Cannes Film Festival Opens With Meryl Streep And Messi The Dog

Hollywood Actress Meryl Streep And The National Hero The Dog-'Messi'. Photo: Collected

Hollywood Actress Meryl Streep And The National Hero The Dog-'Messi'. Photo: Collected

In the Cannes Film Festival red carpet is notoriously strict about its black-tie dress code (one man in a blue tuxedo who committed the fashion travesty of wearing white socks was almost turned away). But on Tuesday night seen the exception as France welcomed a national hero to the opening night of the 77th edition— Messi, the four-legged scene-stealer from last year’s Palme d’Or winner “Anatomy of a Fall.”

The canine phenom helped brighten things up even as dark clouds gathered over the Palais des Festivals, site of Cannes’ biggest premieres. Despite the foreboding weather and light drizzle, Lily Gladstone, Greta Gerwig, Omar Sy, Jane Fonda, Juliette Binoche and other stars added some glamour and sparkle to the evening.

But the gloomy skies mirrored the film business’s state of mind as the most famous celebration of cinema begins its 11-day marathon of premieres, promotional activities and parties. Hollywood studios are still reeling from the actors and writers strikes that ground production to a halt for much of the last year, to say nothing of the aftershocks from COVID, which has depleted the box office. At the same time, the streaming services that many of these companies launched during the pandemic have failed to turn significant profits, prompting waves of cutbacks and economizing that fly in the face of Cannes’ free-spending spirit.

And yet, major studios are still expected to have a presence, even if some of their executives may be asked to fly coach when they journey to the South of France. “Furiosa,” George Miller’s “Mad Max” spinoff, will premiere on Wednesday, eight years after “Fury Road” took Cannes by storm. There’s also Kevin Costner’s sprawling Western epic “Horizon,” along with “Kinds of Kindness,” an anthology film from Oscar-nominated “Poor Things” director Yorgos Lanthimos.

Mixed in are new offerings from seasoned auteurs and festival regulars like Paul Schrader (“Oh, Canada”), David Cronenberg (“The Shrouds”), Francis Ford Coppola (“Megalopolis”) and Andrea Arnold (“Bird”). The bulk of these films were financed outside of the traditional studio system — Coppola backed his $120 million production by selling a stake in his family’s wine business. Cannes’ opening night is traditionally a glittering affair. However, the movies that are shown in that slot tend to be forgettable, such as the Johnny Depp historical epic “Jeanne du Barry” or the Michel Hazanavicius zombie parody “Final Cut.” This year, the opening night offering was “The Second Act,” a comedy starring Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel.

But the star of the night was unquestionably Meryl Streep, on hand to receive an honorary Palme d’Or. The Oscar winner, decked out in an ivory dress, ascended the steps of the theater to the pulsating beat of “Mamma Mia!,” a nod to one of her most popular films. Taking the stage to receive her honor, Streep was greeted with a two-minute standing ovation. Addressing the crowd, Streep grew misty, remembering some words from her mother: “Darling, you’ll see, it all goes so fast.” 

Before “The Second Act” unspooled, Cannes presented its jury, which includes Sy, Gladstone, Nadine Labaki, Ebru Ceylan, Hirokazu Kore-eda, J. A. Bayona and Gerwig. The “Barbie” filmmaker, who is serving as jury president, gave brief opening remarks, describing the festival as “a house of worship.”

“I love cinema, and this is holy to me,” Gerwig said. “Art is sacred and films are sacred and I cannot believe that I am getting the opportunity to spend the next 10 days in this house of worship.” She later sang along as Zaho de Sagazan serenaded her with a spirited cover of David Bowie’s “Modern Love,” a nod to Gerwig’s memorable dance number in “Frances Ha.”

Despite the increasingly troubled state of the world, the crowd of onlookers outside of the opening night ceremony was more subdued than the one that flanked the 2023 kick-off, which saw protests over the decision to feature “Jeanne du Barry” after Depp was accused of abuse by ex-wife Amber Heard. Depp denied the allegations and won a defamation suit in the U.S. against Heard, but the actor’s Hollywood career has yet to recover from the

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