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Wednesday
May172017

Cannes Day 1: The Netflix Battle and "Ishmael's Ghost"

by Nathaniel R

Maren Ade, Will Smith, Agnes Jaoui, and Pedro Almodóvar at the Jury Press Conference today

Though we aren't in the South of France we'll try to keep an eye on the proceedings across the pond there these next two weeks. If you're relatively new to movie obsessing (We keep hoping more young people will tune in to TFE. We used to attract baby cinephiles... not sure where they congregate now!) Vox has a terrific heavily expository overview of why Cannes is so important, how to pronounce it ("can" not "cans" or "cahn"), why so many famous people go, why everyone is so dressed up, and some other myths and mysteries that surround the festival.

Jury Press Conference & the Netflix Divide
Because juicy click-bait headlines drive traffic most websites are framing the Jury Press Conference as a bloody war between the president Pedro Almodóvar and his most famous juror Will Smith. They may well eventually come to artistic blows in jury deliberations (who knows) but this is already grossly overstated. They merely have different feelings about Netflix, a famous "disruptor" as a company. Will Smith is very pro Netflix (basically because he has kids who like it). Almodóvar is very pro theatrical exhibition, because you know, he's a filmmaker who cares about movies. That's about the extent of the "war"...

Gross simplification alert! For what it's worth France has very complicated laws governing their cinema. Those laws have kept France an important hub for cinema forever despite its small size so they obviously work. That's one of the reasons why Cannes made headlines for giving Netflix an ultimatum: Show your films in theaters in France, or you can't be in competition. This is a relatively simple an reasonable request FOR A FRENCH FESTIVAL and the fact that people are so upset about it and acting like Cannes is being unreasonable is telling about how little thought people are putting into this. Yes, it's convenient to watch Netflix. I like doing it, too. (I was totally losing sleep bingeing Sense8 last night) But that doesn't mean they're always right!

If you give them too much power you will not like the end result. Netflix has absolutely no stake in the theatrical model continuing at all. Nor even movies themselves continuing at all really. They want to disrupt the movie model but they don't even appear to want to replace it with their own movies, really. Their actions as a company have clearly shown that they are interested in principally becoming a content creator of original TV series. This is totally fine, no judgment. It's great for TV fans -- so far they've made pretty good ones -- but this is not a reason to give them control over movie culture which they have no interest or stake in! They've been systemically getting rid of their movie library (finding movies made before 2000 is increasingly difficult, as if the 20th century never existed!) and when they make their own product, it's usually TV series. Why make movie institutions and theaters and awards groups (like Cannes and the Oscars) bend to their whims? They're a different business entirely is my point.

I shared more notes about the press conference on twitter which begins VERY uncomfortably with weird passive aggressive comments, and dumb mistakes including the moderator guy (I don't know his name) telling everyone how great Fanbingbing was in The Handmaiden even though she a) isn't in The Handmaiden and b) isn't even from South Korean.  

 

 

Note to Cannes Hosts: Kim Tae-ri and Kim Min-hee are both great in South Korea's The Handmaiden but neither or them are Fan Bingbing who is a Chinese superstar. 

Opening Film
Arnaud Depleschin's newest film Ishmael's Ghost opened the festival. As is the tradition with opening night films, reports are that it was "underwhelming." (A larger question: Why does anyone want to open a film festival, we must ask? It's a basically untenable position since this "underwhelming" response is par for the course and not just at Cannes. Nobody wants a festival to peak on opening night, everyone is just excited to have arrived and nobody is really focused on that first movie as THE thing to focus on.)

Ishmael's Ghosts stars Marion Cotillard and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who showed up to the photocall looking impossibly chic in complementary white and black outfits -- Cotillard wore jeans! But they changed before the premiere itself into appropriately glitzy attire.

Despleschin, Cotillard, Garrel, and Gainsbourg at the premiere

Marion Cotillard already worked three chic outfits at Cannes and its only day one. She wore that white flowing caftan over jeans for the photocall, a black gown for the premiere, and then this curiously floofy sparkly number for the gala. She gave birth to her second child just two months almost to the day so perhaps she was dying to glam it back up?

Yes, yes, Jose will cover fashion for us this year but I just wanted to pipe in a bit early with this particular red carpet queen.

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Reader Comments (24)

I'm with Almodovar. I never really understand the idea of streaming and I never used Netflix and never will. I grew up watching films on TV and seeing them in the theaters and I don't want to change that. Plus, hearing how Xavier Dolan reacted towards what Netflix did to Mommy with its aspect ratio and the fact that smaller films being played on Netflix aren't given the chance in favor of bullshit movies starring Adam Sandler. Fuck that shit.

May 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterthevoid99

Why is Will Smith on this jury??

