12 days of competition, 23 movies seen, approximately 24,600 words written (and counting). Two days spent watching films, a further full day expended queuing to see those films. Fuelled by an unending stream of tea and pastries, constantly besieged by mosquitoes. That was my Cannes Film Festival 2010, my first visit to the legendary event, and here a few final thoughts about the whole shebang.
Money – Cannes is a town where every item is priced up a level from the norm. A beer costs as much as a meal. A meal costs as much as a hotel room. A hotel room costs as much as a car. A car costs as much as a house. A house costs as much as a yacht. A yacht costs as much as hiring Brad Pitt to appear in a movie you've written entitled Captain Birdseye's Last Stand on the Planet of the Talcum Powder Monsters. Never did I think any sane human being could yearn for London prices, yet that is precisely what the Indie Movies team are doing as we ready ourselves for the trip home.
Meaning – Having spent two bewildered hours watching the darn thing, I felt certain nothing more opaque than Jean-Luc Godard's Socialism could emerge from this year's Cannes, it being a fim where even the subtitles get diddled around with. However, the movie itself, llama and all, is a picture of dunce-simple comprehension when compared to the interview with the old man of French cinema which appears in the press book accompanying the flick. For example, one 'question' is 'whereof geometry?' to which Godard's reply is, 'Euclid understood the language of the Pyramids, not Aristotle.'
Okay... what about this one then, 'tragedy and democracy?' Not really much of a question and it doesn't get much of an answer either, 'without Sophocles, no Pericles.' If you reckon clarity might be more forthcoming when JLG sticks to chat about filmmaking, then think again. Question: 'static shots only?' Answer: 'the chemist doesn't do tracking shots in front of the microscope nor petrol companies when drilling into the sea bed.' Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Jean-Luc Godard, once the most exciting director in world cinema, now morphed into Master Po from TV's Kung Fu.
Food – Cannes is movie mad and they have the pizza menus to prove it. Sterling effort at some Hollywood likenesses from the Star Pizza emporium, as you can see below. Obviously you recognise Sly, Arnie, Jean-Claude and Jack, but what about the fella in the top left? I reckon Mel Gibson. It gets even better once you open the menu and realise that all the pizzas bear filmic monikers, from La Marceau to La Sharon Stone and on to L'Indiana Jones. And yes, there is a La Gibson, and yes, it does feature ham as one of its toppings.
Where night meets day – During the Film Festival, Cannes becomes a town of Bacchanalian excess, as Benicio del Toro attested to in the jury press conference tonight when he noted that he made sure he attended every party for each movie he watched. Quite right too; how can one adequately judge a film without having sampled the canapes paid for by the producers? There is always ample evidence of this boozing on the mornings after the crazy, crazy nights before, with the barely-sentient revelers staggering back to their hotel rooms and apartments just as those few enterprising souls are venturing out to stretch their logs with a crack of dawn beach-side jog (like myself on occasion, or those two young Australian woman who powered past me at such petrifying velocity last time I was down the Croisette in my runners that I thought I had accidentally slipped into reverse gear). It's not a huge problem; indeed people like the enormous still-drunk, barrel-chested American in the purple velvet trilby simply make for testing obstacles for you to manoeuvre yourself round.
Threads - Speaking of which, the trilby is monster millinery news in Cannes. If I had to guess, I would say that every seventh head sports one of the funny little things. Clothing is more conspicuous down round the Palais than you might imagine, and I'm not just referring to the threads sported to the premieres and parties, nor the horrendously overpriced, just plain horrendous gear that appears in the windows of some of the luxury retailers in that bit of town (clothing for people with too much money who live in a sunny climate – think orange deck shoes and turquoise blazers). No, referring back to the period before this weekend when all the industry personnel hightailed it out of town, to walk the Croisette during the busier hours of the day was to come to the clear and inescapable conclusion that all men who work in the film biz – regardless of whether they hail from France, Italy, Great Britain, Germany, America, Canada, or anywhere else – adhere to an incredibly strict dress code, with the uniform assigned them being dictated by age.
Working downwards, we start with the 40-pluses, every man jack of 'em dressed in brown shoes, blue jeans, white shirt and navy blue blazer. Next are the 30-40 bracket, sporting suits, often distinctly shiny ones, worn in conjunction with trainers and T-shirts. It's a look that is clearly meant to be smart and funky at the same time, like Albert Einstein rapping the Theory of Relativity. The suit says “I'm an important mover and shaker”, the trainers and T-shirt simultaneously yelling, “But hey! I still know how to have a good time!” Also critical is a semi-developed beard, the shunning of daily contact with the razor serving notice that a free-running, creatively polymorphous brain is positioned just above and back a bit from those soup-straining whiskers.
The beard is equally beloved by those aged between 20 and 30, though they go the more casual route in terms of clothing, with skinny jeans, check shirts and Wayfarers all de rigueur garb. A frequent appendage to this regulation styling is one of those bulky leather man bags, carried round at about calf height and a near-irresistible invitation for passers-by to channel their inner Jonny Wilkinson, run up behind and unleash a punt that would clear Row Z of the grandstand in a rugby match.
Future – For me, the Cannes selection has felt very middle-aged this year, with a cinematic classicism largely overruling all else. Though there have been some very fine films (and some shockers too), there has been little that has felt really modern or attuned to popular culture (Rubber possibly was an exception, though an insufferably smug and lame one). Which is not to say that Cannes should be playing host to Prince of Persia or Iron Man 2, just that it might like to engage with the 21st century to a slightly greater extent, rather than wheeling out movies about socialism, mid-to-later life crises, the Rolling Stones, and other fixations of the generation who came of age in the 1960s. Even movies like Black Heaven and Chatroom that were ostensibly contemporary in their subject matter turned out to be reflections of parental paranoia about the ever-increasing ubiquity of technology in the daily lives of their children.
Environment - Every Cannes Film Festival gives just cause for a forest to weep. The sheer volume of paper dished out to the army of hacks over the course of the near-fortnight that the fest runs for is quite astonishing. On day one, each visiting news outlet is assigned a press box, these being situated in compact rows on the third floor of the Palais des Festival, and accessed via a swipe of the ID card. It's a little bit exciting in a vaguely kind of Mission: Impossible kind of way, although all that's ever contained within are a selection of promotional booklets (like the aforementioned one for Socialism) extolling the virtues of the films from the Official Selection and Un Certain Regard, usually over a great many glossy pages.
Fair enough perhaps. After all a movie only gets to compete at Cannes once in its lifespan, so you may as well push the boat out to a certain degree. More baffling is the Official Catalogue every Cannes pass-holder, be they journo or buyer or whoever, gets lumbered with when they collect the badge that will get them into the all-important movie screenings. Over 88 pages you can read about the various categories of competition, while gazing at adverts from the official partners of and providers for the festival, including L'Oreal, Nestle, jewelers Chopard, Remy Martin, and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild. Viva la revolution! Down with trees!