On day one of Festival de Cannes, there were the usual "steps", photocall, and press conference rituals. Asia Argento clearly was the happiest camper of the entire lot that gave the most to the press. Her enthusiasm radiated as she bent over backwards to satisfy the cries of the paparazzi. With photographers lined on the left and right she managed to smile for them all. Shu Qi was soft spoken and gave curt answers to questions through her interpreter. Perhaps they were especially short because she was asked by a Cannes fest interviewer if she would pay particular attention to Asian films as a juror.
The word "judge" was bantered around, after all this is a jury that will assess the work of several directors and award prizes. Isabelle Huppert declared, "I don't think we are here to judge. I think we are here to love films, and to see what we love more than others".
Sharmila Tagore , the brilliant actress from Satyajit Ray's films said that she thought Isabelle Huppert would be a tough jury president. Robin Wright Penn seems to not enjoy the limelight at all. She was in an out of her photo shoot in a matter of seconds but she came on strong in the press conference about choosing films from the heart. In her personal life this seems to be a key issue. The men in the jury didn't exude any notable charisma: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Hanif Kureishi, and Lee Changdong - all excellent craftsmen. The exception was James Gray who boldly exclaimed that he didn't want to know anything about the films beforehand and go in cold.
In looking at this panel, we have two young actresses, two middle-aged and one almost 60--all extremely beautiful women, now or at one time. This seems to be the standard at Cannes for women jurors. As few are directors, next best are the directors muses: Nanni Moretti, Satyajit Ray, Michael Haneke, Hsiao-hsien Hou, Sean Penn. The men stand on their merits as directors and screenwriters.
President Isabelle Huppert (b: 1953) has an eclectic panel and it will be interesting to see its choices in ten days. After day one, we won't hear anything from the jury members until then.
Festival de Cannes is one of the most ritualized festivals out there, known for brilliant art house films, and scandals, and for sending shockwaves of new iconography down the festival pipelines to smaller venues, distributors and DVD markets. What this 62 Cannes might be most remembered for is this particular Madame la Présidente who has suffered on screen in a number of roles that are typically created for beautiful women on screen: as a young woman who kills her parents in Violette Nozière (1978), a prostitute for Jean Luc Godard in Sauve qui peut (la vie) (1980), a brothel madam in Michael Cimono's Heaven's Gate (1980) and most recently as a self deprecating piano teacher who falls in love with her younger student in Michael Haneke's La pianiste (2002).
Perhaps her strongest role was as the last woman to be executed in France for performing abortions: Une affaire de femmes (1988).