Classic Cannes: In Review

This May the Cannes Film Festival celebrated its 68th year, screening over 90 films non-stop over 12 days and nights; a veritable movie marathon which attracts more and more patrons each year. While Cannes is known for its commentary on contemporary work, discovering cinema’s latest masterpieces, and celebrating Hollywood’s current crop of stars (Jake Gyllenhaal and Sienna Miller are on this year’s Cannes jury alongside Joel & Ethan Coen), the festival’s appetite for heritage cinema seems on the increase.

You need look no further than the ‘face’ of the festival on billboards, 1940s megastar Ingrid Bergman; a fitting poster girl as her career, like Cannes, trod the boards between American mainstream – think “Casablanca and “Notorious – to more art house endeavours alongside European auteurs, notably fellow countryman Ingmar Bergman.

Classic Cannes now screens 40 films as part of a dedicated programme to “cinema’s glorious past”, spanning eras and styles. This year it featured a selection of Lumiere films shown at the Grande Theatre Lumiere (where else?), and Luchino Visconti’s ambitious early 60s historical drama “Rocco and His Brothers”.

The programmers were spoilt this year with the most enviable of hooks, Orson Welles’ 100th birthday on May 6th, which was honoured with a centennial tribute, adding “Citizen Kane” to the billing, along with “The Lady From Shanghai” and “The Third Man. Each film underwent restoration by a major studio to achieve its former glory for the big screen prior to the festival.

This year marked one other important anniversary, that of The Palme d’Or itself, the highest prize given by the festival – conceived in 1955, now turning 60 years. Alexis Veller’s documentary “The Golden Palm‘s Legend”  told the story of this coveted award, which this year was won by the film “Dheepan”, a Sri Lankan refugee drama that captured the emotions and minds of the jury.

The celebration of the twentieth century went further than the classic screenings, creeping into the competition race with the film “Carol” a period adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel, a story of forbidden love in the 50s starring Cate Blanchett. This year’s festival also saw a return to the limelight for Woody Allen with his latest film “Irrational Man” starring Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix. It is also no surprise that the seemingly immortal Steve McQueen once more delighted audiences in a new documentary exploring 20th century stars: “Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans”.

Let’s hope this year’s jury discovered a convincing crop of filmmakers to create the classic films of the future. They have a tough act to follow.