Cannes Kicks Off With Palme D’Or Honor For Meryl Streep, Strong Female Vibes & Nod To #MeToo

UPDATED with ovation for The Second Act: The Cannes Film Festival opened Tuesday evening with a joyously female vibe as Meryl Streep received the Honorary Palme d’Or from an emotional Juliette Binoche and Greta Gerwig became the first female U.S. director to serve as jury president across its 77 editions.

The ceremony at the Palais led into the festival’s opening-night film The Second Act from Quentin Dupieux. The French pic, starring Léa Seydoux and Louis Garrel, received a lukewarm 3-minute, 46-second standing ovation from the audience.

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Earlier, resplendent in a long sequin gown, Gerwig said she was still coming to terms with the fact that she was presiding over the Cannes jury.

“I hardly know what to say… This is holy to me; art is sacred, film is sacred… I cannot believe that I’m getting the chance to spend 10 days in this house of worship.”

The Barbie filmmaker was treated to a performance by French popstar Zaho de Sagazan of David Bowie’s iconic hit “Modern Love,” in tribute to a memorable scene in her 2012 breakout role in Francis Ha.

A visibly touched Gerwig mouthed the words as the singer approached her on the stage and took her hand.

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It was then Streep’s turn to be honored. After a montage of films from her career, the multiple Oscar winner appeared on stage and was greeted with an extended standing ovation.

Binoche then presented her with the honorary Palme d’Or — and by the time the French actress was done with her introduction, there was nary a dry eye in the house. Binoche grew very emotional, telling Streep, “You changed the way we look at women in the cinema world.” Streep, also now wiping away tears, comforted Binoche as Gerwig could be seen welling up.

Streep told “La belle Binoche” she had recently revisited her oeuvre and “had to go to bed I was crying so hard” after watching last year’s Oscar submission from France, The Taste of Things. Of watching her own clip reel this evening, she marveled it was “like looking out the window of a bullet train.”

This was Streep’s first trip to the Cannes Film Festival in 35 years, she noted (the last time having been in 1989 for A Cry in the Dark).

Back then, Streep recalled, she was a mother of three who was about to turn 40, “I thought my career was over… Not an unrealistic expectation for actresses at that time.” Then added, “The only reason I am here tonight is because of the very gifted artists with whom I have worked.” To the audience of cinephiles, she said, “To you all I owe so much. I’m so grateful you haven’t gotten sick of my face, you haven’t gotten off the train.”

This edition of Cannes is unfolding against the potentially explosive backdrop of France’s #MeToo wave, sparked by actress and filmmaker Judith Godrèche’s decision to speak up about sexual abuse she says she suffered as a teenager.

The ceremony kept off the topic but host Camille Cottin acknowledged this year’s undercurrents in a monologue that imagined experience of festival-goers in “the parallel world” of Cannes.

To applause, she said, “Nighttime professional meetings in hotel rooms with powerful men are no longer part of the habits and customs of the Cannes vortex following the adoption of #MeToo and we celebrate that.”

Ahead of the ceremony, a festival worker protest took place near the Palais red carpet, where members of the Precarious Film Festival Workers Collective (Le Collectif des précaires des festivals de cinéma) demonstrated before police broke up the gathering. The group is seeking better compensation.

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