One of the most wonderful aspects about the Cannes Film Festival is the way it creates a buzz. Which it does very seductively, building up anticipation, peeling one layer at a time to allow a little peek into what it is about to unveil. The finish, which takes place exactly three weeks before the Festival opens, is invariably nail biting.
In January, Cannes told us that the legendary Robert De Nero would be the president of the prestigious international jury. In February, we were told that the movie of another legend, Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris would set the Festival rolling on May 11.
Our curiosity has been tickled with such big names, and we now wait with almost bated breath to see who the other jurors would be, and, of course, who else would arrive on the French Riviera with his or her film.
Gianni Amelio’s The First Man, based on an Albert Camus novel, is a strong contender. Jacques Gamblin plays Jacques Cormery in the movie, a man who returns to his native Algeria in the 1950s. This is the director’s first ever French work. Apart from this language link, The First Man, deals with a subject, France’s occupation of Algeria, that still rankles Paris, still makes most Frenchmen a tad guilty. Finally, Amelio is no stranger to Cannes, having won the Grand Jury Prize there in 1992 for his Stolen Children, a hauntingly narrated story of a policeman’s effort to befriend a boy and a girl.
As endearing to Cannes as Amelio and others is another Italian helmer, Emanuele Crialese, who may be at the Festival with Terreferma. It was shot on a Sicilian island inhabited by fishermen. Not at all touristy, the island is suddenly overrun by illegal immigrants, and the plot has an uncanny resemblance to modern-day events.
Cannes will continue with this striptease.
Gautaman Bhaskaran, who has covered the Cannes Film Festival for 20 years, will be writing on it for the Hindustan Times