Thursday, October 17, 2019

ALAIN DELON: HONORED AND BASHED AT CANNES

May 19, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

What would the Cannes Film Festival be without controversy? In 1968 anti-Vietnam War protesters succeeded in shutting down the festival half way through its 10-day run. More recently there was the to-do over Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier’s joking remark at a news conference that Hitler was “not what you would call a good guy, but yeah, I understand much about him and I sympathize with him a little bit.” The provocative remark got Von Trier banned from the festival — but not for long. Then there have been the controversies surrounding Woody Allen and Harvey Weinstein, who had previously been regular attendees at Cannes annually, but who no longer receive invitations following accusations of gross sexual misconduct against them. Last year there was the effort by women filmmakers to force the festival to aim for “gender parity” in their selections. Four female directors were selected for this year’s competition, the most ever, but they are still outnumbered by male directors in the competition by more than four to one. This year the biggest controversy had appeared to surround the online movie channels such as Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. Should their movies be allowed to compete at Cannes if they did not screen first in movie theaters? In an interview with the New York Times last week director Alejandro González Iñárritu, who is this year’s jury president at the Cannes festival, suggested that it may soon have no choice. The types of “auteur” movies that are the blood of the festival are fast being rejected by theatrical distributors; nearly all of them are now being shown first on streaming services.

And then there is Alain Delon. He is 83 years old now, and the years have not been kind to him. Posters have been plastered throughout Cannes announcing that the festival is presenting an honorary Palme d’Or, Cannes’s most prestigious award, to him. The posters reveal Delon in all his cover-boy handsomeness when he appeared in his first film, 1960’s Purple Noon (Plein Soleil), directed by René Clément.

Alain Delon in 1960

Indeed, Delon’s most memorable performances came in the ’60s and ’70s. (He will be presenting a restored print of Joseph Losey’s 1976 drama Mr. Klein, in which he starred, after he receives the Palme.)

And while he still occasionally appears in films and TV dramas on each side of the Atlantic, for him the wave of the future has long since crested. He is an old man who hangs on to the outdated outlook and convictions he embraced a half-century ago. And that has produced the latest controversy at Cannes.

Delon at Cannes, 2019

No sooner had it been announced that Delon had been selected to receive the honorary Palme d’Or this year, than a spate of protests were hurriedly unleashed. The group Women in Hollywood began circulating an online petition calling for the festival to withdraw the honor, citing Delon’s comments on gay adoptions, his backing of France’s far-right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen, his anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim comments, and his boastful misogynistic statements (“If a slap is macho, then I am macho,” he recently said; his son accused him of beating his mother). The petition quickly gathered more than 25,000 signatures.

But festival director Thierry Fremaux has rejected it, maintaining that Delon is being honored for his work as a film artist and not for his views.

“Alain Delon is allowed to think what he likes,” he told the French news agency Agence France Press.

Thierry Fremaux and Alain Delon at Cannes Film Festival

“It’s complicated to judge someone through today’s lens, and judge things that were said and that happened years ago,” Fremaux said, adding, “We’re not giving him the Nobel Peace Prize.”

In an interview with Le Figaro, Delon himself did not back away from his previous remarks but suggested that they had nothing to do with the award. It was necessary, he said, to differentiate his work from his politics.

“What do you want me to say? They love me or do not love me. But they can not dispute my career!”