This year’s Cannes, which is now less than a week away, may serve as something of a watershed for the rise of streaming services in the cinema world. Before now, no film that played in competition in the world’s most prestigious film festival has come from one of these upstart, disruptors like Amazon or Netflix, but have always been snapped up by more traditional homes (last year’s “Macbeth” was part of a deal that The Weinstein Company struck with Amazon, but long after the festival and without much notice).
This year, however, a remarkable five movies, both in and out of competition, have already found a home with an online giant rather than with a Fox Searchlight, a Focus or an A24. And all of them are at Amazon — Woody Allen’s latest “Cafe Society,” Nicolas Winding Refn’s “The Neon Demon,” Park Chan-Wook’s “The Handmaiden” and two Jim Jarmusch films, Iggy Pop documentary “Gimme Danger” and comedy-drama “Paterson.”
It’s a definite win for Amazon in their attempt to catch up to their bigger competitor when it comes to original content, and Cannes head Thierry Fremaux certainly seems to have picked a side. “There is no suspicion about [their] love of cinema,” Fremaux said of the Amazon team to The Hollywood Reporter, throwing a little shade at Netflix. “They are good for cinema. Amazon and the people in charge of cinema at Amazon — the people who bought Woody Allen and Nicolas Winding Refn — they are movie buffs.”
It’s difficult to disagree — Amazon’s head of film production is Ted Hope, something of a legend in the indie film world, and his connections with both the festival circuit and filmmakers undoubtedly proved an advantage in terms of getting so many of their films into this year’s Cannes. There’s some speculation that it could also be connected to Amazon’s willingness to stick to a traditional theatrical model rather than the day-and-date release that Netflix went for with their own festival pic “Beasts Of No Nation,” which premiered at Venice last year.
That said, Fremaux doesn’t seem to have commented on that one way or another. And it may just be a question of timing: Netflix’s biggest auteur-driven movies just aren’t done yet, with David Miçhod’s “War Machine,” starring Brad Pitt, not likely to be finished until the fall, and Bong Joon-Ho’s “Okja” only just getting before cameras. If the latter skips Cannes next year, then we’ll know if Fremaux really is a Netflix hater or not…
In the meantime, stay tuned for our reviews of all of Amazon’s Cannes slate, which will be arriving once the festival gets underway next week.