Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Day 12: This One's in the Cannes

by Richard Schwartz

CANNES, May 18 -- Thank heavens for Spicoli.

If it weren't for Sean Penn winning the Best Actor award at tonight's ceremony, the night would've been a total loss. And Penn did look a bit like his stoned surfer bum alter ago standing up there with two beautiful French starlets as he accepted his honor.

Unfortunately, that was the lone highlight of the awkwardly produced closing awards ceremony, a sixty-minute schlockfest that made "The People's Choice Awards" look impressive. And much like "The People's Choice," it's rather easy to anticipate the winners of this contest because they're all notified by telephone in advance and told to attend. Really, would Penn have stayed in town if he knew he wasn't going to win anything?

The Palme D'Or was rather disappointing, as the winners were chosen based more on politics than filmmaking. There was little to get excited about this year and the all-star jury confirmed that in choosing an Iranian picture and a Japanse flick to share the Palme.

But neither this disappointing selection of films nor the overdone hype of the golden anniversary should lead one to be cyncial about the Cannes Film Festival. This is still quite a trip, folks.

Yet I've already heard grizzled festival veterans moaning about the overcommercialization and the crowds and the rest. One friends who has attended Cannes for twenty years told me they were singing the same song at her first festival visit. 'You should have been her 20 years ago, darling. *Then* it was a festival.' She then proceeded to complain about this year's event and wax nostalgiac about her virgin experience.

And she confidently assured me I'd do the same in 20 years, if I ever came back. That's a big "if," but everyone says it's difficult not to return. Even the biggest cynics, and there seems to be plenty in this business.

Reminds me of a conversation I overheard the other day, some whiny industry type shouting into his cell phone: "I'm under so much stress... I can't get anything done... This is a total clusterfuck... I hate this place... I can't wait to get home... I'm not coming back." And then, in the next breath, "Did you check to see if we can book the hotel room for next May?"

That the Cannes mentality. Kvetch and kvetch, but make sure the room's booked. I don't yet have a room for next year. Heck, I don't know if I'll even get home in the first place. The French railroad conductors are striking again, meaning I might have to stay in Cannes just a little bit longer. I don't think I'd really mind.


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