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What do we lose when Cannes is canceled?

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Bong Joon Ho with his Palme d'Or for “Parasite”, at the latest edition of the Cannes Film Festival (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)
Bong Joon Ho with his Palme d'Or for “Parasite”, at the latest edition of the Cannes Film Festival (Pascal Le Segretain / Getty Images)

The Cannes Film Festival has been canceled a few times since its first edition was postponed due to World War II. For the most part, the show has continued since 1946, but that's not the case this year. The 73rd edition, which was scheduled to start on May 12, will no longer be held. Instead, in June, the festival will release a list of films that had been chosen for this year, awarding them the coveted Cannes label. Our critics Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott, as well as our award season columnist Kyle Buchanan, film festival veterans, ponder what makes this event essential to so many moviegoers.

KYLE BUCHANAN: The awards season was ruined. After a great 2019 edition where the successful streak of Parasites From Bong Joon Ho - the first Palme d'Or winner in 64 years to also win the Oscar for best picture - expectations for this year's festival were sky-high. The event was to begin in mid-May, but as a pandemic continues to hold the world hostage, it became unthinkable to continue a two-week gathering attended by film celebrities from around the world, enjoying a glamorous celebration and haute couture.

The Cannes festival has been canceled, and organizers hope to reorganize the event at some point. Manohla and Tony, you know what the world's most prestigious film festival is like. What is lost when the Cannes festival is canceled?

A.O. SCOTT: Unlike the big three fall festivals - Venice, Telluride, and Toronto - Cannes is independent of the American Oscar season. That does not mean that it lacks a stir, but that its hype is more contained and internal. He doesn't need the academy, although he happily accepts Hollywood. For eleven or twelve days, the festival becomes a cinematic universe by itself. When you are inside it, the rest of the world seems unreal. From the outside, it looks like a strange glass sphere filled with movie stars.

But it's important because behind all those frenzied photographs, yacht parties and fancy red carpet marches, lies an almost religious devotion to film, a passion for art that is neither snobbish nor cynical. All kinds of movies are screened in the main competition and the other shows, and while some win awards and grab the press's attention, they all give them at least a moment of glory. There are few scenes more moving than watching a novice climb the Palais staircase to attend his gala screening, walking the same path as the winners of La Palma and Olympus of authors.

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MANOHLA DARGIS: I have no doubt that Cannes - and most festivals, cinemas, movies and viewers - will return. It is obvious that I support the festival, which I have attended for years and that I love. There you can see some of the newest and best movies in the world in one event, which is exciting, exhausting and crazy, just because you want to see everything and it is not possible. And, since there are so many premieres, you can discover them yourself. I supposed that Parasites It would be good for Bong, the director. But I saw it in Cannes before anyone could tell me (and tell me again) that it's great. Attending the festival is a privilege in many ways.

It is difficult for Americans to understand the importance of Cannes to the rest of the world. This is because our isolationism extends to culture. It was exciting to see that Parasites succeeded in America, which happened, in part, thanks to the festival. It's an impressive publicity generator, and the thousands of journalists who attended the event last year sparked interest in the film internationally, giving it a terrific boost that only increased as it was screened at other world festivals. Disney can dominate weekend releases with just its brand. But movies like Parasites

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They need festivals, and, to get really big, I think they need the Cannes festival.

Olivier Assayas, director of "The Other Side of Success", and actress Juliette Binoche, center, at the first screening of the film at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 23, 2014. (Arnaud Brunet / The New York Times)
Olivier Assayas, director of "The Other Side of Success", and actress Juliette Binoche, center, at the first screening of the film at the Cannes Film Festival in France on May 23, 2014. (Arnaud Brunet / The New York Times)

BUCHANAN: They're both right about the way Cannes, for all its glamor, treats feature film as a divine call: when thousands of people are dressed up to see a slow-paced, long-running art film. Three hours - and the moment they give a standing ovation at the end - you start to wonder if the French don't have words to say "superhero" or "franchise", and if they live better like this.

However, now that reactionary Hollywood is undergoing a transformation from the era of streaming services, Cannes is experiencing it too, and I'm always interested in how the tension between tradition and progress unfolds in the future. real world. Whether it's the festival's repudiation of Netflix, or the way Cannes deals with the #MeAlso movement and gender parity, controversies on the Croisette can be sobering. It seems odd to say that I will miss all of that, but I think Cannes is an elegant and distorted mirror of Hollywood, and I always leave there with a new perspective on the culture I return to.

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SCOTT: Over the past couple of years, the Cannes-Netflix lawsuit - yes, I'm going to embellish what I'm saying with Gallicisms, so what? - has served as a spicy microcosm of the biggest tensions within the global film industry . The French tradition of subsidizing and defending their cultural heritage is often a mockery for Americans inside and outside the film industry, but if I am to take sides between France and American monopoly tech companies, I will always choose France.

However, there is no doubt that streaming as a cultural and economic force has been reinforced by the coronavirus, and that the question of whether Cannes will return arises from deeper uncertainties and greater anxieties about the future of cinema.

DARGIS: I'm going to Cannes too. I have been thinking a lot about the experience of going to the movies while in confinement because I spend a surprising amount of time in front of the television (watching old Hollywood movies and a British police series). There's nothing like being forced to stay home to appreciate the beauty of going out, especially to the movies. That has reminded me that while I am writing about movies, just like you two, I am not writing enough about the experience of watching movies. But we should do it because it is essential to the way we see and understand movies, as well as how they affect us.

I recently interviewed James Gray, who has featured four of his films in the festival's main competition, including "Dreams of Freedom," in 2013. We started talking about the movie-going experience, and he said that basically his purpose as a filmmaker is to capture the attention of the audience. Or, as he put it, "My job is to make you feel in that movie theater from start to finish, and not think about your bladder, feel like there's no choice but to watch the movie - and that's what the concept is all about. of dramatically increasing tensions. " When you pause a movie or start texting in the middle of a movie, you turn cinema into television.

(c) The New York Times 2020

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