Streep honoured at opening of drama-filled Cannes Film Festival

Entertainment Desk Published: 15 May 2024, 11:50 AM
Streep honoured at opening of drama-filled Cannes Film Festival

Meryl Streep was guest of honour at the opening of the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, unfolding this year against the background of a director's daring escape from Iran and mounting #MeToo pressure on the French industry.

Streep is among a host of Hollywood A-listers flocking to the Cote d'Azur for the festival that runs to May 25, including legendary directors George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, reports AFP.

"I'm just so grateful that you haven't gotten sick of my face," Streep, 74, joked to the audience as she received her honorary Palme d'Or from French actor Juliette Binoche.

Coppola's decades-in-the-making epic "Megalopolis", an Ancient Rome-inspired saga set in a corrupt modern-day city, is the most anticipated of 22 entries for the top prize Palme d'Or, facing a jury led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig.

"This is holy to me. Films are sacred and I cannot believe that I'm getting the opportunity to spend the next 10 days in this house of worship," an emotional Gerwig told the audience.

Other entries include recent Oscar-winner Emma Stone reuniting with Yorgos Lanthimos for "Kinds of Kindness", Demi Moore trying her hand at horror in "The Substance", and Richard Gere in Paul Schrader's "Oh Canada".

Outside the race for the Palme d'Or, George Miller's latest "Mad Max" instalment, "Furiosa", will get its world premiere on Wednesday, while Kevin Costner returns to the Western genre with "Horizon, an American Saga".

- 'Systemic' sexism -

Binoche presented the award to Streep with a tearful speech, telling her she had "changed the way we look at women".

Streep has only been to Cannes once before in 1989, when she won best actress for "A Cry in the Dark".

"Thirty-five years ago when I was here last time, I was already a mother of three, I was about to turn 40 and I thought that my career was over. And that was not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time," she said.

With France's film industry in the midst of a renewed #MeToo reckoning, Binoche was among 100 stars calling for a comprehensive new law to crack down on "systemic" sexism and gender-based violence in an open letter Tuesday.

The host of the opening ceremony, Camille Cottin, star of hit series "Call My Agent!" and an outspoken feminist, also took digs at the "biggest bad guy of all time: the patriarchy".

"The late-night work meetings in hotel rooms of all-powerful gentlemen are no longer part of the Cannes vortex," she said.

Gerwig earlier told reporters she was optimistic about the progress made by women in cinema.

"It's not a destination we all reach together, it's something we will keep discussing and figuring out how we want our industry and cinema to be," she said.

- Escape from Iran -

As the festival opened, Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof announced he had escaped in secret from his country, just days after being sentenced to eight years in prison on security offences.

Rasoulof had been under pressure from Iranian authorities to withdraw his film, "The Seed of the Sacred Fig", from the Cannes competition.

He urged the world film community to support his colleagues back home.

"My thoughts go to every single one of them and I fear for their safety and well-being," Rasoulof said in a statement to AFP.

Cannes director Thierry Fremaux said the festival was working with the French foreign ministry in the hope that Rasoulof can attend his premiere next week.

- Trump, Coppola, Cronenberg -

Other entries for the Palme d'Or include Donald Trump biopic "The Apprentice", and "Emilia Perez", an unlikely-sounding musical about a Mexican cartel boss having a sex change from previous Cannes winner Jacques Audiard.

Film fans are also hungry to see new works from body-horror maestro David Cronenberg ("The Shrouds") and Italy's Paolo Sorrentino ("Parthenope").

But the hot ticket is undoubtedly Coppola's "Megalopolis", starring Adam Driver, on Thursday.

There is a growing anticipation over whether the veteran director -- who self-funded the lavish epic -- can match his masterpieces of the 1970s, when he twice won the Palme d'Or for "Apocalypse Now" and "The Conversation".

Playing out of competition is "She's Got No Name", one of China's biggest-ever productions, which features megastar Ziyi Zhang tackling the sensitive topic of women's rights.

Legendary Japanese animators Studio Ghibli -- makers of "Spirited Away" and "My Neighbour Totoro" -- will receive an honorary Palme d'Or, the first offered to a group rather than an individual.

The festival will round off on May 25 with a final honorary award for "Star Wars" creator Lucas.