The 75th edition of the Festival de Cannes opened on Tuesday.
A moving, outward-looking Ceremony with a conscience, and speeches that will resonate across the 12 days of the event, such as the one given by Vincent Lindon, president of the Feature Films Jury.
The Opening ceremony lasting one hour included among other things, an introduction with last year’s festival star Brigite Efira and a speech by none other that President of Ukraine Vlodimir Zelensky himself live from Ukranian front.
The president of the Jury Lindon took to the sage after a montage of his illustrious career spanning several decades. A Cannes Film Festival veteran himself, he was walking down the red carpet of the Palais des Festivals last year with Titane and has accepted his very own Palme d’Or back in 2015. From the brightly lit stage Lindon professed:
“Alone, just me here with myself in the limelight, condemned to freedom, I am deeply moved, proud and overwhelmed to be leading this exceptional jury, and so very grateful to have been chosen by Pierre Lescure and Thierry Frémaux, over many others of no lesser merit, but more used to living in the solitude of their work.
It would undoubtedly make sense, or would at least be human, to declare my joy to you here this evening, as I preside over the 75th edition of this extraordinary festival, the greatest film festival in the world, celebrating the event and openly relishing the honour bestowed upon me. But would that be right?
Should we not rather, from this stage, upon which, for a brief moment, the eyes of the world are focused, decry the torments of a planet that is bleeding and in pain, a planet that is suffocating and burning as the powers that be look on indifferently? Yes, we probably should. But what can we say that hasn’t already been said? That might at least be useful?
This question is one which all artists have been, are, and shall ever battle with. Should we use our fame, however minor, to enable the words of the voiceless to be heard, or the contrary – should we refuse to publicly take a stance in fields in which we have no legitimacy or competency?
I do not know the answer! To make up for having too generous a fate, ill at ease with its comforts and privileges, and yet too human to give them up, I have often stuck my neck out to speak, sometimes naively, against the pain experienced by others, which, although sparing my flesh, tortures my conscience.
As a mere actor, I portray characters who bear other names than my own, who do other jobs. Sometimes they are powerful. More often they are beaten down types, because these are the ones who move me and inspire me to try to reach their essence. That is our craft. I am fully aware it has brought me many more honours than I deserve. But I also know, like anyone who has had the extraordinary fortune of being able to live off their art and to live freely, that we are just a tiny part of a huge and essential whole we call Culture. For Culture is not some amiable growth, nor a futile ornament of society. It lies not on the edges, but sits at its very heart. Culture is all we will leave behind.
What would remain of the reign of Joseph II without Mozart, of Louis XlV without Molière, Racine or Corneille, of the papacy of Julius II without Michelangelo?
Nation states and their leaders owe their place in History to the ties they succeed in weaving with artists whose works are the sublimation of human genius.
The Cannes International Film Festival continues this same secular tradition. Born from a desire to fight against the fascism that had deformed European cinema, it has never stopped embracing, protecting, and bringing together the greatest filmmakers of their time.
Open to all cultures, demanding nothing more than the highest of standards, its selections comprise films that aspire to more than merely selling tickets.
That is the Festival de Cannes’ reason for being. That is its glory. It is this inflexible vision, a guiding line that is both artistic and community-led, that renders essential what would otherwise be obscene: projecting glorious images over the top of the abominable ones coming to us from the heroic and martyrised Ukraine, or burying under a melody of joy the silent massacres that rip through Yemen or Darfur.
Finally, to conclude, a question:
« What else can we do, besides draw on the weapon of mass emotion that is film, to awaken consciences and shake up indifference? »
I don’t see what!
How can the evocative power of these great filmmakers not influence the future of the earth?
I cannot imagine that, either!
Even if that means we have to use a thimble to bale ourselves out of the hull of a ship being flooded by waves, our strength is that we have faith, because our works will live on forever.
Although when we are crushed under the weight of current affairs, and I find myself discouraged, I do sometimes wonder if we are not currently dancing on the Titanic…
So maybe, if we listen carefully, we might hear amidst the crashing of empires and nations the soft and low brushing of wings, and the sweet murmur of life and hope.
The time of artists and responsible filmmakers has come, to bear us up and to nourish our imaginations, to help us repeat to ourselves, at every opportunity, in honour of all those who are suffering and fighting in this world: ‘be alive and be aware of it’.