"Chacun son cinéma": Looking for the Future Without Nostalgia By Michel Ciment

in 60th Cannes Film Festival

by Michel Ciment

Some birthday celebrations can turn sour and lead to family quarrels. The Cannes Film Festival by playing down its sixtieth anniversary (in fact not really so, it was the 59th on the 60 first according to our calculation) did it wisely and came out triumphantly. First of all the selection by artistic director Thierry Frémaux was probably his best since he took over the job. Even if some of the films in competition like Les Chansons d’amour, the French entry by Christophe Honoré received a lukewarm reception by the international press, not a single film seemed really out of place as it happened regularly in the past. The sidebar official section Un certain regard, though it still lacked a focus, was rich in works of interest which might have played in the competition, such as the documentaries The Teror’s Advocate (L’Avocat de la terreur) by Barbet Schroeder and Sante Fe Street (Calle Santa Fe) by Carmen Castillo, or the fictions California Dreamin’ (which won the prize of this section) by Cristian Nemescu, the Israeli The Band’s Visit (Bikur hatizmoret) by Eran Kolirin (FIPRESCI Prize) or You the living by the Swede Roy Andersson.

Furthermore, the jury confirmed the faith in the future of cinema as exemplified by the selection in giving prizes to many directors (including the Golden Palm winner Cristian Mungiu) who were presenting their first, second or third film and were often under forty.

Another challenge was the decision by Gilles Jacob the president of the festival to commission a collective film made of 33 shorts, three minutes each, directed by 35 directors (the Coen and the Dardenne brothers making the difference in numbers) on the theme of the movie theatre. The result was mostly convincing and at time exhilarating, even if some contributions were embarrassing like Michael Cimino’s No translation needed or Youssef Chahine’s 47 Years Later in his narcissistic-masochistic vein. By extolling the film house (and which better projection on earth than Le Grand Théâtre Lumière in Cannes?), the film shows its confidence in the future of cinema, an art form threatened by so many by-products. Some of the films were tributes to fellow film-makers: Atom Egoyan’s Artaud Double Bill to Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc and Godard’s Vivre sa vie, Angelopoulos’ Three Minutes to Antonioni’s La notte, Andrei Konchalovsky’s In the Dark to Fellini’s 8 1/2, Claude Lelouch’s The cinema around the corner to Fred Astaire’s Top Hat and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s Darkness to Bresson’s Mouchette, some of the more delightful moments came from Ethan and Joel Coen’s World Cinema where a cowboy in a small western town hesitates between watching Renoir’s Rules of the Game or Ceylan’s The Climates, Roman Polanski’s Erotic Cinema with its macabre humour going back to his short film of 50 years ago, Walter Salles’s 5-557 Miles From Cannes gently poking fun at the festival and the Chinese directors Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-wai, Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming Liang, all taking their inspiration from personal memories. Only Manoel de Oliveira, who started to direct before the coming of sound and aged 99, ignored the theme of the movie and offered an hilarious silent black and white film about the meeting between Khrouchtchev and the pope.

Three regrets: that only one woman participated in the project, that African directors were absent, and the decision of Gilles Jacob, the producer of this remarkable omnibus, to end with Ken Loach’s contribution, Happy Ending, where a father and a son standing in line in front of the cinema desk and finding no film that attracts them prefer to go to a football match. A sad final note to an otherwise brilliant message of love for the cinema.