Fest Traveler: Grand Lyon 2012

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In addition to serving as Cannes’ delegate general, professional cinephile Thierry Fremaux doubles as director of Lyon’s Institut Lumiere, working alongside president Bertrand Tavernier. Fremaux sees the role of the org’s Lumiere festival, which is devoted to screening newly restored prints and retrospectives, as reinforcing the links between the different generations of filmmakers.

“The idea of the festival is to make a connection between today and yesterday, (to show how) the present is made by the past,” he says. “And we can make the present better because we learn from the past. I know some directors who would be helped by watching old films.”

The fest kicks off Oct. 15 with a newly restored print of Jerry Schatzberg’s “Scarecrow,” which won Cannes’ Palme d’Or in 1973. The screening, to be held in the 4,500-seat Halle Tony Garnier, was sold out weeks in advance.

Fremaux emphasizes that for that screening, as with all the fest’s events, ordinary people will form the vast majority of the 80,000 or so expected to attend events during the week.

The film will be presented by helmer Guillaume Canet, who will give a personal tribute to Schatzberg, with whom he worked on 2000′s “The Day the Ponies Come Back.”

Throughout the week’s screenings and activities, the festival will provide ample evidence of the debt owed by today’s helmers, thesps and other film professionals to those in previous eras. Among those attending are Agnes Varda, Jacqueline Bisset, Tim Roth and Max von Sydow.

Fremaux also included what he refers to as “guilty pleasure,” such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s choice of Andy Milligan’s “Nightbirds” and “Vapors.”

“It is like with music. You can be influenced by or love something that you know isn’t great, but at a specific moment in your life you have been very close to this filmmaker or that film,” he says.

The fest will also provide an opportunity for the public to show their appreciation for the work of Ken Loach, who will receive the Lumiere Award and is the subject of a full retrospective.

“Sometimes with shy people, like Ken Loach for example, I push them to understand that it is what the audience really wants: to be able to say thank you,” explains Fremaux, who also likes to honor film biz players who help maintain the connection between today’s audiences and the classics. The subject of this year’s tribute is U.S. distributor the Criterion Collection.

For Fremaux there is room for works from all periods in moviemaking history.

“The idea (of the Lumiere festival is similar to) a bookstore where you have the works of Shakespeare and Proust as well as the new Bret Easton Ellis and Jonathan Franzen — so you have works by contemporary writers and the classic texts.”

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