It’s Sunday, May 24th. Normally I would’ve been be at the Cannes Festival for the 73* edition, the first of this new decade, hunkered down in the press room, gulping my umpteenth cup of coffee, with friends and colleagues, typing out the final reviews of this 2020 edition, running communication with others working from their hotel rooms, getting confirmations, or denials, about the latest rumor from the Villa, that most sacred of all places, where the members of the jury would have been confined, incommunicado, to work on their list of awardees in preparation for the closing ceremony, just a few hours away.
But it was not so.
Instead I was at a dog park in Malakoff, outside Paris, trying to coax my dog’s tennis ball out of a French bulldog’s jaws of steel before setting off on the walk back home.
A nasty virus came from far away and dealt a severe blow to the planet, perhaps the worst catastrophe any of us will have witnessed in his lifetime. The horror.
I wrote to the people who run the bed and breakfast to thank them, anyway, and to wish them good and a bright future. They, and many in the southern French region where the festival normally takes place, have had to absorb the devastasting, I’m sure, financial impact of the Cannes Festival being canceled, not to mention the human loss that people there, and the world over, have been confronted with. And what about the thousands of hopeful filmmakers, big and small, who were planning on bringing their film this year, and of the industry at large behind them, helping to make the Cannes Festival the essential event that it is?
On the French channel Arte (like our former IFC, Independent Film Channel, only better funded and much bigger) Cannes favorites, like “White Dog,” “The Square,” and the Michael Haneke-directed “Happy End,” starring Isabelle Huppert, have been showing, so many reminders of the void that 73* leaves behind.
And, even though Schopenhauer is my favorite philosopher, I am an optimist. I am weary and saddened that the Festival did not take place this year, a sentiment embodied by a lump in the throat, an awkwardness that you’re not really able to articulate. But, and even though the Festival is a well-run machine, one can only expect that the festival’s organization will come out ready for just about any adversity after this. Ditto for just about any human organization, one should hope. Better, stronger, with rapid decisionmaking, contingency plans at the ready and a renewed sense of duty to cinema. And nerves of steel.
Starting tomorrow, Monday, the countdown begins to the next Cannes Festival.
And I don’t even know what next year’s edition will be called. 73, or 74?
It’s a tossup.