While I do my best to keep up with the wide world of cinema, it’s a frontier that’s continuously expanding. For me, Cannes’ official selection serves as a barometer to point out the artists and films I ought to be paying attention to. It’s easy enough to keep track of the 5-10 American films that will receive a ton of marketing money from major studios in their turn as eventual (though painfully obvious) Oscar bait.
Were it not for Cannes, it’s possible I might still not have found my way into the work of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Pedro Almodovar, Michael Haneke, Wong Kar-Wai, Abbas Kiarostami, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Olivier Assayas, Cristian Mungiu, or Lars von Trier. That’s a long list of some of contemporary cinema’s most influential artists, and they don’t receive exposure on most mainstream media channels. Even with some websites and publications expressly devoted to film, there’s a tendency toward Anglo-centrism and films funded by major American studios. Sure, sometimes they’ll go highbrow and talk about period pieces featuring characters speaking with British accents (even if they’re supposed to be ancient Romans or something), but I don’t really think that counts.
For my money, the films that need to be sought out are often the ones that matter in the grand scheme of things. As recently as last year, my pick for the best film of 2010, Certified Copy, was one that I was initially exposed to through Cannes.
Unfortunately, I (for whom the Festival circuit is, in some regard, my business) have never had the opportunity to go to Cannes in person. However, a colleague of mine made the trip only days after we attended an 8-day U.S. Festival, and I’m hoping to bring you some of his thoughts on what he saw in the near future.