CANNES, France -- “I got one thing to say before I sit down,” said Spike Lee during the Cannes Film Festival opening ceremony. "I wish I could speak French like Jodie Foster!”
In the first two days of Cannes, one thing everyone can agree on is that Jodie Foster really speaks terrific French. On Tuesday, Foster was awarded an honorary Palme d'Or for lifetime achievement. The award was presented to her by Lee and South Korean director Bong Joon Ho.
Foster, who walked the red carpet with her wife, Alexandra Hedison, regaled the festival audience with her fluent French.
"During this year of transition, the cinema has been my lifeline,” said Foster.
If Foster, 58, has seemed at home in Cannes, it could be because her experience at the festival spans 45 years. Foster first came to Cannes with “Taxi Driver” in 1976. She was just 13 at the time, a sunny, freckled face in the middle of a media storm over the violence in Martin Scorsese's film.
“Taxi Driver” still won the Palme d'Or, even though the then-jury president, playwright Tennessee Williams, condemned the film. “Watching violence on the screen is a brutalizing experience for the spectator,” said Williams. “Films should not take a voluptuous pleasure in spilling blood and lingering on terrible cruelties as though one were at a Roman circus.”
Black-and-white photos from the time capture Foster smiling next to Robert De Niro and Scorsese. Even then, Foster waved off translators and answered questions at the film's press conference in French. (Foster attended a French prep school in Los Angeles and her family lived for a time in France. She has made films in French and done some French dubs, herself.)
"Who would have thought that the little Iris from ‘Taxi Driver’ would have become the woman you have become?” said Pedro Almodovar during the ceremony.
On Wednesday, Foster participated in a staged conversation about her career, again in French. One question: Would she ever do a Marvel movie?
“They are fabulous films,” Foster replied. “But there is enough space for everybody. We are all different.”