At Cannes, Wear Heels and Don’t Take Selfies


The Cannes Film Festival is known for many things: yacht parties, topless starlets, Sylvester Stallone and friends rumbling down the Croisette in armored vehicles and, yes, the premieres of some great films. Another crucial element is its wonderfully French love of rules and regulations, as demonstrated by the partial list below.

The festival’s director, Thierry Frémaux, said he believed that these rules were needed to keep up Cannes’ long-established standards — and he is probably right. As maddening as all the dos and don’ts may be, the world’s most famous film festival would not be the same without them.

Anyone walking up the red carpet to a Cannes premiere last year had to pass a scary sign that said, “Pas de selfie et de photo sur le tapis rouge, merci!” Anyone who tried to snap a selfie anyway was pounced on by an even scarier security guard.

Some male photographers have grumbled that their female counterparts can get away with wearing casual tops paired with black skirts or trousers, while the men have to sweat it out in bow ties and dinner jackets. But let’s be honest: This has to be the one and only film industry event at which the dress code is tougher on men than on women.

Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja” and Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” were both booed at their Cannes press screenings in 2017 — but it wasn’t because of the films, it was the Netflix logo that appeared before the opening credits. The issue was that Netflix films aren’t shown in French cinemas before they go online, and so cinema-loving traditionalists (as well as cinema owners) were angry that Cannes was giving them houseroom.

Netflix’s argument was that, under French law, any film released in cinemas cannot be streamed for three more years — a delay that would wreck the company’s business model. But Mr. Fremaux sided with the traditionalists. From then on, he said, no film would be eligible for the Palme d’Or or any of the festival’s other prizes unless it was booked into cinemas shortly afterward.

Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer for Netflix, responded by saying that, in that case, the company wouldn’t bring its films to the festival at all, adding that Cannes had “chosen to celebrate distribution rather than the art of cinema.”

Sure enough, Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma” skipped Cannes last year and premiered at the Venice Film Festival, where it did pretty well for itself. But Mr. Fremaux was unrepentant: “Eventually we will understand,” he said, “that the history of cinema and the history of the internet is not the same thing.”

Until recently, press screenings of the biggest films at Cannes were held in the morning, with their star-studded gala premieres in the evening. But, in the social-media age, that meant that a film’s cast and crew would sometimes be forced to grin away on the red carpet, knowing that their labor of love had already been trashed by thousands of critics. (Have I mentioned “The Sea of Trees”?)



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