The start of this year’s Cannes Film Festival was the most stressful I have ever experienced. The combination of COVID fears and the extremely humid July heat hit me like a mega yacht out of control. What was he doing here? What is all this a terrible mistake? That frame of mind was shared by many of the colleagues I spoke to in the first days of last week, we all stumbled on Bambi’s legs after so many months away from the rhythm of film festivals.
But then I went to see my first movie here Nadav Lapid‘s Ahed’s knee, and I immediately remembered the potential of this festival for genuine greatness. I was frustrated and sweaty and ready to give up; I had been kicked out of line for wearing shorts so I had to run back to my apartment to change and then run back to the cinema, and yet there was the lovely Cannes Logo Presentation with traditional festival intro music (“L’aquarium of Camille Saint-Saëns”), And then the din of Lapid’s opening scene. What a happy jolt it was to sit in front of such a menacing cinema, to arrive with what felt like a real consequential weight.
Everyone has said some version of the same thing. Opening night ceremonies focused on the grand return: to life, to the cinema, to the ridiculous opulence and formality that Cannes revels in (and preserves to increasingly damaging effect). We were back, and how strange that was, but also how good. We were tested for COVID every other day (those of us who weren’t vaccinated in the EU anyway) and masks were required indoors. There was a progressive stress on the delta variant that lurked in every interaction. But we were doing something so different from anything we had done for the past 18 months that it was possible to briefly forget, perhaps recklessly, all those real world things.
Of course, that experience varied. Some people started to feel uncomfortable and it only got worse; Colleagues stopped socializing and I saw many more outdoor masks during the second week of the festival than during the first. Although it is difficult to know who was attending the festival masked and who was just a spectator: Cannes is normally in May, before the peak tourist season begins. Not so this year. The combination of the regular summer population spike and the craziness of the Euro final essentially made the festival an afterthought in the eyes of the Cannes crowd, the festival being noticed only by the traffic jams it caused and the occasional celebrity sightings. I’m looking forward to Cannes getting back to its regular May schedule, when it can really fill the city in a way that I’m sure the locals resent, but at least they’re used to.
I say occasional celebrity sightings because this was not a terribly star-studded year at Cannes. Many talents stayed home or left hotel suites just to attend very private and exclusive parties. The biggest and slightly more accessible parties, usually where elbow rubbing is possible, were few this year. Beach clubs were packed with regular Cannes visitors, unguarded by young advertisers with an iPad fending off desperate people in formal wear. The more casual parties I attended, all outdoors, were really charming, quiet, conversational, and even cozy.
Still, the party scene is only a secondary metric to measure a successful or at least “normal” cannes. Films, of course, take priority, and this year’s selection offers a lot to be excited about. There were daring and trendy movies like Julia DucournauIt’s grubby, Eurocronenbergian Titans other Paul verhoevenIt’s from the seventeenth century now sex-proof Benedetta. Cunnilingus figured prominently in Benedetta and in many other movies here (it’s always important to have a Cannes trend!), perhaps most notably in the opening night movie, Leos caraxit’s a wild musical Annette. Those films produced the “you won’t believe it until you see it” talk that sustains the festival’s intrigue, which positions Cannes as a place of conversation in the industry and on social media.
The less daring fare also left lasting impressions. There was the beautiful pain of Joachim trier‘s The worst person in the world, and that of Joanna hogg‘sThe Souvenir Part II. The public fell in love Ryusuke Hamaguchi‘s Drive my car, a three-hour adaptation of a Haruki Murakami story about pain and Chekhov. The one that pleases the crowd Casablanca beats, from the Moroccan director Nabil Ayouch, played to praise like he did Asghar farhadimoral thriller A hero other Mia Hansen-Løveit is calm, melancholic Bergman Island, a film about cinema and movie viewing.
There was an adequate amount of metanarrative in this year’s lineup, artists taking stock of themselves and their passions, and us in the audience thinking of ours, all reflecting on the crazy shared conviction that brought us here when we probably should have expected. . other year. In some ways, it was pensive and frantic Cannes, a reflection of the mix of stasis and lingering alarm of the COVID era.