The 40th Cannes Film Festival was held from 7 to 19 May 1987. The Palme d’Or went to the Sous le soleil de Satan by Maurice Pialat, a choice which was considered “highly controversial” and the prize was given under the jeers of the public. Pialat is quoted to have retorted “You don’t like me? Well, let me tell you that I don’t like you either!”
The festival opened with Un homme amoureux, directed by Diane Kurys and closed with Aria, directed by Robert Altman, Bruce Beresford, Bill Bryden, Jean-Luc Godard, Derek Jarman, Franc Roddam, Nicolas Roeg, Ken Russell, Charles Sturridge and Julien Temple. The 1987 Festival also paid tribute to Federico Fellini.
The Whales of August directed by Lindsay Anderson, starring Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Ann Sothern, Vincent Price was selected to be screened out of competition, (also Raising Arizona, Macbeth, Something Wild, Aida, Hotel du Paradis)
Gish’s performance was received glowingly, winning her the National Board of Review Award for Best Actress. At the Cannes festival Lillian won a 10-minute standing ovation from the audience. Some in the entertainment industry were angry that Gish did not receive an Oscar nomination for her role in The Whales of August.
Commenting on what was to be Miss Gish’s last screen performance, in the 1987 “Whales of August,” Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times: “There’s not a gesture or a line-reading that doesn’t reflect her nearly three-quarters of a century in front of a camera. Scenes are not purloined when she’s on screen.”