The press have joked about the two directors’ surnames (which sound like the French for mother and father), but Père has been enthusiastically welcomed overall. The front page of the newspaper Le Temps (26.9.2008) announced: "His appointment has delighted Swiss film circles".
The new director’s young age (37), his command of Italian and his curiosity for a country with which he is unfamiliar are viewed favourably. However, his appointment has also been seen as an unambiguous stand against vague desires to turn Locarno into a "little Cannes" characterised by "red carpet glamour".
The controversy raised at the latest festival by journalists eager for celebrity stories, and by Nicolas Bideau, head of the Film Section of the Federal Office for Culture, caused some anger. Bideau nonetheless said he was "very happy" at Père’s appointment and emphasised that the new director "remains within the field of auteur film, but not conventional, outdated works". Those concerned will appreciate this.
Festival president Marco Solari has stood by his decision to select Père, who admits "gladly turning his back on Cannes". Commenting on the similar programmes at the Directors’ Fortnight and Locarno, he also revealed that he would feel "freer" in his selection.
The Locarno competition’s emphasis on auteur film thus appears to have been preserved, even strengthened. Père now has to rise to the challenge of putting together a successful line-up for the Piazza Grande, the festival’s main public sidebar. His passion for Hollywood films may signal a new era for this section.
We will, however, have to wait for the 2010 edition to judge Père’s efforts, for Maire – who will take over the reins of the Swiss Cinémathèque in November 2009 – will head his last edition next year.
Françoise Deriaz cineuropa.org