Cannes film festival favours old friends, and on Tuesday for their 70th edition the festival organisers gathered 113 famous pals from all corners of the world to mark the birthday with a special photocall. I've enjoyed putting names to faces, and from last year's PIAF film selection alone I've spied Pedro Almodóvar, director of Julieta and this year's Jury President for the festival's main competition; Isabelle Huppert, who starred in Things to Come; Cristian Mungiu the director of Graduation; and Maren Ade, the writer and director of Toni Erdmann. The full list of Cannes birthday guests is here, and I bet you can spot a few more faces from Somerville films of years gone by.
I'm writing this on day eight of the festival, and 21 films into a schedule that will eventually cover around 35 movies and yield a good chuck of this summer's program for PIAF. I try to prioritise the main competition, where most of the established masters' films appear, while also keeping an watchful eye on fresh new visions from less established filmmakers via the festival's other side selections. And while overall this time the main completion has unfortunately proven a bit flat overall, the festival now is that happy midway point where there unknown quantities are coming through and there is a buzz among the Australian buyers for exciting new films that are interesting and full of warmth. The other talking points have been Cannes' awkward relationship with Netflix (Pedro Almodóvar and juror Will Smith have opposing views on whether Netflix films have a place here), and the heightened security which, coupled with the terrible events in Manchester, have admittedly cast a slight gloom.
But there is much to celebrate and enjoy too, and a highlight for me has been a screening on the festival's third day, of the documentary Faces, Places by Agnès Varda. Varda will be 89 years old in a few days and first had a film at Cannes in 1961. She is one of the great playful film artists of the 1960s 'French New Wave', a true 'people person'; and her latest (last?) film is a journey with a young collaborator, the photographer known as 'J.R.'. Varda and J.R. travel around France to find ordinary people whom Varda calls 'heroes of where they are, heroes of the village, heroes of the street', and celebrate them by taking their portraits. These images are then plastered on a large scale on to houses and workplaces in ways that reminded me of Perth's own explosions of street art in places like Northbridge, Leederville and Curtin University. At her screening Varda was welcomed as a true hero with a long ovation, as she shyly covered her own face with her scarf.
With so much to see and people to meet, there is very little time to reflect on films at Cannes with the media constantly tripping over itself to report new things by the hour. So I'm already looking forward to Perth's summer season and giving some great new films a chance to breathe at Joondalup and Somerville. But for now it's back to the screenings rooms for me, with a promise that I'll keep seeking out the best that I can find.