This year, the Festival de Cannes was opened by Bernardo Bertolucci. The Italian Director was awarded an honorary Palme d’or by Gilles Jacob, in the presence of the Jury and the Mistress of Ceremonies, Mélanie Laurent.
“I stand before you tonight, and seen from here, the cinema is a magical thing.” With these words Mélanie Laurent welcomed the Jury presided by Robert de Niro onto the stage of the Grand Théâtre Lumière. At his side, actresses Uma Thurman and Martina Gusman, Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi, the writer Linn Ulmann, Jude Law and directors Johnnie To, Olivier Assayas and Mahamat Saleh Haroun.
The young French actress continued, “When you look up the word ‘actor’ in the dictionary, you find ‘Robert de Niro’ written there. Take a look for yourselves.” At that moment, the big screen of the Grand Théâtre Lumière revealed a montage of de Niro’s finest performances. Heat, The Godfather, A Bronx Tale and the incomparableTaxi Driver. De Niro himself finally arrived onstage and utters a few words in French. “Thanks for having invited me to be the President of the 64th Festival de Cannes. I hope I’ll do a good job and thanks again.”
In a first musical tribute to Robert de Niro, his home town and that of the festival he founded, the Tribeca Film Festival, young jazzman Jamie Cullum played a medley of Frank Sinatra’s New York New York and Alicia Keys’ New York. To close the ceremony, an honorary Palme d’or was awarded to Bernardo Bertolucci. “I want to dedicate this honour to Woody Allen and Bobby de Niro. And also to all those Italians who have had the courage to struggle, criticise and get angry.” The Palme presented to Bernardo Bertolucci will henceforth be awarded at the opening ceremony of the Festival each year.