Does the world’s most famous film festival have a serious man problem?

(That said, Woody Allen’s latest film was not accepted into Cannes this year, with festival director Thierry Fremaux saying if it had been, “the controversy would take over against his film, against the other films”.)

It’s all too much for French actress Adele Haenel, star of the 2019 French art-house hit Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Writing for the media news site Telerama last week, Haenel, who retired from the film business last year in protest at the industry’s failure to act upon the demands of the #MeToo movement, was scathing.

Gerard Depardieu has been accused of multiple sexual offences.

Gerard Depardieu has been accused of multiple sexual offences.

The 34-year-old, who has claimed she was abused by the director Christophe Ruggia between the ages of 12 and 15, accused the industry of “general complacency … vis-a-vis sexual aggressors”, saying the powers that be “join hands (to protect) the Depardieus, the Polanskis (…) It bothers them that the victims make too much noise. They would prefer that we disappear and die in silence.”

According to indiewire, Haenel added that Cannes was “ready to do anything to defend their rapist chiefs”.

That brought a defiant response from Fremaux.


“People use the Cannes Film Festival to talk about world problems. I think it’s fine,” he said. “But you wouldn’t be here complaining that you can’t get tickets if you thought we were all rapists.”

Fremaux added he had no concerns about selecting Jean du Barry for the prestigious opening-night slot, despite the risk of a backlash.

“I don’t know about the image of Johnny Depp in the US,” he said. “To tell you the truth, in my life, I only have one rule, it’s the freedom of thinking, and the freedom of speech and acting within a legal framework.”

You could chalk that up to a resolve to separate the art from the artist, an admirable respect for the presumption of innocence (no criminal charges have ever been proven against Allen or Depardieu, though Polanski was found guilty in the US in 1978 of raping a 13-year-old, fleeing the country before sentencing). Or you could attribute it to a peculiarly Gallic tolerance for the vagaries of human interactions.

It would be premature, though, to assume that one well-received screening in France amounts to a Hollywood comeback for Depp, even if it does come hot on the heels of a renewed contract with Dior for the fragrance Sauvage, for which the actor is expected to earn $US20 million over three years.

The US industry is rather more business than show, and until such time as the studios feel they can cast Depp without provoking a backlash, he will remain in the naughty corner.

You can bet, though, that they’ll be reading the dispatches from France with eager eyes, and ramping up the consumer research at home, just in case.

Find more of the author’s work here. Email him at, or follow him on Facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on Twitter @karlkwin.

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