Cannes Film Festival: An old lady not to be messed with

A glittering cast has been assembled for Cannes, take 65 – no wonder the world's most prestigious film festival is feeling bullish

Don't be fooled. The word "festival" doesn't mean that anything goes. Cannes has always been governed by protocol – as any man can tell you who's turned up for an evening gala in tux and dicky bow, only to be turned away for wearing the wrong shoes. And these days, the festival has a touch of the iron fist about it. Last year, after making his "I'm a Nazi" wisecracks, Lars von Trier found the festival declaring him persona non grata – which surely carries a certain prestige, a sort of auteur Asbo.

Even before the start of this year's event, more knuckles have been rapped. Last month, a French blogger posted what was allegedly a leaked advance list of Cannes competition titles. It turned out to be an April Fool prank (although it did predict six titles correctly). Festival director Thierry Frémaux was having none of it, and responded with fighting talk. "It's disgusting to play with such a thing," he declared to the industry website Deadline. "There is a code of conduct for Cannes and it must be respected. Those who don't respect the code will never come back to Cannes." That last sentence, tweeters observed, was surely a tagline waiting for a movie.

And yet the festival's sure hand has faltered in the last decade, with several dud selections and soul-destroying opening films. (Did we really sit through The Da Vinci Code?) And there was a time when the festival proper could easily be eclipsed, in media eyes, by the opportunistic sideshows going on elsewhere on the Croisette – when the biggest story in town would be a Spice Girls photo-op or a rumoured glimpse of Michael Jackson in a beachfront traffic jam.

These days, however, Cannes can justly pride itself on being the festival among festivals – and on its own terms. It's in a fairly unassailable position. Look at its European A-list rivals. Berlin, when it's on form, lives up to its high-minded reputation, but its tawdry red-carpet glitz looks increasingly absurd, given the often prosaic content. And Venice may provide stars and, in recent years, a strong selection of admirable films – but it doesn't offer the sheer concentration of major attractions that Cannes does.

In fact, this year's Croisette menu is so mouth-watering that, even if the films prove disappointing, the festival will already have triumphed on prestige alone. The competition is stacked with blue-chip auteurs. (Although, as has been widely noted, they're all male this year.) There's Wes Anderson, David Cronenberg, Michael Haneke, Ken Loach, along with several significant art-house names consolidating their renown – Italy's Matteo Garrone (who made the Mafia drama Gomorrah), the Precious director Lee Daniels, and Romania's Cristian Mungiu, who was largely unknown when he scooped the Palme d'Or in 2007 with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

The only drawback of such an all-star competition is that you miss out on surprises and revelations – like 4 Weeks ..., in fact. It also makes it that much harder to leave the Palais and head further afield, to discover new names in the Directors' Fortnight and Critics' Week sections.

This year, too, the paparazzi will be thrilled by a very snap-worthy contingent of stars. Expect to see Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Marion Cotillard, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Robert Pattinson, Isabelle Huppert, Brad Pitt, Reece Witherspoon, Kristen Stewart. There's even a youngish British face making his acting debut – rocker Pete Doherty, whose publicists must be even now working on getting him a persona non grata certificate to add to his collection.

Which brings us to the double bind of Cannes. One is expected to behave well there, as befits this lofty celebration of the Seventh Art. Yet Cannes' pre-eminence on the world cinema map is partly contingent on its ability to provide the sort of sulphurous controversy that attends the utterances of Lars von Trier and his ilk. A tame, scandal-free Cannes would be a disaster – but looking at this year's form, that seems a distant prospect ....

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power