Some are calling it an “off” year, but we like to think of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival as a pivot year instead. Following a very public spat with American streaming behemoth Netflix—either the future of cinema or the destroyer of it, depending on whom you ask—the festival revealed a slate of films conspicuously light on English-language titles and Oscar bait. Which led to some grumbling about the festival losing its luster.
But as Vanity Fair has explored Cannes this year—from screenings to panels to parties—weve found a festival with a renewed spirit. The films—from a mix of venerable auteurs like Jean-Luc Godard and Jia Zhangke and rising stars like Eva Husson and the dashing Lukas Dhont—are the true stars of the show this year, as they should be. In making the festival a little less America-centric than it has been lately, Cannes has re-asserted itself as the premier destination for daring, provocative international cinema.
Dont worry, there is still plenty of classic Cannes glamour to revel in, perhaps a bit more restrained than in years past, but nonetheless gracing the Croisette with a Champagne-fizz sparkle. The starry assemblage of jurors—including Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay, Chloë Sevigny, and Kristen Stewart—has helped maintain the festivals profile, and the usual bunch of happy hangers-on and gadabouts has flocked to tented soirees that thump late into the night.
Vanity Fairs Cannes 2018 Portfolio offers a look inside this years festivities, combing the beaches and peeking behind the scenes to capture a portrait of a festival still in need of further change (more women directors would be a good start), but headed in the right direction. Who says you cant learn new tricks at 71?
The Boulevard de la Croisette is the festivals main thoroughfare, where premiere-goers clad in gowns and tuxes stream toward the Palais des Festivals and late-night revelers bounce from beach club to beach club in search of the perfect Cannes high.
Rooftops and beachfronts are prime real estate in Cannes, and brands are quick to claim space. Luxury jeweler Chopard occupies the roof of the Hôtel Martinez, Grey Goose vodka sets up shop at Nikki Beach—even the ice cream bar company Magnum gets in on the action, throwing loud, packed parties where the sand meets the sea.
Cannes is a haven for international auteurs. Iranian two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadis latest film, Everybody Knows, was chosen to be the 2018 festivals opening-night fill, because Farhadi is revered in these parts—and, yes, because the films leads are the king and queen of Spanish cinema, Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz. Theyre arguably the two biggest movie stars in the competition, which feels just, Cannes being a European festival and all.
Marion Cotillard, Frances reigning queen of cinema, met raves in Vanessa Filhos Angel Face, and in her downtime of red carpets and fashion-house dinners, she teamed up with Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyongo, Fan Bingbing, and Penélope Cruz to help sell the action-packed spy thriller 355.
A poached egg will cost you 25€ on the terrace at the Carlton Hotel, and people are willing to pay it. Theyll also fork over as much as 198€ a head to eat at the Palme dOr restaurant at the Hôtel Martinez. But the toughest table to get in Cannes is at Le Maschou, up the hill in the citys old town. Lucky commoners cram in next to celebrities (we dined Jake Gyllenhaal-adjacent on our last visit) as the restaurants famously voluminous crudité baskets land on tables to admiring oohs and ahhs.
In 71 years, 1,645 films directed by men have competed in the official selection at Cannes. As for films directed by women? Eighty-two. That staggering imbalance is what led 82 women from the industry to stage a protest during the red carpet premiere of Eva Hussons Girls of the Sun (with Hussons blessing). Hopefully Cannes got the message, and well see more women in the competition next year.
One of the breakout stars of Cannes this year is Argentinas Lorenzo Ferro, who plays a baby-faced killer in The Angel. At the festival, this acting newbie got a cheer of congratulations from a Spanish-speaking veteran of the art-house world, Pedro Almodóvar, a producer on the film. Not bad for a first job.
Ava DuVernay was not only on jury duty at this years Cannes Film Festival—she also, along with Cate Blanchett and Kristen Stewart, was on a mission to improve gender equality. In addition to taking part in the Palais demonstration, she stood by on Monday morning as festival director Thierry Frémaux signed a pledge to promote gender parity going forward.
If you just focused on the main competition films at Cannes, youd see plenty of great movies, but youd miss out on the many smaller treasures on offer in sidebar slates like Directors Fortnight and Critics Week. This year, Gaspar Noés wild dance-a-thon, Climax, and the street-hustler drama Wild were sidebar stunners, earning the same kind of praise that celebrated alums like The Florida Project and The Rider enjoyed when they premiered outside the Palais.
For Kelly Preston and John Travolta, Cannes is a family affair. Starring opposite one another in mob movie Gotti, the two are also here to celebrate Travoltas 40th anniversary of Grease with a public screening for fans on the Croisette beach.
Nearly 70 years ago, Brigitte Bardot became an international sensation after being photographed cavorting on the French Riviera during the Cannes Film Festival. There have been plenty of beach bombshells since, and each day, as critics and actresses sweep down the Croisette in couture, hundreds of sunbathers stretch down the coast, more interested in tans than movie stars.
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