Cannes festival

Cannes festival

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  • Poster of the Cannes International Film Festival

  • Il Gattopardo, The Cheetah

  • Students in front of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes demonstrate during the festival

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Title: Poster of the Cannes International Film Festival

Author :

Creation date : 1946 -

Date shown: September 20, 1946

Contact copyright: © PVDE / Bridgeman Images

Poster of the Cannes International Film Festival

© PVDE / Bridgeman Images

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Title: Il Gattopardo, The Cheetah

Author :

Creation date : 1963 -

Date shown: 1963

Technique and other indications: 16th Cannes Film Festival (1963) - Luchino Visconti (Luchino Visconti di Modrone) Claudia Cardinale (Claude Josephine Rose Cardinale) - Burt Lancaster (Burton Stephen Lancaster)

Contact copyright: © Farabola / Leemage

Il Gattopardo, The Cheetah

© Farabola / Leemage

To close

Title: Students in front of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes demonstrate during the festival

Author :

Date shown: 1968

Contact copyright: © AGIP / Bridgeman Images

Students in front of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes demonstrate during the festival

© AGIP / Bridgeman Images

Publication date: July 2017

Lecturer in cultural history of the contemporary Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.

Historical context

Cannes, or the anti-Venice Film Festival

When the French, in the 1930s, consider the creation of a film festival in Cannes, it is above all to oppose the Venice Film Festival, an offshoot of the Art Biennale which has gradually become since 1932. , an important international meeting in the world of cinema. Among all the candidate cities Aix-les-Bains, Vichy (water towns) or Biarritz and Cannes (seaside resort), it is the latter that is chosen: it has luxury hotels whose owners support the festival, and above all a modern projection room that can accommodate a thousand spectators.

The first edition is scheduled to open on 1er September 1939: the selection of films, French and foreign, is made and a transatlantic liner is chartered by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to transport the American stars to Cannes. The same day, the Nazi army invaded Poland: the festival was canceled following the entry into the war. The first effective edition was inaugurated on September 20, 1946, in a new context which is that of the post-war period: the United States, emerging as the great winner of the global confrontation, extended their domination to the economic and cultural sectors, on a so-called "democratic" camp which is increasingly opposed to the socialist camp led by the USSR. The Cannes festival is fully involved in this strategy.

Image Analysis

The stars factory

From the very first editions, the Cannes Film Festival has been characterized by the presence, noticed, of celebrities, who are still called "stars" and who are beginning to call "stars", from the world of cinema in particular French and American. Very quickly, film screenings received less comment from the media (press, radio and television) than the stars, their tuxedos and evening dresses, their statements and their private life. During the festival, journalists and press photographers (the term “paparazzi” appears in 1960) are present in number and help to accentuate this dimension. The 1946 poster already plays on these symbols and associates the Big Blue with the world of entertainment, by representing a loving and elegant couple, in full escapade, in a scene itself framed, therefore put at a distance by the prism of the screen and cinematographic and phantasmal "projection" at the same time.

The success of the Cannes Film Festival, from its first editions and even more so in the 1960s, is due to its ability to establish itself as an international event awaited by film professionals and the public alike. A place of discovery for filmmakers and actors, a place of selection and recognition, the festival participates in the creation of reputations, in the orchestration of recognition, and in the enhancement of a film's notoriety.

A prime example is the promotion put in place for the film Cheetah, in 1963, which plays on these three levels. In the presence of the two world-famous headliners, the Italian Claudia Cardinale and the American Burt Lancaster (the third, absent, being the French Alain Delon), and the director, Luchino Visconti, a photography session is held. organized on the beach with a real cheetah. The strategy adopted proved to be a winning one: for a Franco-Italian film, to combine popular stars in Italy, France and the United States, to present the film at the Cannes Film Festival in 1963 in order to give it legitimacy (it won the Grand Price) and visibility allowing wide distribution in Europe and export to the United States. In the background, behind the stars of the film who pose “naturally”, the staging brings together all the symbols associated with Cannes: the beach and its palm trees, the Croisette and the large international hotels that border it, and finally the festival and congress palace, built in 1947 and inaugurated for the second edition of the Festival. The international attractiveness of the rapidly expanding Côte d´Azur is thus made evident.


Cannes, theater of political clashes

In addition to the tourist and social stakes of the Cannes Film Festival, evident from its inception, there are quickly added economic stakes specific to the cinema sector understood as the cultural industry. The “film market” was created in 1959, which brought sellers and buyers into contact during the festival. Artistic issues also appear - cinema as a seventh art finds in Cannes a space of revelation, open to innovations as well as a space for discussion and reflection, which is marked by the creation of the "international week of criticism" in 1962.

The political stakes, which had hitherto been attenuated, became particularly visible during the 1968 edition of the Festival. At the heart of protest movements, criticism of the capitalist system also invades the world of cinema and the city of Cannes. Two days before the photograph reproduced here, on May 13, 1968, students invaded the Palais des Festivals. The demonstrations swell and widen, reflecting the state of the general social and political movement in France: on May 15, students are joined by teachers (the banner visible in the foreground specifically evokes the issue of the training of school teachers and calls for “a French university worthy of the name”), trade union delegations from industry, which parade in front of the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès whose upper terrace welcomes festival guests. These two still distinct worlds come together, when on May 18, François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Claude Lelouch, Claude Berri, Roman Polanski, Louis Malle and Jean-Pierre Léaud join the student movement which agitates Cannes, while calling for contest the decision taken by the Minister of Culture André Malraux to dismiss Henri Langlois, then director of the Cinémathèque française. To show their support, Alain Resnais, Carlos Saura and Miloš Forman withdraw their film from the competition. The Festival became the scene of intense political clashes, before being canceled on May 19. This May 1968 episode brought about profound changes for the Cannes Film Festival, generational, aesthetic and identity which were evident in the following edition in 1969.

  • cinema
  • Festival
  • stardom
  • french riviera
  • sea
  • tourism
  • poster
  • photography
  • Cannes
  • beach
  • May 68
  • Malraux (André)
  • Venice


Jean-Claude ROMER, The Cannes Film Festival, 60 years of history (1946-2007), Backstage, Paris, 2007.

Emmanuel ETHIS, At the steps of the Palace. The Cannes Film Festival through the eyes of the social sciences, La Documentation française, Paris, 2001.

Olivier LOUBES, Cannes 1939, the festival that did not take place, Armand Colin, Paris, 2016.

Edgar MORIN, The stars, Le Seuil, Paris, 1957.

To cite this article

Julie VERLAINE, "The Cannes Festival"

Video: Cannes film festival 2019 - Red Carpet