Donald Sutherland made light of his birth country’s national identity obsessions Wednesday, at the start of the Cannes Film Festival, where he will help determine the 2016 Palme d’Or prize winner.
In doing so, he immediately established himself as the irascible wit on the nine-member Palme jury led by Mad Max director George Miller, winning huge laughs from the assembled international media. He also grumpily complained about the “freezing” air conditioning in the press room of the Palais des Festivals.
Asked by a Canadian journalist if he thinks Canada has a national cinema, Sutherland first threw the guy off by complaining for the third time about how the air conditioning was flowing right down his back. Then he replied:
I kind of gave up talking about Canadian cinema a long time ago. There’s a famous story of a British soldier and a French soldier and a Canadian soldier who were captured in the process of the war and sent to be shot by firing squad, but they were each given an opportunity to have a last wish. The Brit asked for a cup of tea, the Canadian asked for 15 minutes to talk about Canadian identity, and the Frenchman asked to be shot before the Canadian.
He paused for dramatic effect, before announcing, “I’m still freezing. Seriously. Right down my back!” Then again, maybe you could put up with laborious discussions of what it means to be Canadian if you could bring Donald Sutherland with you.