The festival set itself up for criticism again when they included only a single female directed film in the main competition and other women, including Sofia Coppola, in the Un Certain Regard section. And while Thierry Fremaux tried his best to convince the public that Un Certain Regard is as prestigious, the media coverage shows us that he can say that all he wants, but no one is buying it.
While Cannes has clearly struggled with the woman issue for some time since only one woman (Jane Campion) has won --shared -- the top prize in all its history, in the last three years while I have been playing attention, it has almost become a farce. They say they have no gender problem yet every indicator is that the gender problem has become one of the most important stories story out of Cannes.
And of course it's not just Mr. Fremaux who is the only problem. What Cannes does is put on display for the world the misogynistic and backwards views that some of the most prominent male directors, and guests. Of course we know that there are many male directors who are not sexist, it's just that Cannes doesn't seem to highlight them and granted, when someone says something so ridiculous, it's going to get more attention then a comment from a normal thinking person.
We already highlighted the disturbing remarks that Francois Ozon made about women and prostitution. He has gotten himself into hot water as the interview got picked up and made its way around the world. He responded on twitter that he was “awkward and misunderstood,” and: "Obviously I wasn’t talking about women in general, just the characters in my film.“ It's caused such a stir that the French Minister for Women's Rights, Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, said this about the film:
It's terrifying to trivialize, to give the impression that there is a casualness in prostitution. This is not true. Casualness and prostitution are contradictory. This shows that it is also important that we hear the voices of women directors because women's views of women are not at all the same as those of men.
Then comedian Jerry Lewis said in an interview:
Comedy isn’t for women...
It’s the truth. I can’t help it...Women, it’s just wrong. I don’t care that the audience laughs at it and likes it. I don’t happen to like it. I have too much respect for the gender. And I think that they are wrong in doing it. I can’t expect them to stop working, but just don’t work anywhere where I have to look at it.”
But neither of those guys hold a candle to rapist Roman Polanski who continues to be lauded at these festivals and is given a platform to air his contempt for women.
This year he blamed the birth control pill for all the ails the world because it has made women more like men.
It's a pity that now offering flowers to a lady becomes indecent, that's how I feel about it. Trying to level the genders is purely idiotic – the pill has changed women of our times, masculinising them. That chases away romance from our lives.
Taking a swipe at the pill which is such an important milestone for women's autonomy is a vicious swipe at all women, including his wife (whom I am sure has used some form of birth control in her life.) I wish we could just dismiss his comments as the rants of a bitter old man. But we can't. This guy continues to make movies, he continues to be lauded and it is disgusting.
The sexist overtone of all these comments paint a very depressing overtone for this festival. The people who run this Festival need to make it clear that these comments are unacceptable. I cannot imagine anyone making a comment about gay rights or race relations in this way without being raked over the coals (like Lars Von Trier was) by other people in the industry as well as the festival leadership.
But the bottom line is that it is ok to say nasty stuff about women in 2013. It's ok to demean women. It's ok to say that women shouldn't perform comedy. It's ok to say that the fight for equality is idiotic.
We know this is not ok. But the continued lack of respect of women behind the scenes, on the screen and in the general public just makes it clearer to people looking from the outside in that the festival for all it's glamour and supposed glory is just a graveyard for old men and old ideas.
A Controversial Victory Lap for Jerry Lewis at the Cannes Film Festival (Washington Post)