By Malti Sahai
The 69th Festival Intertiol du Film de Cannes opened amidst glitz and glamour and unprecedented security with the screening of Woody Allen's new film Café Society on 11 May in the Palais des Festival's Grand Theater Lumière. It is a record-breaking coup for the New York director who has already opened the Festival twice before, in 2002 with Hollywood Ending and again in 2011 with Midnight in Paris.
Walking up the Red Carpet with him were the two rising stars from Hollywood's up-and-coming generation, Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg, alongside a stellar cast of acclaimed actors including Blake Lively, Parker Posey and Steve Carell. Stewart climbed the Red Carpet Steps at Cannes in 2012 for On the Road by Walter Sales and then in 2014 for Olivier Assayas's Clouds of Sills Maria, which earned her a Cesar. Jesse Eisenberg starred in Louder than Bombs by Joachim Trier, In Competition last year. Also seen on the Red Carpet was Vittorio Storaro, the eminent director of photography for the film. He was a member of the Feature Film jury in 1991 and is a three-time Oscar winner for Apocalypse Now by Francis Ford Coppola in 1980, Reds by Warren Beatty in 1982, and The Last Emperor by Berrdo Bertolucci in 1988.
From Manhattan in 1979 to Irratiol Man in 2015, this will be the fourteenth Out of Competition selection at Cannes for Woody Allen. In France, the opening film 'Cafe's Society's' release in cinemas is scheduled to coincide with the official opening of the Festival de Cannes.
Pride of place on the Red Carpet was also given to the prestigious jury for The 69th Festival de Cannes led by George Miller (President of the jury - Director, Writer, Producer from Australia), together with the seven other jurors in his team which includes, Katayoon Shahabi (Producer from Iran), Mads Mikkelsen (Actor from Denmark,) Kristin Dunst (Actress from United States,) Valeria Golino (Actress, Director, Writer, Producer from Italy,) Arud Deselecting (Director, Writer, France), Vanessa Paradis (Actress, Singer, France) Dold Sutherland (Actor, Cada) and Lazio mes (Director, Writer, Hungary). Their task will be to decide between the 21 films in competition in order to select the winners - to be announced on stage at the Closing Ceremony on Sunday 22nd May.
The atmosphere at the opening was charged with the heady mix of glamour, talent and celebrations camouflaging the unprecedented pressure of security arrangements faced by the festival organizers this year, in the wake of the city's new security protocols following the Charlie Hebdo attacks last January and the Le Bataclan attacks in November in Paris. The Cannes crackdown this year reportedly includes an additiol 465 closed circuit cameras. That's one for every 156 residents, the highest ratio in the country. Many of these will be pointed at the high traffic Croisette to ensure everybody is on camera, not just the stars. Swat style cops have also descended on Cannes to support the patrolling of the municipal police and the plainclothes tiol Police, as part of a massively beefed up security. The festival on its part has deployed 500 seasoned and experienced security guards in and around the Palais.
According to Hollywood Reporter, last month in the run up to the festival, the city of Cannes conducted a simulation of coordited terror attacks designed to test emergency responses. Fake explosions rocked the city's Palais, followed by four armed 'terrorists' forcing their way up the Palais' grand entrance where the red carpet is now in place. Local schools also participated, with security drills that would come into play in case of a terror attack. The 'extras' were lying supposedly 'injured' in red vests along the Croisette and splayed across the steps of the Palais. The simulation involved not only local police, but the tiol police and gendarmerie, as well as fire fighters, EMTs, hospital workers and doctors, who would be first responders in this type of attack.
"One has to be prepared in case the worst occurs," Mayor David Lisrd told THR.
At the annual unveiling of the official selection lineup, Pierre Lescure (President, Cannes Fest) said the festival and city administration was leaving no stone unturned to create the right balance between security challenges and the festival activities to ensure the festival can remain a place of freedom and pleasure. The smiling faces and bonhomie seen at the top of the stairs, as Thierry Fremaux (Director General) and Pierre Lescure greeted the ascending lumiries, was heartwarming and celebrated the resilient spirit of the festival.
Cafe Society the opening film tells the story of a young man who arrives in Hollywood during the 1930s hoping to work in the film industry, falls in love, and finds himself swept up in the vibrant café society that defined the spirit of the age. A dazzling period film it marks the return to form for the occasiolly uneven filmmaker. This film has the potential to be one of the most stylish releases of the year. Known for his best dressed leading ladies (Annie Hall), true to form, Kristen Stewart and Blake Lovely's characters are enhanced by the fabulous 1930's costumes they wear. The screening ended with a standing ovation for the Director and the cast and crew of the film. The film also brought glamour and an upbeat mood to the celebrations of the opening event.