In a departure from recent years, rather than picking an English-language film bursting with high-profile stars, the Cannes Film Festival 2015 has selected a French comedy-drama starring few big names as it’s opening night film.
The 68th festival will be opened by La Tête Haute, written and directed by the actress, writer and director Emmanuelle Bercot, the first woman to be given the honour since Diane Kurys in 1987, with Un Homme Amoureux, or A Man In Love.
Bercot is no stranger to Cannes, having won prizes in different strands of the festival for her first two short films in the late 1990s and having her first feature, Clement, selected in the Un Certain Regard sidebar.
Thierry Frémaux, who oversees the selection, acknowledged that his choice might seem surprising. “It is a clear reflection of our desire to see the Festival start with a different piece, which is both bold and moving,” he explained. “Emmanuelle Bercot’s film makes important statements about contemporary society, in keeping with modern cinema. It focuses on universal social issues, making it a perfect fit for the global audiences at Cannes.”
But while artistically, he can justify selecting a French-language film by a director who’s little known outside her country, with a cast including a newcomer and only one internationally known star, the festival will certainly get less global publicity than it did on previous opening nights, when Nicole Kidman appeared on the red carpet for Grace of Monaco, Woody Allen let loose his Oscar-winning Midnight in Paris on the world, Leonardo diCaprio promoted The Great Gatsby and Russell Crowe did his duty for Robin Hood.
This is the first time for ten years that a film not in the English language has opened the festival and certainly the lowest-profile cast for even longer, but perhaps the festival is still shaking from the slating it received for selecting the critically panned Grace of Monaco as last year’s curtain raiser. And the programmers will still be able to invite bigger names to attract more press with another twenty or so Official Selection films, to be announced later this week.