Fifty years ago, the Palme d'Or winner at Cannes was Fellini's "La Dolce Vita." More every year I realize that it was the film of my lifetime. But indulge me while I list some more titles.
The other entries in the official competition included "Ballad of a Soldier," by Grigori Chukhrai; "Lady with a Dog," by Iosif Kheifits; "Home from the Hill," by Vincente Minnelli; "The Virgin Spring," by Ingmar Bergman;" "Kagi," by Kon Ichikawa; "L'Avventura," by Michelangelo Antonioni; "Le Trou," by Jacques Becker; "Never on Sunday," by Jules Dassin; "Sons and Lovers," by Jack Cardiff; "The Savage Innocents," by Nicholas Ray, and "The Young One," by Luis Bunuel.
And many more. But I am not here at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival to mourn the present and praise the past.
With departure for Cannes only days away, the specter of drifting volcano ash inspires its own shivery anticipation of the festival, and not in a good way. Cannes is a convention city year around, and a new festival or international congress moves in pretty much as soon as the previous one moves out. It's not like you could extend your hotel stay on the spur of the moment, and at Riviera prices, who would want to?
I'm hoping the only eruptions are of the cinematic kind. For two weeks every May, the Cannes Film Festival is like a volcano blowing its top, spewing new movies day and night. In view of this massive flow, it's a rather silly insiders' game to speculate on good years vs. bad years. With hundreds of films to choose from, taking into account the official selections and the film market, this huge festival is what you make it. Every year is a good year. Looking for great art? There's always some to be found. Looking for low-down-sleaze? There's more of that than you even want to know about. Looking for new films from Latvia, for instance? Take your pick, and get the scoop on the state of the Latvian film industry from an eager sales agent while you're at it.
Every year as Cannes looms, I'm reminded of the puckish advice of British director Mike Leigh ("Happy-Go-Lucky," "Vera Drake"), pronounced many years ago when he was on the festival jury. At the jury press conference, Leigh was asked about his expectations. "The festival is like a lemon," he said, "you just have to suck it and see how it tastes." As luck would have it, Leigh will be premiering his new film "Another Year" in the competition. I'm looking forward to seeing what flavor this one adds to the festival.