By Peter Knegt | Indiewire May 13, 2009 at 10:3AM
"Where will the Festival de Cannes be in five years time?" That's what Cannes President Gilles Jacobs asked in a letter he wrote for this year's festival. "Politics, allegedly, is the art of answering questions you haven’t been asked. I won’t be doing that today."
While Jacobs goes on to eloquently discuss - at length - the future of auteur cinema instead, Eugene Hernandez kicked off indieWIRE's coverage of the 62nd edition of festival by asking a modified version of question Jacobs wouldn't answer to a number of industry veterans: Does Cannes Matter? Among those that offer their thoughts are Sony Pictures Classics' head Tom Bernard, Roadside Attractions co-president Eric d’Arbeloff, Film Society of Lincoln Center's Richard Pena, and Hollywood Elsewhere's Jeff Wells. "Asking ‘Does Cannes matter?’ is like asking if breathing matters,” Wells said. “It has always been and always will be. And it does matter as a place and an event that allows—in fact goads—all partakers and participants to embrace ars gratia artis.”
The New York Times' answer to the question came care of this piece by Joan Dupont: "What matters, above the bickering and vying for dominance, is that the festival with its parallel sections remains a place of discovery."
The Huffington Post offered one reason why Cannes might not matter quite as much, at least this year, in an article today. "When the 62nd Cannes Film Festival opens tomorrow, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter will have virtually called a halt to a longstanding cross-Croisette daily news war," they note. "Both trades will still be publishing their usual special Cannes Daily Editions, and competing for stories, but under unprecedented limitations."
While The Los Angeles Times, in an article entitled "The living-room TV, not Cannes, may be independent film's best friend," offered a reason why Cannes might matter in a different way this year. "It's likely that of the hundreds of movies headed to this year's Cannes festival (which opens Wednesday), only a handful will attract an American theatrical distributor, but scores may land video-on-demand deals," the Times's John Horn writes.
Whether, or how, Cannes matters didn't change the fact that the festival did indeed kick off today with the world premiere of Pixar's latest, "Up." The first animated film to open the festival was, it seems, an almost unqualified triumph. Reporting on the screening, indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez writes that the film "is a grand visual spectacle on a big screen, pulling viewers into a striking three dimensional world and eschewing the sort of visual sight gags found in typical 3-D movies. Quite emotional at times, some viewers had to wipe tears from beneath their 3-D glasses today while experiencing the emotional story of an aging man and a young boy who set out on a dramatic adventure together." Echoing his praise, Daniel Kasman, blogging in the Auteurs Notebook, calls it "the animation studio’s simplest, truest, and strangest film yet," while the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw notes that the film got the festival "off to the most sublime flying start... It really is a lovely film: smart, funny, high-spirited and sweet-natured, reviving memories of classic adventures from the pens of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne, and movies like Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' and Albert Lamorisse's 'The Red Balloon.'"
Meanwhile, the business side of the festival got off to a busy start - suggestively a notch in the "does matter" column. Before opening night came to close, four major acquisitions were announced, two of them care of Sony Pictures Classics. The distributor snagged the U.S. rights to both Michael Haneke's "The White Ribbon" and Jan Kounen’s “Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky”, the festival's closing night film. A few hours earlier, IFC announced a reunion with "4 Months" director Cristian Mungui, acquiring “Tales From The Golden Age,” which Mungui co-directed with Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Hoefer, Razvan Marculescu, and Constantin Popescu. And finally, indieWIRE buzzed about Bob Berney's as-yet-unnamed company taking on Jane Campion’s Cannes competition title, “Bright Star.”
Finally, for those of you discovering Cannes for the first time this year (or still unsure quite how to negotiate the experience despite multiple visits), filmmaker Gabriel Fleming blogged 15 quick steps on how to survive Cannes without really trying.
Be sure to check back here at indieWIRE for ongoing coverage of the Cannes Film Festival. You can also track any of the competition titles on indieWIRE's freshly launched Cannes film pages.