.

Streep recalled that the last time she was at Cannes, “I was already a mother of three, I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over.

“That was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time. And the only reason that I’m here tonight and that it continued is because of the very gifted artists with whom I’ve worked, including Madame La Présidente,” she said, pointing to jury head Greta Gerwig, who directed her in 2019’s “Little Women”.

Gerwig is the first American female filmmaker to serve as president of the Cannes jury. She was also treated to a rapturous reception at the Grand Théâtre Lumière in Cannes.

The ceremony was followed by the premiere of French director Quentin Dupieux’s latest absurdist comedy “The Second Act”, starring Léa Seydoux, Vincent Lindon, Louis Garrel and emerging star Raphaël Quenard.  

As per custom, the curtain-raiser was shown simultaneously in hundreds of cinemas across France. It followed an earlier, sensational screening of Abel Gance’s restored masterpiece “Napoleon”, the first to feature the director’s original cut in almost a century.

France’s #MeToo moment

Over the coming fortnight, Cannes will premiere a host anticipated new movies from the likes of Yorgos Lanthimos, Andrea Arnold and George Miller. The mouthwatering line-up includes Francis Ford Coppola's decades-in-the-making epic “Megalopolis”. 

But much of the drama surrounding this year's festival has been off screen. 

The French film industry has been roiled by a belated #MeToo reckoning since French actor Judith Godrèche earlier this year accused two film directors of rape and sexual abuse when she was a teenager.

On Wednesday, Godrèche will premiere her short film “Moi Aussi” (Me Too in French).


Godreche's new film 'highlights the stories of victims of sexual violence', the Cannes Film Festival says © STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP

Asked about #MeToo expanding in France, Gerwig told reporters in Cannes she saw reason for optimism. 

I think people in the community of movies telling us stories and trying to change things for the better is only good,” Gerwig said. “I have seen substantive change in the American film community, and I think it’s important that we continue to expand that conversation. So I think it’s only moving everything in the correct direction. Keep those lines of communication open.” 

Earlier on Tuesday, French daily Le Monde published a strongly worded petition signed by some of France's biggest film stars that called for a comprehensive new law to crack down on “systemic” sexism and gender-based violence in France. 

There are 100 of us, but in reality, were are hundreds of thousands,” said the signatories, including Binoche and Godrèche. They called for a crackdown on sexist and sexual violence, saying it was “systemic, not exceptional”. 

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