By Moira Sullivan.
The Evolution of Cannes Part 2
It is not only different programming sections that have changed over time, but Cannes screening venues as well. Here is an interesting parallel: the “Great Gothic Cathedrals” in France, particularly the Notre Dame de Paris, took over 400 years to be completed. This year, the famous cathedral celebrated 850 years as a national treasure. There is a base foundation, and different languages carved in stone relevant for the time. Gargoyles and grotesques, images of alchemists and Christians, have all adorned Notre Dame. So too, the facades at the nationally revered Festival de Cannes have changed, an event that began in earnest in 1946 in an old Casino.
A little free paper called La Gazette Paulette, distributed in front of the Palais du Cinema, tells the story of the transformation of the festival grounds. In 1949, the festival quarters was located at 50 boulevard de la Croisette. However, the original Palais Croisette became the victim of its success and had to spread out to hotels in the 1950s. In 1978, Cannes commissioned another Palais and in 1983 a modern edifice was erected. It was demolished five years later and is now the JW Marriott Hotel. In 2012, the Palais was modernized as it stands today.
It must be noted that the current landscape at Cannes contributes to the chaos of my fourth day here. On a rainy afternoon, what better way to avoid the drizzle than inside a theater? However, queues and guards were particularly challenging. Nowhere was a media hierarchy more evident than with the admission of high priority badge holders (i.e. established media outlets), who waltzed into screenings at which accredited journalists had stood for hours in the rain. The scarcity of seats ignored the ‘first come, first served’ tradition, creating a mob behavior.
The oldest distributor of independent films in the USA, Troma, is calling attention to this hierarchy at Cannes with a demonstration in front of the Palais on May 20 at 2pm. Called the “Occupy Cannes” movement, Troma questions the corporate controlled film and media market. Similar to the aims of Truffaut and Godard, who established the Director’s Fortnight in 1969, Troma hopes to open up a dialogue about the current state of affairs at the festival.
Film Highlights on Day 4
The Director’s Fortnight world premiere of The Congress, directed by Ari Folman, was screened outdoors tonight to an audience bearing umbrellas. The Congress looks at the transformation of acting roles in the film business, particularly for women over 30. Robin Wright, who acts as both producer and star in the film, plays a women in her forties who can only act by allowing her face and body to be scanned for use in synthetically created films, an advanced stage of motion capture.
Leos Carax first called attention to the growth of motion capture in live action film in Holy Motors (2012), which played at Cannes last year. In the film, one of the multiple identities assumed by Monsieur Oscar (Denis Lavan) is an actor in a body suit covered with reflective markers for a role in a sci-fi film. For Carax, motion capture signifies “the death of cinema” and The Congress nails this.
Robin Wright, who plays herself in the film, is forced to choose between being scanned for motion capture for all future film roles or becoming obsolete in the industry. As a condition of her contract, she is also forbidden from acting anywhere else. She signs, nudged by her agent played by Harvey Keitel. Meanwhile, Wright’s decision to raise her children amidst her acting career angers the head of Miramount Theatres (Danny Huston). Twenty years in the future, people either live as their “avatar” or age and experience natural death – “on the other side” of the fantasy world. Wright appears at a “Miramount-Nagasaki Congress” and affirms that her children are foremost in her life. The foreboding futuristic message of The Congress is created through animation and live action.
Earlier on the Croisette, Thai Cinema Night took place with Thailand’s Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya acting as guest of honor. The Princess, who is an established actress herself, entered the room to standing audience who did not sit down until she took settled on her throne. Then, Princess Rajakanya delivered a speech that was difficult to hear and hosted a series of trailers for upcoming Thai cinema. One Thai film to look for is The Protector 2 starring Tony Jaa and produced by Prachya Pinkaew, the talented director/producer behind Ong Bak 2 (2008), The Protector (2005), and Chocolate (2008).
Moira Sullivan is an accredited journalist at Cannes, and served on the Queer Palm Jury 2012. She is a member of FIPRESCI with a doctorate in cinema studies from Stockholm University and graduate studies in film at San Francisco State University.