Monday, May 09, 2005

This is in the New issue of Film Festival Today!

I wrote it, so I can put in in the blog here, we're going to have the blog linked at their site. So we'll see what happens to that there. Here 'tis:

Imagine. It is spring on the French Riviera. You’re sitting on an ermine-lined deck chair Onassis’ personal battleship/yacht, while shiny, happy people with bank accounts greater than many impoverished third-world countries cavort around you. The Hilton sisters trot on by to sit on your lap while you gently feed one of them a large helping of beluga caviar and she, in return puts her full champagne glass to your lips and grabs a-hold of your…

There’s Cannes, and then there’s everything else. The global apex of the film festival circuit. Glamour central, where the beautiful people come to try out what they learned in arrogance school. There may be plenty of parties in Park City and Toronto, but this is on another level entirely. It’s a circus unlike anywhere else in the world. Totally unique.

The idea for the festival itself goes back to 1939, where Jean Renior’s "Grand Illusion" lost the "Mussolini Cup" (now called the Golden Lion) at the Venice film festival to two fascist propaganda films. The French, being French, were incensed!!!!! They stormed out of the festival in a huff and plotted revenge. [To be fair, the British and the Americans also withdrew in protest]

This came in the form of a similar festival, run by the Action Artistique Fran├žaise, which chose the city of Cannes as it’s venue, because the city council was willing to put up the francs for a hall dedicated to the event. But there were problems. Hitler was mad, and on the very day the first Cannes festival opened, he invaded Poland, and pretty much everything in Europe turned to shit for the next five years.

Take Two: It’s September 1946, and World War II was over. the French Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education have decided that one way to revive World culture in the French mold would be to start the aborted Cannes Film Festival. Everybody who was anybody was there, and the whole shebang was a howling success.

The next year it was taken over by France’s National Centre for Cinema, who’s idea of having a competition where everybody got prizes, wasn’t very popular. The 1948 and ’50 fests were cancelled due to lack of interest.

But the festival started getting it’s act together in the early 1950s. The competition was made truly competitive, the festival itself was moved from September to May in order to get more premiers. It was announced that Simone Sylva’s and Bridgette Bardot’s mammary glands were on display at the beach. Wow!!!!

The press and the tourists loved it all, and Cannes was becoming a genuine landmark.. In 1960, a few producers decided to have an informal film market to trade and sell ideas and properties at the festival, the next year it was an official part, and over the next twenty years the festival would grow exponentially.

Aside from the failed Revolution of May 1968, which forced the cancellation of most of the festival, it’s been clear sailing ever since.

In the fifty-nine years since the festival started for real, pretty much every genre of films has been shown, every major movie star highlighted and parties of every flavor thrown. This year should be no different.

This year’s festival, like most of it’s recent predecessors, is in fact a series of festivals and the market, each of which is run by a different group:

1) The Competition: This is the "official" festival. Hundreds of filmmakers are competing for the coveted [and I mean COVETED] Palm d’Or and lesser awards. This is thing everybody looks for.

2) The Market: This is the mother of all trade shows. Hundreds of films are screened here and the governments of Europe, the British Commonwealth and Hollywood make deal after deal. This is why half the people show up.

3) Director’s Fortnight: The French Directors Guild shows a bunch of films that it thinks worthy by many an up and coming director. Some of the better stuff nobody’s heard of winds up here.

4) Critic’s Week: The Critic’s Union has it’s own competition, in which new directors compete for valuable prizes. It’s winners include Bernardo Bertolucci and Kevin Smith.

5) The Out-Of Competition: Hooray for Hollywood!!!! Those bigass Hollywood films that everyone wants to see but aren’t considered "artsy" enough. This year we’ve got "Star Wars: Return of the Sith" opening things up, then Woody Allen's latest

Then you have the parties. Getting into the parties is difficult, as…well, parties are ALWAYS difficult to get into at these kind of affairs. Getting on to Onassis’ battleship/yacht is always a bitch…

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