Sunday, May 23, 2004

Cannes Round-up by George the cyclist

The films are done, and I’m sorry to report I was denied seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 for lack of formal attire. Since it won the Palme d’Or, its final screening was at prime time today, rescheduled from its original 5 p.m. slot, and as eager as I was to see it, I wasn’t so desperate as to go scrambling for a penguin suit. All the men parading around at night as if they are headed to a state dinner is quite hilarious. May I never be one of them.

Moore has clearly been the star of this festival receiving hearty applause at his every appearance. Everyone is delighted to laud him for being the anti-Bush, but few are willing to acknowledge his polemic as a film for the ages or to anoint him as an auteur. There was quite a huddle of us afterwards trying to figure out how it could have happened, and the jury had quite a time defending itself in today's press conference.

Rumors had been rampant that Tarantino loved the Korean film Old Boy, which won second prize, that also had few enthusiastic supporters. Tarantino would have loved to have given it the top prize, but his jury stood up to him on that one. Since they could get no consensus on anything else, they just copped out and decided to thumb their nose at Bush. The headline in Sunday's newspaper agreed--"Cannes: la Palme d’or qui defie Bush." There were no great quarrels with any of the other awards except for the special mention that the Thai film Tropical Malady received. It was the only award that the audience booed. In the jury press conference Tarantino admitted there wasn’t consensus on the jury for it, but that there had been a couple of people on the jury who had great passion for it, and the rest of the jury decided that since anyone could have such great passion they’d go along with it.

Even though I maxed out at 60 films, the most I've ever managed to see at a film festival, this is one of the rare festivals I've attended where there hasn't been at least one film that I'm going home wildly enthusiast about that I will be telling everyone they must see. I saw plenty of good films that I'm very happy to have seen and can highly recommend, but unfortunately, for your sake as well as my own, I do not have an ultimate film to exalt over.

It was a surprise not to have seen something truly great, but an even bigger surprise to discover how easy it was to navigate this mammoth festival that dwarfs all others. I feared it would be something to endure like Sundance, battling the hoards desperate to get into the next "must see." But there was none of that frenzy and mania here. The film-goers were very orderly and professional. I had been warned that cell phones would be constantly going off in screenings and that I'd be distracted by people leaving prematurely.

Even before the festival was half over I began looking forward to returning, knowing that I’d learned many tricks and short cuts to make it even more enjoyable the next time. I nodded off in fewer films here than in any week or longer festival I have attended, which is testimony too to the quality of films and the minimum of hassle I had to endure.

And now I am thrilled to have the open road ahead of me so I can return to my true passion - that of the bike.
Later, George