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Cannes Chief Calls David Fincher ‘One of the Most Important Filmmakers in the World in Recent Years’

Cannes Film Festival chief Thierry Fremaux took a break from screening movies to share his faith in the big screen and why filmmakers shouldn’t compromise on theatrical in a conversation with two-time Palme d’Or winner Ruben Ostlund at the Goteborg Film Festival.

Fremaux talked about the winning theatrical strategy of streamers such as Apple, which presented Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” in competition and had it released in theaters via Paramount. The movie is now nominated for 10 Oscars, including best actress for Lily Gladstone, best picture and director.

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“Apple has a different strategy than Netflix, and what they have done with Martin Scorsese’s film and Ridley Scott’s film [‘Napoleon’], they made a lot of money at the box office, and now the films are on the platforms, which is the perfect reflection of our times,” he said.

While he tries every year to lure back Netflix on the Croisette, Fremaux suggested he had no regret over the festival’s so-called “Netflix rule,” which requires each film competing to be theatrically released in France.

The rule came in the aftermath of a scandal that erupted after the Cannes Film Festival selected two Netflix movies in competition in 2017, causing a “big conflict” with local exhibitors, along with the rest of the French industry.

“This discussion took place quite violently, but it was also a way from us to create a dialogue with platforms,” Fremaux said. “And at the end, the festival made a proposal that every film competing has to be released in French theaters, which is not a big task. It’s our rule. Netflix said, ‘No, not for us, so they go to Venice,” Fremaux continued.

Fremaux wishes he could convince Netflix boss Ted Sarandos to show movies at the festival, because “there are lots of very good films on Netflix, directed by great filmmakers.” He singled out David Fincher as “one of the most important filmmakers in the world in recent years or decades.”

“But even if David Fincher is a great filmmaker, he doesn’t exist at the same level in our hearts, in our minds, than when he showed ‘Zodiac’ in competition,” said Fremaux.

“Of course, I don’t have to judge (Fincher’s) position. He wants to work alone, be quiet, and make his films for platforms. But it’s a different world and we miss him. We want him to be back in our world,” he continued. “You can’t compare the echo that being in a film festival creates, and getting that first feeling from a film festival audience,” he said. Fremaux also praised Netflix for “doing a great job.” “We watch what they do, because maybe part of the filmmakers they work with could one day be submitting a film to us,” he said.

Ostlund, who is currently developing his next movie “The Entertainment System Is Down,” said he always had the festival audience in mind when he wrote a film. “Cannes is a place where you have a red carpet and you have to have someone walking that red carpet. You have to create films that also have a possibility to create a buzz in the world,” said Ostlund, who won the Palme d’Or twice at Cannes with “The Square” and “Triangle of Sadness,” and was back last year as president of the jury (which gave its Palme d’Or to Justine Triet’s “Anatomy of a Fall”).

“The awareness is not so much about the cast and so on, but for instance in ‘The Square’ I made a scene where there’s a monkey performance artist who is going crazy among people dressed in tuxedos at a big dinner. And I love the idea of the film premiering in competition in the Lumiere auditorium and have a tuxedo-dressed audience sitting and watching another tuxedo-dressed audience being harassed by this performance artist,” he joked.

Ostlund teased his next project saying his ultimate “goal” was to “create the biggest walkout in the history of Cannes.”

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