A piece over at European CEO wonders whether this is, in fact, true. Jean Luc-Godard said of the fest, “Now, it’s just for publicity. People come to Cannes just to advertise their films.” Perhaps that is truer today than it’s ever been as the entire year feels like one rolling publicity tour for the same handful of films. It used to be that the PR train stopped with the Oscars for a while. Cinema would then be in the dead zone for a few months until the summer movie season hit. But now, with Captain American pushing up summer movies to April, and Cinemacon already starting the necessary fluffing, then Cannes, then Comic-Con just around the corner and after that Telluride, it begs the question whether there really is any break anymore. Of course, who can complain when it’s so difficult to get any movies funded now – especially movies that aren’t pre-branded with our overly branded culture. Any championing of films like Under the Skin and Only Lovers Left Alive is good. Those movies were supposedly part of the PR train from last season but now are enjoying some singularity with all of the Oscar movies out of the way.
From my seat, Cannes is one of the few stops left that truly celebrates diverse, worthy filmmaking from all over the world. It isn’t just the main competition (which, I have to say, always blows my stupid American brain right the fuck away) but everything else going on at Cannes – the producers workshops, the short films, the networking between up and coming filmmakers and potential financiers. It isn’t just about promotion but about opportunity – as long as you can get there.
However, according to British filmmaker Andrew Lang, Cannes still has its artistic integrity. “Cannes is still the festival that everyone tries to get their films into. For serious art house cinema, there’s no better place to launch a film. Films that might be considered ‘difficult’ to distributors because of their lack of stars or challenging subject matter premiere at Cannes, and with that stamp of approval might then be seen throughout the world. No other festival – except perhaps Sundance – has the same transformative power on a film’s fortunes.”
He told European CEO that while commercial factors may have crept into Cannes, it still showcases a great deal of challenging cinema. “There’s definitely a creeping commercialism, but where isn’t there? I can understand what Godard misses. In 1968, he had the festival closed in solidarity with the French Student protests. I can’t imagine many modern directors doing that.”