Awards & Festivals Music News

Todd McCarthy: Despite Doubts and Doldrums, Cannes Comes Through

After a sluggish start, this year’s fest shone through the cloud of pessimism with some strong, timely, provocative films — suggesting that those proclaiming Cannes “over” had spoken too soon.

Does anyone remember what everyone was saying during the first days of this year’s Cannes Film Festival? That it was the worst Cannes ever, a festival in obvious decline, antiquated, outdated by its fixation on tuxedoes and heels, low on blow-out parties and star wattage? Was Cannes even going to be worth the trip in coming years? With only two films in the competition this year, were the Americans shunning the festival? Is Hollywood too fixated on awards-season timing to bother anymore with the Cannes-Cannes?

Spirits were more than low at the outset. Was the late-in-the-game yanking of all the Netflix titles, notably Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma and Orson Welles’ “finished” The Other Side of the Wind after nearly a half-century along with its companion-piece documentary, just another sign of Cannes being stuck in the past? Had Cannes’ clout with the big studios diminished so much that it had to go along with Disney staging the big world premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story in Los Angeles the week before its splashy debut on the Croisette?

On a more personal and human note, the fact that Pierre Rissient, “Monsieur Cannes” if there ever was one, passed away two days before the opening, after having just finished supervising the subtitling of Lee Chang-dong’s competition entry Burning, cast a most unwelcome pall over the festival for many attendees.

But it’s amazing what a few good films can do. Like a heavy fog dissipating to give way to sunny skies, the 2018 Cannes Film Festival shed its shroud, started coming to life and ended up delivering what people come here for: a surprisingly strong range of films, some from well-established auteurs but others that didn’t exactly inspire you to jump out of bed and race to 8:30 a.m. screenings to catch.

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