May 17, 2017 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

^I have no fucking idea!
Already he looks bored out of his skull!
Thinking "who is that white haired man speaking, and has he done anything I might've seen?
Oh that's right, I don't watch movies with subtitles!"

Smith's gonna be so miserable sitting though all those long foreign movies!

May 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Like any larger company, Netflix gets a lot of hate; some warranted but some (most?) not.

May 17, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Simply because Will Smith has made a name for himself doing Hollywood blockbusters doesn't mean he can't like or appreciate non-English art house movies.

As for the Netflix debate, I get Cannes' stance but I'm glad Will spoke up about the streaming service. Thanks to Netflix I've been introduced to several films that don't play at my neighbor theater, Almodovar films included.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJordan

Marion Cotillard already putting everyone else's expectations for GLAMOURPUSS brilliance on high and it's only day one. Legend.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCal

I nearly died from cringe watching the moderator guy stumble over and over again trying to say 'Zero Dark Thirty'. Chastain's face was like 'wtf have I signed up for?!'

I hope someone at Cannes social media HQ sorts out the Youtube video situation. Videos marked as being an English translation are still French lol.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEz

^it's funny, I watch the Cannes coverage extensively every year
on their YouTube channel and on their official site -
and the first day's videos marked "EV" on their YouTube channel
are ALWAYS in french!! -
but then they fix it by the 2nd day - so don't worry, tomorrow it should work!

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

^^the moderator, Henri Béhar, has been with the festival forever!
and he usually gets things wrong about the films and/or the actors -
besides the Zero Dark Thirty faux pas, he also said that Fan Bingbing was in The Handmaiden!
Give him a break, he's getting old!

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

My Cannes 2017 prediction: Pedro Almodovar will FINALLY win Palm d'Or with one of his next 3 films. Not only he's due, Cannes has just confirmed with his presidency of the jury, they love it, and that they think he should have one already.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJesus Alonso

Without streaming I would have never been able to see "Things To Come" and "The Lobster" So everybody calm the fuck down. Cinemas are always packed. Every damn blockbuster makes a billion now. Indie movies will always be indie movies. Some of them go big, some stay "small".

I never saw an Almodovar movie on the big screen, I still I love them deeply. But I hate it when people tell me my love for a movie isn´t complete because I saw it on the small screen, which btw. are not that smal anymore.

Sure the cinema experience is something special, but we shouldn´t condemn streaming. Why not have both....

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered Commentertherealmike

("Their" actions as a company, not "They're" actions as a company)

Anytime.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSpell Checker

I admire how the French protect their culture.

Team Pedro

Oh, the things I would do to Bingbing's translator!

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

i'd be happy if i never set foot in a movie theatre ever again; i have a big screen, a good internet connection and rarely enough energy to leave the house - whoever invented streaming has my gratitude forever

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpar

Isn't this the same sky-is-falling, "video killed the radio star" argument we hear every time a new mode of media consumption reaches peak popularity with the public? Wasn't the internet supposed to have destroyed the film industry as we've known it by now? Everyone needs to calm down. This isn't a zero-sum game. Theatrical exhibition and Netflix can continue to coexist peacefully.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTroy H.

Funny to hear you describe France as a small country. I'm from the UK, so from our tiny island, France is a pretty bloody big country!!!

I'm worried for Marion. I love her so. She's had too many disappointments lately. She needs a well reviewed film, stat.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJB

Yeah... if the option was Netflix or nothing then I vote for Netflix. I know the argument doesn't boil it down like that, but people seem to forget that Netflix is doing more good than bad in getting people to watch hard-to-find films.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I feel there is room for both Cinema and Netflix.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterK

Another problem I have with Netflix is that they wouldn't allow Okra to be filmed in 35mm.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

Oops. I meant Okja.

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJackie

Apparently Wonderstruck is not a masterpiece!

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

seems like Wonderstruck will indeed fail to get the Carol lovin'

What does Haynes need to do to secure a Best Director nod? Life's truly unfair, isn't it?

May 18, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

There's always controversies at Cannes. My only worry is why the festival is being held in a district that is rightwing conservative and voted for Le Pen???? You'd think the artistic community would hold a festival somewhere a little more liberal.

May 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBette Streep

I have no problem with France requiring Netflix to exhibit in theaters in order to be in competition at the festival, that's a reasonable request.

However, i do think people are being a bit too snobby about Netflix. I wish they committed to more theatrical distribution because they have some movies that would look great on a bigger screen. Hell, I even waited for a Film Independent awards screening of Beasts of No Nation cause I thought it should be viewed in a theater. But that doesn't mean movies you watch on the service aren't cinematic and their library allows you to see things you might never see in a theater.

Will Smith's comments were more than just "oh my kids like it so I do." He spoke about how they had international cinema at their fingertips and how that's been a boon to them.

May 19, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTerence

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