It rained in Cannes the day I left; the Croisette and the open-air cinema on the beach suddenly desolate and deserted.
I had queued for an hour the day before in hot sunshine to see the new Godard film “Film Socialisme”, only to be turned away. But then Godard didn’t turn up to his screening either, and I have rarely managed to see any films at these festivals unless I am on the jury.
The real purpose of Cannes for most people working in the film industry, in any case, is not to see films but to meet people. Relying on chance encounters as one hurries back and forth along the seafront is almost as good a way of organizing your schedule as any other. In this way we managed to connect with past collaborators and co-producers from many countries. This was not, however, a hard-sell mission. Though armed with two new screenplays, one more ‘finished’ than the other, my real purpose was to take an open-eyed, if fleeting, look at the industry which has formed a backdrop to my adult working life.
Cannes is a notoriously commercial, market-driven festival, though looking back nostalgically to the ghosts of New Wave cinema and all it signaled. Godard is still fighting his rearguard action, shamelessly intellectual and global in his concerns, uninterested in glamour and acclaim.
But the pursuit of glamour remains a preoccupation of many on the Croisette. There are still, after all these years, young women trading on their looks, balanced on precarious and ever higher crippling heels; there are still insecure older women looking like casualties from a burns unit – the quiet horrors of cosmetic surgery – there are still confident men with long lenses searching for the new face. Critical opinion is still formed by a handful of individuals writing reviews for Variety and Screen International, which everyone devours at breakfast each day; the die is cast.
Some say sales are picking up, some say film financing will never be the same again. Piracy, digital distribution, the recession itself; all have changed the economics of filmmaking drastically, and no-one seems to really know where it’s going. At moments like these it feels like an advantage to be something of an outsider, able to take risks and embrace the new in ways that more heavyweight companies or corporations with huge overheads cannot.