Cannes: The Coen Brothers Don’t Watch TV

When members of the 68th Cannes Film Festival jury met for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, they were told that they could create an award for the films they were about to screen. “Sienna Miller asked that the prize be presented to her,” recalled Joel Coen at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that helped kick off Cannes. “Guillermo [del Toro] became upset,” Joel joked. “If Sienna gets a prize, Guillermo gets a prize. We just met these people. It’s alarming.”

Regardless of that, the jurors seemed to get along just fine. As co-presidents of this year’s prize-giving committee, the Coen brothers dominated the conversation, offering thoughts on the moviemaking business, their lack of interest in television and what they were looking for as judges.

“It’s not that I don’t like TV,” said Ethan Coen, when asked about an interview he gave to a French magazine about FX’s “Fargo” series. “It’s alien to me. I haven’t watched a television show in decades.”

The event, which was moderated by French actor Henri Behar, started with each jury member talking about how it felt to join the influential committee. “I was thrilled, thinking about seeing these films before anyone in the world had a chance to see them,” Jake Gyllenhaal said. The star of “Nightcrawler” then took a beat. “And for free.”

Miller, who is on a comeback tour following her recent performances in “Foxcatcher” and “American Sniper,” said she’d never been to Cannes before. “It’s an overwhelming, huge honor,” she said. “I just can’t wait to sit down and see these amazing works of art.”

The other jurors part of this year’s international team include Spanish actress Rossy de Palma, French-Canadian actor-director Xavier Dolan (“Mommy”), French actress-director Sophie Marceau and African singer Rokia Traore. Gyllenhaal joked that the jurors had been divided into Joel and Ethan teams. “We are not allowed to talk about who is in what group,” he said. “[It] was based purely on personality.”

The Coens later fielded a question about how the moviegoing experience is changing with the entrance of Netflix, Amazon and VOD platforms. “How do we feel about people watching ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ on their iPhone?” asked Joel, to a round of applause from the journalists in the room. “There’s something special about sitting with a big crowd of people watching a movie on a big 80-foot screen.”

Joel also talked about the difficulty of judging art. “We’re not critics here,” he said. “That’s not our function. As for our own relationship to critics, that’s a subject I’d rather personally not get into.”

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