Thierry Frémaux, the Cannes Film Festival’s artistic director, is used to criticism.
Every year, following the mid-April announcement of the movies selected to compete for the coveted Palme d’Or prize, the complaints come fast and furious—and from all corners.
This time, the grumbling started early. In January, when Frémaux and festival president Gilles Jacob picked Olivier Dahan’s Grace of Monaco (starring Nicole Kidman as Grace Kelly) to open the 67th edition on May 14, the news was greeted with a certain amount of snark.
“YAWN,” tweeted veteran showbiz reporter Nikki Finke. Guy Lodge, a critic from Variety, speculatively compared Dahan’s film to well-received recent opening titles at the other major, ostensibly less prestigious, European film festivals. “Venice: GRAVITY. Berlin: GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL. Cannes: GRACE OF MONACO,” Lodge tweeted. “Not to make assumptions […] but just for the record.”
The bespectacled, dynamic 53-year-old Frémaux firmly defends the choice. “It’s a perfect movie to open the festival,” he said. “It takes place on the French Riviera, and it’s a glamorous film, especially because of Nicole Kidman.” (Frémaux and the actress are, in his own words, “very close.” “There is no good Cannes Film Festival without Nicole Kidman,” he said.)
As for reports that Frenchman Dahan—known outside his native country for Edith Piaf biopic Ma Vie en Rose—and US distributor Harvey Weinstein are battling over which cut of Grace of Monaco to release in cinemas (Dahan is said to favor a darker version, while Weinstein commissioned a frothier edit), Frémaux seems unconcerned. “They had a lot of arguments regarding the editing process. With Harvey Weinstein there are always a lot of arguments, because he’s a passionate man,” he said. “But in Cannes we’re showing the Olivier Dahan version.”