- 15 Jun 10
Hollywood craziness, celeb culture gone mad and Gallic joie de vivre collide head on at the CANNES FILM FESTIVAL. Tara Brady reports from the frontline of one of the most bizarre events in the entertainment calendar.
It’s impossible to think about the Cannes Film Festival without conjuring images of 1968, of leftist fervour, of revolutionary rallies: “Sur les paves, la plage” and all that. Today, there are few traces of Marxist ideology left around the French Riviera. Sure, I happen on several union marches and the inevitably titled new film from Jean Luc Godard, Film Socialisme, featured as part of the festival’s Un Certain Regard, is jollied along by righteous anti-Capitalist indignation. But mostly, it’s awfully hard to feel like a good comrade in the city by the sea.
Here, boy racers swing by, en route from Monte Carlo, to cruise the Croisette in Ferraris and Lamborginis. Supermarkets and other bazaars favoured by the little people are hard to find but if you’re a celebutante hunting a new pair of Manola Blaniks or a Chanel suit, you’re set. Premium outlets duly crow about their extensive range of Size Zero clothing. The beach is solely for sunning one’s delicate orbs, many of which look fresh out of the box. Actual swimming draws puzzled looks and open mouths. Unlike Californian brand body fascism, the Cannes set would never risk bulk with weights or exercise; they prefer the half starved tapeworm svelte look; rollerskate skinny minus the rollerskates.
Then again, who could blame them? Take away the fantastic Le Restaurant Arménien and the food here is a diabolical conspiracy of overpriced pasta and pizza.
It gets weirder; walk along the coast where ice cream cones, fish restaurants and merry-go-rounds are in plentiful supply, and it might be Portmarnock or Bundoran during a heatwave. Except I don’t suppose you end up walking behind Lindsay Lohan and a shrewdness of paparazzi in such places. Or in front of Bollywood starlet Deepika Padukone in a most revealing golden sari.
The festival itself is an oddly bureaucratic and frequently maddening affair; attending critics and writers are, famously and annoyingly, awarded colour coded badges. Land a white or pink one and you’re pretty much guaranteed a seat at the films in competition. Sadly, most of us are stuck with yellow or blue or green passes which entail queuing for at least an hour before every film and, frequently, getting turned away for the effort. So much for des droits de l’homme.
If there is any Marxism left at Cannes, it exists in weird contrary dialectics; the festival’s rigid adherence to auteur theory, for example, is simultaneously commendable and infuriating. This year Mike Leigh, Takeshi Kitano and Apichatpong Weerasethakul all turned up with excellent entries; unhappily, the same cannot be said of the titles submitted by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Abbas Kiarostami and Nikita Mikhalkov. Would crummy films like Biutiful, Copie Conforme or Burnt by the Sun 2 have made it into any festival, let alone Cannes, without a reliable arthouse brand attached? I very much doubt it.
Consequently, for the duration, festival veterans can be heard complaining about the standard this year. They mutter too, on the conspicuous absence of new films from Sophia Coppola, Terrence Malick and Julien Schnabel; none of the relevant projects was finished on time.
You may well wonder what the point is. Why on earth would every news agency on the planet dispatch their brightest and best to cover such an elitist enterprise? Mostly, they’ve assembled for golden shutterbug moments; Russell Crowe takes a turn on the decidedly mucky red carpet outside the Palais, so does Woody Allen, Michael Douglas and the cast of Wall Street 2. Hollywood hitters with no legitimate reason to be there, arrive, do their best twirl and jet off again.
And yet, against all odds, beneath the glitz, the crazy rules, the tacky coastal facade, Cannes remains a shining beacon of light in any right-thinking cineaste’s calendar. No other movie bash, not even populist and inclusive events such as the London Film Festival or our own Dublin International Film Festival, can claim to be as saturated in celluloid as this Riviera equivalent.
In addition to the official competition selection and its complimentary and notionally more avant garde sibling, Un Certain Regard, every country and most major cities decamp on the Riviera to sell their wares. Impromptu trucks pull up with screens attached; add two chairs and it’s a mobile cinema. I even see two guys with screens attached to their heads.
Wander through the film market and it’s the good, the bad and the ugly; over there, they’re the gorgeous looking live action remake of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, over here, it’s all the crud starring Billy Zane and rabid zombies you could ever wish for.
And just to reaffirm your faith in the place, the eventual winner is Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives), a surreal fable about renal failure and a hairy monkey spirit that is adored by every major critic who sees it.
It’s enough to reassure the assembled film buffs that for all the distractions, this might just be the happiest place on earth after all.