LYON, France — The 9th Lumière Festival opened in Lyon on Saturday with a glitzy and star-studded yet intimate and informal ceremony at the cavernous Halle Tony Garnier, the city’s famed concert hall.
Thierry Frémaux and Bertrand Tavernier, the respective director and president of the Institut Lumière, paid tribute to stars and filmmakers past and present, including a slew of high-profile guests that included Tilda Swinton, who was greeted with an emotional ovation, Michael Mann, Christopher Lambert and Daniel Brühl. Also in attendance were Mexican filmmakers Guillermo Del Toro and Alfonso Cuarón, who the laid-back Fremaux greeted in Spanish with “Hola cabrones!” – a more affectionate salutation than it might seem – and a mariachi band serenade.
It was, however, French actor and rock ‘n’ roll icon Eddy Mitchell, who dazzled the crowd with his entrance. Although he didn’t play live, “Pas de boogie woogie,” his 1976 hit cover of the Jerry Lee Lewis classic, blared as the crowd welcomed the star with a standing ovation.
The familiarity between Frémaux and the many local and international guests made the ceremony seem more like a gathering of old friends recalling good times than a traditional international film festival.
Lambert, who co-starred with Mitchell in Marco Ferreri’s 1986 Cannes competition title “I Love You,” stood up to praise Mitchell directly. “I adored making the film with you. You poured me some exquisite whiskeys – but at the end of the day, not at the start of the day.”
Tavernier likewise shared his memories of working with Mitchell on his 1981 drama “Coup de torchon.” “I loved Eddy Mitchell. I got to know him and thought he could make a wonderful actor.”
A great admirer of American cinema, Mitchell showcased U.S. classics on his TV show “La Dernière Séance” (also the name of one of his songs), which ran on French television from 1981 to 1998. Mitchell told the audience that his love for film developed as a child when his father, who worked nights, would regularly take him to the local movie theater after school. “It was a great education,” he added.
Frémaux and Tavernier invited Mitchell onto the stage for a karaoke sing-a-long of “La Dernière séance” along with the audience.
Frémaux and Tavernier also paid tribute to the recently deceased Jerry Lewis and Jean Rochefort.
Recalling his close friendship with Rochefort, Tavernier said, “Jean was a brilliant actor. He was someone with whom we could laugh our heads off.” Tavernier, who worked with the actor in his 1974 film “The Clockmaker of St. Paul” and the 1975 historical drama “Let Joy Reign Supreme,” said Rochefort “loved quoting Mark Twain,” adding that one of favorites was: “‘God created man because he was disappointed with the monkey.’” Pointing out that Rochefort disdained praise, Tavernier added, “He would cut me short now.”
Frémaux also welcomed Françoise Nyssen, the recently appointed French minister of culture, who said she had attended all nine editions of the festival and expressed regret that she couldn’t stay for the entire week this year.
The event, which runs through Oct. 22, is one of the very few and largest of international festivals of classic cinema. This year’s lineup comprises some 180 films and approximately 400 screenings. Attendance should be north of 160,000 tickets, along with more than 1,000 industry professionals.
The ceremony ended with a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 classic “North by Northwest,” a film Tavernier said was among his top five all-time favorites.