The annual parade leaves behind ephemeral moments, with one above with the co-Palme d’Or winner Coppola in 1979.
In 1984, the late Sir Dirk Bogarde, actor and novelist and screenwriter, was invited to be jury president of the year’s Cannes Film Festival.
In his passport Dirk was Derek Van den Bogaerde. In his own description he was simply an ‘actor’. At Cannes 1984 he was jury president, overseeing a panel of notables including Isabelle Huppert and Stanley Donen, his role being – choosing winners.
Home on 9 June he wrote a friend recounting his experiences:
My dearest Kathleen -[… ]
It was quite fun, actually, Cannes. I was locked up hermetically in a very pleasant suite in the Majestic (on account of secrecy) when I was’nt at the Movies… 24 in 12 days, starting at 8.15am! I got rather to like it all… but some pretty crummy movies flashed over the screen I assure you! And if I have to look at another pubic-hair or another shot of a cow being slaughtered, a horse being drowned, a fat man having his orgasm, I’ll choke. All that, I may add, jammed with Lesbian-Love scenes of extreme explicity, at eight of a morning is really not adorable.
However there were compensations: Wenders was one… Another Country one other, and a modest, excellent little film about the Irish Business for which, to my delight (and astonishment) Helen Mirren won Best Actress, was splendidly done. It’s called Cal, and I dont suppose the Americans will ever see it… too many American Irish.
There was the usual Political Nonsense. I put paid to that! I had a super jury: very adult and all successful, and not one dotty novelist on the list. American, Italian, Hungarian, Russian, French, etc. I got on terrifically well with the Russians… it is so sad that one can make warm friends in two weeks and forget the Sakharovs and all, simply because we are united as Film People. God! I detest bloody politicians. They are disposable. But do appalling harm before dropping out. I behaved rather like a British Officer dealing with the wogs in Aden! Snap, and a certain amount of table-banging. It worked splendidly.
We were, or rather I was, (as President) informed long before that we were to award prizes to ‘commercial films and players, not to Art Subjects or players who are un-known generally. This must be a Family Festival, not a political one’. So much for my personal brief; coupled with the vague suggestion, most delicatly put, that John Huston had been PROMISED the Palme d’Or for Under the Volcano, Finney Best Actor, and Jacqueline Bissett, (not half bad, but not good enough) was to be best Actress.
Well: Volcano stands or falls on the performance of the actor who plays ‘Firman’. And it fell. I regret to say that it only got two votes in all the sessions which I held (Secret ballots, so I never knew who had voted for what! which I think was quite bright of me. And I’m not given to brightness.)
Finally the Festival Organisers were appalled when we voted Best Actor to two brilliant Spanish gentlemen [Alfredo Landa and Francisco Rabal]. And Helen Mirren [Best Actress] sent them into a sort of foaming fit! ‘Who IS she!’ they cried, ‘What film is she in?’ The final announcements, made by me, in frog, on the stage to an audience of 3,000 on the final night, were recieved with cheers and shouts of joy! They were quick to catch on that $25 million dollars does not, nescessarily, mean a good film has been made. The reverse. Have you seen The Bounty by any chance?
We did… oh dearie me, oh dearie me…
When I announced the Palme d’Or for Wenders I rather thought that they would wreck the theater with their delight, and he was exceptionally moved. And deserved it.
The US Majors slunk away in cold fury. I think it might be hard to get them back next year, but that is not my problem! They dislike being judged, they said, by ‘a European jury’. Well: they bloody well were this year: and found wanting.
The interesting thing is that the voting for Paris, Texas was absolutely clear. Eight out of 10… seven out of 10 for Mirren, and nine out of 10 for the two Spaniards… both well into their sixties and sheer magic. When we made the final announcement, before leaving for the theater, to the Organizators, there was hell let loose! They admitted, or one of them did to be fair, that Huston had been promised that he’d win everything… ‘You have to award Huston SOMETHING!’ they, (he), yelled with a face crimson with rage. A silence fell among us. There was nothing TO award. Then the spokesman said ‘After all, be reasonable, he has had to come 7,000 miles for this evening’. To which Stanley Donen, the US member of the jury, said in his high, dry voice: ‘You do not get a f—in’ Palme d’Or for TRAVELLING!’ Which ended the session neatly.
In the end we accorded him an ‘Hommage’… which was moving and very spontanious… the house stood to acclaim him. I insisted that he got no ugly present, but just the applause and gratitude for his long years of work from a live audience. I think he was pleased. I have no way of telling.
Now I am back to laying the f—ing table, splitting logs (it has rained here for 15 weeks solidly) and feeding the dog… Cinderella-Land. DO write soonish and let me know about August: but in any case we will guard a case of Moet… I got given presents at Cannes and by the German TV Network who have done a three day ‘in depth interview’ here. I cant think what for. But like the Moet! End of paper – but not, ever, end of love –