The Cannes Film Festival is living on this month thanks in part to The New York Times, which gathered 23 of the world’s most prominent filmmakers to share with critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott their best memories from attending the world’s most prestigious festival. Two of the wildest Cannes stories belong to Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie, the brothers behind indie favorites “Heaven Knows What,” “Good Time,” and “Uncut Gems.” Only the Safdie brothers would have Cannes stories that would make for pretty amazing Safdie brothers movies.
Benny Safdie first attended Cannes in 2008 to world premiere his short film “The Acquaintances of a Lonely John” at Directors’ Fortnight. Benny got fined by a police officer for riding a motor scooter without a helmet and had to go to the police station to pay it off. A man named Jean-Marie Beulaygue was the chief of police at the time and requested to see Benny in his office.
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“When I got to the break room, Jean-Marie appeared and wanted to share a coffee together,” Benny told The Times. “I was shocked and asked him why. ‘Because you are a filmmaker!’ he said with excitement. It turns out he went to all of the Fortnight conferences and tried to see as many movies as possible. Of course in Cannes the chief of police is a film buff, I thought.”
Benny returned to Cannes the following year with Josh to world premiere “Daddy Longlegs” at Directors’ Fortnight. In the middle of a press day the film’s producer called Benny to tell him the police were looking for him. Benny went to the station to discover it was only Jean-Marie wanting to say hello. Cut to Cannes 2017, where the Safdie Bros. were in competition with “Good Time,” and Benny took it upon himself to visit the police station to see Jean-Marie. Unfortunately, no one at the station knew of Jean-Marie. Benny was out of luck and went back to the Croisette.
“When I hit my lowest point, I heard someone yell from the Fortnight headquarters. It was Jean-Marie!” Benny said. “He had retired from the force many years ago and was now working at the festival. He dragged me inside the building with a big smile, ‘See! We do know each other!’ It turned out he had been telling the same story to the workers there, and no one believed him.”
Josh shared his own Cannes anecdote with The Times, this one concerning the siblings’ father. It turns out Josh and Benny’s dad was raised in France and obsessed with Cannes, so he joined his sons at the 2008 festival and attended all the screenings and parties they could bring him to. Their father couldn’t join them in 2009, and so he vowed to attend the 2017 festival and take care of all his own housing and ticketing. The Safdie brothers doubted their father would be able to attend the “Good Time” premiere by himself because of how intense security is at Cannes.
“So you can imagine our surprise when we saw a picture from the red carpet the following day,” Josh said. “There we were, Benny, myself, the actors, at the top of the red stairs. Behind us next to each theater entrance door stood a guard or policeman. And then, off to the right, there he was our father. Somehow he managed to sneak his way past police, festival officials and festival directors. He surreptitiously found a place at the top of the stairs where he could quietly film.”
The story of how father Safdie snuck his way onto the Cannes re carpet is the next great Safdie brothers movie in the making. Head over to The New York Times’ website to read more first-hand filmmaker accounts from Cannes.
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