Has the Magic Returned to the Cannes Film Festival and Market?

Has the Magic Returned to the Cannes Film Festival and Market?

Has the Magic Returned to the Cannes Film Festival and Market?

Buyers and sellers, critics and cinephiles alike hope that 2022 is the year that the Croisette bounces back as a place for art, business and a desperately needed sense of community.In April, when Cannes leaders unveiled the lineup for this year’s festival, Cannes general delegate/artistic director Thierry Fr’emaux acknowledged the uncertainty of hosting a global cinema event in the third year of a pandemic that just doesn’t seem to end.
“It was said last year it was the first festival post-crisis,” Fr’emaux said. “While we shall not say it this year, we hope it dearly.”

Lots of people are saying as much this year, albeit with their fingers crossed behind their backs. Buyers and sellers of films, critics and cinephiles alike hope that 2022 is the year that Cannes bounces back as a place for art, business and a desperately needed sense of community in a film world that has just lived through an existential crisis. Cannes has changed in some dramatic ways since its pre-pandemic iteration – and we all have, too.

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“Every cinema in the world shut down,” says Alex Walton, co-head of WME Independent, which will be selling packages and finished films in the South of France, including the domestic rights to Ruben “Ostlund’s dark comedy Triangle of Sadness, which will compete for the Palme d’Or, and the first Pakistani film to premiere at the festival, Joyland, which will screen in the Un Certain Regard section. “The business models have changed. So much has evolved since we last sat at a communal table together. It’ll be great to see people again and to do business directly. My expectation is that it’s going to be a return to form.”
A look at this year’s lineup – the festival’s 75th – certainly suggests a major revival is afoot at Cannes after a diminished summer 2021 gathering that hosted about half the usual number of attendees and an outright canceled 2020 fest in the dark, early days of the pandemic. Out of competition, Hollywood studios are bringing some of their big-budget summer spectacles, like Paramount’s Top Gun: Maverick, directed by Joseph Kosinski, and Warner Bros.’ Elvis, directed by Baz Luhrmann. In competition, speciality distributors plan to deliver star-fueled auteur moments, with George Miller’s MGM-Film Nation fantasy drama Three Thousand Years of Longing, starring Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton; David Cronenberg’s Neon horror movie Crimes of the Future with Viggo Mortensen, L’ea Seydoux and Kristen Stewart; and James Gray’s Focus Features coming-of-age story Armageddon Time, starring Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins and Jeremy Strong. Festivalgoers also will get to see new work from art house A-listers like Park Chan-Wook (Decision to Leave), Claire Denis (The Stars at Noon) and Kelly Reichardt (Showing Up).

It is Cannes’ buzziest lineup in years, and it comes amid signs of modernization. The festival, which has been so traditionalist in years past as to forbid red carpet selfies, has a surprising new tech sponsor that brings with it an audience of more than 1 billion people: TikTok. “It would be crazy to ignore this means of communication,” Pierre Lescure, president of the festival, said of the partnership in the lineup press conference. There’s another dramatic sign of Cannes’ evolution: After this year’s festival, Lescure will step down from his leadership role, and Cannes, which has garnered criticism for its failure to program female directors and for a misogynist culture that once required women to wear high heels on the red carpet, will for the first time be led by a woman, Iris Knobloch, the former boss of WarnerMedia France and Germany.
Even before COVID-19, Cannes seemed to be losing some of its luster to its fall festival frenemy, Venice. “Does Anyone Still Care?” this writer wrote in a 2019 Cannes diary for THR. Increasingly it seemed we didn’t, as major studios and streamers started to skip the festival, fewer stars walked the red carpet and the extravagant parties and champagne-fueled yacht bacchanals were fewer. Maybe we didn’t still care, but we would soon learn what we were taking for granted.
“What these two years has shown us is that we can do things differently, and that’s great,” says Courtney Sexton of CNN Films, which will bring The Last Movie Stars, Ethan Hawke’s six-hour documentary about Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. “But it’s been such a loss for the work we do. The collective act of watching a movie together cannot be had in a virtual environment. It can’t be replicated. I want to absorb and experience all of it.”
For many, the experience of this Cannes will mean seeing colleagues in person for the first time since 2019, and the French wine will be flowing.
“Cannes is going to be absolutely madcap this year. I’m super excited, I’m champing at the bit,” says Jonathan Yunger, co-president of Millennium Media. “We did the virtual European Film Market [in February], and all our buyers were, ‘Let’s have a drink in Cannes,’ ‘Let’s have a drink in Cannes.’ I think this Cannes is going to turn us all into alcoholics.”

The thing about living through history, including now both a global pandemic and a war raging in Europe, is that the grave losses tend to remind you of the pleasures you felt entitled to before the world changed. Yes, Cannes needed to evolve. But perhaps we, too, needed to learn to love it again. After two years spent slumped over our laptops in athleisure wear, to dress up and walk the red carpeted steps of the Palais, to hear the roar of applause at the 2,300-seat Lumi`ere Theatre, and even to feel the fatigue of coffee- and pastry-fueled work at Cannes will be like finally waking up.
“When you stand on the red carpet at the Palais, there’s something quite electric about it,” says Marc Weinstock, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at Paramount Pictures, which is bringing Top Gun: Maverick and Tom Cruise, who will be the subject of a tribute, in the star’s first return to the festival since the premiere of Far and Away in 1992. “Between the press in motion and the swell of energy and excitement, there is an undeniable moment when you say to yourself, ‘Oh, we’re walking into something we’ll never forget.’ “
Cannes can’t – and shouldn’t – return to what it was pre-pandemic. But it can become something new that we now know we’ve always needed.
Scott Roxborough contributed to this report.


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