PARIS — The Cannes Film Festival is replacing stars with stairs on the official poster for its 69th edition.
In recent years, the event has selected iconic shots of classic film actors — Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, Marcello Mastroianni, Ingrid Bergman — to grace its posters. This year, however, it is a film still, selected from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 “Contempt,” that will set the tone for this year’s festival.
Tinted a radiant yellow-gold, the image depicts a man climbing the side of the Casa Malaparte — a modernist mansion overlooking the sea on the far east side of the Isle of Capri, accessible only to dreamers and cinemagoers.
Though we cannot make out the man’s face, the staircase itself draws the eye — and should look especially striking blown up to enormous dimensions and suspended over the red carpet entry to the Palais des Festivals, as in 1997, when a trompe l’oeil banner extended the entry staircase heavenward.
From the Odessa Steps sequence of Sergei Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin” to the dizzying bell tower of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo,” stairs themselves are an important motif in the movies and have been featured into the design of the festival’s annual poster numerous times before, most notably in 1991 and 2005.
This particular set recall the festival’s trailer, screened before each film in the official selection, in which a series of crystal steps rise out of the sea and mount heavenward, accompanied by Camille Saint-Saens’ “Le Carnaval des animaux.”
A satire about the tug-of-war between commerce and art in cinema, “Contempt” is widely recognized as one of the great movies about the movies, while Godard (though born in Switzerland) remains the living ambassador of the French New Wave. The director has a complex history with Cannes, having played an instrumental role in canceling the festival in May 1968, when he and director Claude Lelouch climbed onstage after a screening of “Rocky Road to Dublin” to demand that the festival end amidst the civil unrest in France at the time.
Though he attended many times previous (and screened films in parallel sections), Godard was not invited into official competition until 1980, when “Every Man for Himself” (AKA “Sauve qui peut (la vie)”) vied for the Palme d’Or. In 2014, he shared grand jury honors with Xavier Dolan for his most recent feature, “Goodbye to Language.”
The 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival will run from May 11 to 22.