Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Coming of Cannes 2011

May 10, 2011

Ah, this week, beginning Wednesday, it happens again, the film festival that fetches the world's attention. And well it should, for many good reasons. First, it is a genuinely global event, screening the best from the whole round world, from Kazakhstan to South Korea, Denmark to Brazil. Second, the Cannes Festival does a lot of pre-judging, selecting only those that seem significant cinematically (content and style, as the Fest puts it), whether they be from old hands, like Woody Allen or Clint Eastwood, or first-time directors.

Another virtue is that Cannes offers the very rare opportunity to view in a very short time in one small place some of the best of that global plenty. That is especially fortunate for someone from America, whose film market is terribly constricted to a fast-deteriorating Hollywood product. Many wonderful films from around the world arrive in the States only very belatedly and then only on video. For example, two delightful, moving films from 2008, O. Horten (Denmark) and Tulpan (Kazakhstan), finally came to the US on video in 2010. Or last year's much-praised Of Gods and Men, a tale of martyred French monks in Algeria, has only recently had very narrow theatrical release in the United States in only a few major cities and will not, for the rest of us, appear on video until July.

And then there are the theaters themselves, all within a stone's throw of one another and all featuring the very best playback, both visual and auditory, on wonderfully large formats.

Nor is the Festival only for the film snoot. While a few selections push the experimental, or the shocking, and some are, to be sure, just plain tedious, almost all try to make very human stories compelling. And really, over the last several millenia, not much has changed in the human condition. People still puzzle over the strangeness of being alive--its sorrows and its splendors, its thirsts and terrors--and movies, like art in general, can powerfully show all of that in remarkable fullness. At its best, storytelling, fiction though it usually is, comprises the truest stuff we have in describing just what exactly we are, saints and sinners all. At it best, all this art stuff educates the soul both to relish and cherish and protect--to see and love it all, indeed, as does God's own self.

And, oh, did I mention location? Just incidentally, of course, is the fact that Cannes happens to perch smack-on the Mediterranean in Provence on the fabled Cote d'Azur-- clear blue water, clear blue skies, and sun, sun, and more sun. And the Palais du Cinema, the Festival complex itself, sits on the shore amid lovely sand beaches (though most are private). Other film festivals happen in Berlin in, like, February and in the mountains in Utah in January.

So when it comes to Cannes, this 64th iteration, feasting is not too strong a word. The next entry will recount some of the buzz on what are likely to be the great delights of Cannes 2011.

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