Cannes Film Festival 2017: Cinema battles the threat of Netflix

PUBLISHED: 10:41 24 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:41 24 May 2017

French director Arnaud Desplechin (2nd L, Front) and other cast members of the opening film

French director Arnaud Desplechin (2nd L, Front) and other cast members of the opening film "Les Fantômes d'Ismaël"

Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

The latest from the globe’s most glamorous event that is taking place from 17 to 28 May 2017

Celebrating 70 years of movie history, the Cannes Film Festival kicked off with its customary flurry of red carpet glamour and serious film clout.

Amid heightened security including airport-style machines at the entrances to the Palais des Festivals and snipers on the roof, the movies and the celebrities did their best to keep reality at bay and the big screen dream alive. However, it has been hard to ignore over the first couple of days the presence of army patrols along the Croisette and the sight of men bomb-checking those slick, black celebrity Renaults which ferry stars from hotels such as The Carlton and The Martinez to their red carpet assignments,

The terrorist threat is still very palpable along the Cote d’Azur, where locals still reel from the Nice attack – Cannes has imported giant flower pots planted with palms and placed them all along the Croisette to try and prevent any similar atrocity along its famous promenade. However, Cannes itself feels under threat from something else this year: Netflix.

The streaming service has dominated the early exchanges, securing two films in the coveted Competition slots. The fact these movies – Okja from Korea but starring Tilda Swinton, and The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Ben Stiller and Adam Sandler – are not destined for release in French cinemas has cause uproar. Cannes itself has now close ranks and introduced a new rule that, as from next year, any entries must be released in theatres, too. Netflix have responded robustly and then things got worse when Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, chairman of the all-powerful jury this year, read out a statement saying he wouldn’t be voting for films that weren’t destined to play on the big screen.

It’s a storm that doesn’t look like subsiding. Cannes has also given high profile berths to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks and Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake, both television shows from former Palme d’Or winners. As big stars, lauded auteurs and all the major producers make a beeline for smaller screens and easier delivery methods for consumers, you can certainly feel the changing wind.

Still, there should be some major films to celebrate and anticipate. Nicole Kidman is out in full force, lending a bit of iconic, big star glamour that the festival certainly needs – she’s in four varied pieces, including The Beguiled by Sofia Coppola and The Killing of a Sacred Deer by Greece’s Yorgos Lanthimos, again working with a British production after his deadpan success with The Lobster.

Michael Haneke returns, a hot favourite to take a record third Palme d’Or on Sunday May 28, with Happy End, a film about a family in Calais against the backdrop of immigration. His star Isabelle Huppert is practically Queen of Cannes and she’ll be a major attraction, too.

And there will be the usual hustle and bustle, trashy red carpet shenanigans from models and celebs who have nothing to do with movies but who all come to the Croisette to promote fashion brands, cars, ice creams, drinks and even knickers.

Cannes’ 70th edition indeed celebrates cinema’s survival, seeing off threats variously from wars, strikes, talkies, colour, television, home video and DVD and incorporating them into the industry model over the years. There’s even a big placard for the forthcoming Emoji Movie (seriously), which is a very strange confluence of technologies. But the power and reach of disruptor giants Netflix and Amazon has the old school movies in a panic. It’s a relationship that needs sorting out quickly, certainly if Cannes wants to be here for another 70 years.

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