Besson tops Cannes jury for 2000

Jacob to become fest prexy in June

PARIS — French film director Luc Besson has been named jury president for the 2000 Cannes Film Festival.

Gilles Jacob, who is programming his final fest before becoming fest president in June, made the announcement Thursday. He said the choice of Besson “represents the bridge between the present and the future.

“His work is also a link between France and the United States (where Besson has directed films and maintains production offices), and as a director and producer his choice of films spans the commercial and the auteur-driven.”

Besson succeeds Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg, whose jury presidency was marked by a less-than-enthusiastic reception for the 1999 fest prize winners. Actress Isabelle Adjani was the last French native to hold the fest presidency, in 1997.

Jacob’s choice is the latest stage in something of a French rehabilitation for Besson. The Paris film community has not always looked on the director with favor, as his pics have been commercially successful and his recent features, including “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element” and “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc,” have been shot in English.

Despite a string of box office hits, most notably “The Big Blue,” the local film industry only gave Besson his first Cesar (the Gallic equivalent of an Oscar) in 1998, dubbing him best director for “The Fifth Element.”

Although he has never had a pic in competition at the festival and therefore has not been eligible for a Cannes prize, his pics “The Big Blue” and “The Fifth Element” opened the official competition selection in 1988 and 1997, respectively.

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