This is not the first time birds of ill omen (not Hitchcock's, of course) are predicting the death of cinema. And, at the very least, the inevitable death of independent cinema, which admittedly ranks lower at the box office than it did in the years between 1950 and 1980. There are several reasons for this: the proliferation of entertainment options, the displacement of creative inspiration to unfamiliar countries, cost inflation, scarcity of funding, industry pressure, etc.
Undaunted by the deluge of these various threats, the Cannes Film Festival isn't lowering its guard. It is pursuing its mission to protect independent cinema. It celebrates, cultivates, encourages, support and cherishes it. For the one as for the other, this is a matter of survival.
I remember all the unknown directors the festival has discovered in the last 30 years. I remember a proud young boy named Nanni Moretti, presenting his first film Ecco Bombo in Super 8 in competition in the Grand Auditorium. I remember a young Danish punk prone to panic attacks who couldn't even go down the Hotel Carlton stairs... He became Lars von Trier. I remember Krzysztof Kieslowski, Steven Soderbergh, who won the Palme d'Or and his star the Best Actor award the year Bertolucci chaired the jury. I remember Jane Campion, who came to show three short films and left with the Palme for shorts, and then a few years later with the Palme d'Or for The Piano. I remember Quentin Tarantino and how his film Reservoir Dogs cultivated black humor to the point of having a mobster cut off another mobster's ear, then pick it up and, literally, speak into his ear! I remember.
For all these years the Cannes Film Festival has had this function of springboard, look-out, launching rocket, and it will continue to perform it in the future.
This perpetual discovery, moreover, is the most exciting aspect for someone on the selection committee.
Yet this does not mean it should ignore popular cinema, the quality commercial cinema of the kind American studios, for example, have been making for years.
Indeed, the two souls of cinema coexist in Cannes: independent cinema and commercial cinema. And this magical equilibrium must be preserved, one embellishing the other, making it sing the way a fine wine inspires a delicious dish.
Who, then, will win the Palme d'Or this year? Remember the Palme goes, by definition, to a film that, in addition to its great intrinsic qualities, has the potential to be a hit with the public, while the Grand Prix is supposed to foster exploration, originality, the new writing of tomorrow's films.
So, who, dear Steven Spielberg? Who, ladies and gentlemen of the jury?
We can't wait! At this point, we'll know soon.
What's wonderful in Cannes, in either case, is when a film grabs the audience, takes them to paradise, moves them, touches their hearts, transports them to an altered state. There, moved, overwhelmed even, all they can do is applaud wildly, tirelessly, for minutes on end, left bound and helpless in the hands of the god-like creator.
Until the small ordinary facts of life, life as it is, everyday life, take over again, while waiting for the next time, waiting for the next conflagration of the soul.