Cannes Day 1: Greta Gerwig’s Testy Press Conference and a Goofy Opening Movie

The Cannes Film Festival is here. And with it comes fresh controversy, new movies and plenty to talk about. Here’s what happened on Day 1.

A Confrontational Press Conference

Greta Gerwig, the first female Cannes Jury President since Jane Campion presided over the jury 10 years ago, was met with some confrontational questions at her inaugural press conference. The “Barbie” filmmaker was asked about the growing #MeToo movement in France.

“I think people in the community of movies telling their stories and trying to change things for the better is only good,” Gerwig said when asked about it. “I have seen substantive change in the American film community, and I think it’s important that we continue to expand that conversation. So I think it’s only moving everything in the correct direction to keep those lines of communication open.”

J.A. Bayona, the director of “Society of Snow” and one of Gerwig’s jury members, was more muted in his response: “I feel this issue does not affect cinema in particular. It’s much more widespread, and we’re here to focus on the films.”

The jury also includes Ebru Ceylan, Italian producer Pierfrancesco Favino, “Killers of the Flower Moon” breakout Lily Gladstone, French actress Eva Green, Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, Lebanese actor and filmmaker Nadine Labaki and French actor Omar Sy.

Also on people’s minds is the ongoing labor unrest, with French organization “Sous les écrans la dèche” calling for a strike. Gerwig was also quizzed about how she felt about the potential strike, having come off back-to-back Hollywood union strikes last year. “I certainly support labor movements and we’ve certainly gone through this just now with our unions. I hope that the festival workers can form an agreement that is good for them and supports them and supports the festival,” Gerwig said.

Cannes president Thierry Fremaux also distanced the festival from the ongoing #MeToo controversy, which includes allegations against legendary French actor Gérard Depardieu, who has been ordered to face trial.

“Last year, as you know, we had a few polemics, and we realized it, and so this year we decided to host a festival without polemics to make sure that the main interest for us all to be here is cinema. So if there are other polemics, it doesn’t concern us.” As far as controversies go, Fremaux said that they might arise “but we try to avoid them.”

Last year the festival came under fire for programming a film starring Johnny Depp. “It’s about the movies and whether they deserve or not, in aesthetic or artistic terms, to be there. There is no ideology guiding the selection committee,” Fremaux said.

A Very Silly First Movie

The opening night film of the festival, Quentin Dupieux’s “The Second Act” (his sixth film since 2020), is a meta comedy about actors being stuck in a movie that is being produced using AI. The movie got a “robotic” 3.5-minute standing ovation but much of the response was a mixture of befuddlement and genuine joy.

“It’s not a normal movie, because Dupieux isn’t interested in normal movies,” TheWrap’s Steve Pond wrote. “In a way, that makes it an apt opener for this year’s Cannes, because it acknowledges its own silliness and is self-aware enough to know how and where it fits in the cinematic landscape.”

Responses have ranged from calling it a “messy collage of shallow examinations that don’t amount to much” to “sometimes amusing, other times insufferable with scenes that go on for far too long.”

It sounds like a “mileage may vary” situation, with those who are accustomed to Dupiex’s particular (and peculiar) sense of humor finding more enjoyment than those who are experiencing it for the first time. “I don’t think I’m ever going to not like a Quentin Dupieux film,” wrote one viewer.

Perhaps the perfect meta, WTF-worthy touch was the Netflix logo that popped up before the movie, signaling that the streaming giant had acquired the rights to the movie. At least that means we’ll all see it soon – and be able to make up our own minds about the wacky comedy.

Meryl Streep Gets More Love

Meryl Streep at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival (Getty Images)

It was noted that the standing ovation that accompanied Meryl Streep as she stepped up to get her honorary Palme d’Or was longer than the one that greeted “The Second Act.” The actress pretended to walk off stage, before then dancing along to the clapping. “When I see you on the screen, I don’t see you … Where does it come from? Were you born like this? I don’t know, but there’s a believer in you; a believer that allows me to believe,” Juliete Binoche said as she presented Streep with the award.

It was Streep’s first appearance at the festival in 35 years, and the actress said, ““I was already a mother of three, I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over.”

Streep continued: “That was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time. And the only reason that I’m here tonight and that it continued is because of the very gifted artists with whom I’ve worked, including Madame La President,” referring to Gerwig, who directed Streep in the Oscar-winning adaptation of “Little Women.”

“My mother, who is usually right about everything, said to me: ‘Meryl, my darling, you’ll see. It all goes so fast. So fast.’ And it has, and it does. Except for my speech, which is too long,” Streep said.

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