Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #4: Just Wait Until Next Year

by Lisa Nesselson

Cannes, May 15

Henri Alekan (lighting cameraman), Jean Delannoy (director) and Michele Morgan (actress) all won prizes at the first Cannes International Film Festival in 1946 and they were all on hand today for the capacity crowd press conference at which plans for next year's 50th fest (May 9-17) were announced.

President Pierre Viot and head programming honcho Gilles Jacob showered compliments on Ms. Morgan who said, "I promise to be here next year, but I can't vouch for my presence in another 50 years from now."

Morgan won the Best Actress award for "La Symphonie Pastorale" adapted from Andre Gide and directed by Delannoy, now age 88 (and who retired after making his final film just last year).

"I'd been living in Hollywood for several years when I received a call from a French producer inviting me to appear in the film," Morgan explained. "It was a terrific opportunity to return to France. And, because I'd turned down a role as a deaf-mute in "Johnny Belinda" I figured I'd better not let a chance to play a blind woman pass me by."

Anyone with eyes can see that the Fest has stars in its orbs for next year. Everyone who has ever won the Golden Palm or any other award will be invited back for a sort of high school reunion whose participants can be expected to sport better-than-average tailored duds.

Per Jacob, new theaters will be built in the Palais -- thanks to financing from the city of Cannes -- just in time to host next year's retrospective of important films that the fest has brought to light over the past five decades.

Perennial Motion Picture Association of America rep Jack Valenti praised the organizers for their taste and vision and pledged on behalf of Hollywood that "We are eager to do whatever you ask of us so that your 50th anniversary can be one of the greatest celebrations ever held in France. And I speak as one who this year is making his 30th visit to Cannes."

Valenti can start by making sure that America's remaining legends remain in good health until next May 19th, because the Fest intends to present a special award each night, live on stage, to a different international celebrity.

Although there will be plenty of special events, Jacob emphasized, "I don't believe in inflation, in multiplying prizes into infinity. We'll have the 'Palme d'Or des Palmes d'Or'." This is a sort of remedial Palm, to be awarded by a jury of his or her peers to "a living and still creating" filmmaker who has never before received an award at Cannes.

In a humble speech, Jacob admitted that everyone makes mistakes and that every great film festival has taken the false step of hailing as an auteur someone who does not go on to produce great work, while passing up genius in their midst. "The 50th Fest will provide an opportunity to rectify some of those past slights and oversights," said Jacob.BR>

Although Jacob emphasized the Fest's devotion to celluloid, commemorative books, TV specials and a CD-ROM will receive the Festival's blessing. Coin collectors will be happy to know that the Paris Mint is striking a special medal to honor next year's event.

Laurent Jacob -- whose father's name happens to be Gilles -- assembled the delightful "Preludes" that preceded every film in Competition at last year's fest. Each mini-film illustrated a theme by editing together scenes from different film classics. They were delightful -- in fact, they were often far better than the features that followed. By popular demand, Laurent will create a sequel ("Preludes II" per the press kit) for next year.

The Festival has also put together a committee of advisors to help ensure that the 50th edition is masterful and memorable. It's quite a list: Woody Allen, Michelangelo Antonioni, Ingmar Bergman, Bernardo Bertolucci, Francis Coppola, Elia Kazan, Stanley Kubrick, Akira Kurosawa, Maurice Pialat (who, I hope, is not elected Etiquette Advisor, since he gave the audience the finger when his 40th anniversary win for "Under Satan's Sun" was announced to boos and hisses), Alain Resnais, Steven Spielberg, Andrzej Wajda, Wim Wenders and Billy Wilder.

Just in case this group turns out to be a washout, Jacob extended a cordial invitation to those assembled: "We're pointed toward the future. Please share your ideas with us while there's still time to implement them."

Listen, if any of the guys on the advisory committee want to come over to my house some afternoon, I'd be more than happy to kick a few ideas around.......

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