05/14/2013 01:32 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Cannes: Film Festival or Festival of Films?

When people with bloodshot eyes meet in one place to screen films, it is the custom to call this gathering a film festival.

Contrary to popular belief, it was not the Lumière brothers who invented the cinematograph, but the mathematician Archimedes (287-212 BC).

According to Archimedes, indeed, any film thrown into a festival receives, by the notoriety given to it by this presentation, a thrust equal to:


The film considered is thus attributed a new surge of glory for its director, revenue for the producer and a ranking in the Guinness book of records for the work itself.

What are the characteristics purporting to justify the denomination "festival film"?

2013-05-10-Platoraphael2.jpgUnlike the works of great directors, a festival film is designed for the sole purpose of being selected for one of these international festivals, of which the Cannes Film Festival is the nec plus ultra, if we are to believe Plato of Athens ( 427-348 BC). The same Plato whose myth of the cave allowed him to claim the invention of the film theater.

The contenders for the title of festival film long believed it was enough to imagine out-of-the- ordinary roles to cause programmers, critics, jurors and spectators of this demented concoction to gape in admiration: between fallen sister and addicted sister, who will therefore prevail, Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, with her contortions and blood and thunder posturing, gesticulations and vehemence? Everything that ostentation -- and even worse, pretention -- can do to be noticed and admired.

That can be the stance of the twisted hunchback, with whom all post-Charles Laughton Quasimodo can identify; it can be a rape in a subway corridor, simulated or not, with the unfortunate Monica Bellucci writhing beneath the vile attacker; it could be Jack Nicholson when he raises his eyebrows the way a flamenco dancer raises her skirt; or finally it could be an articulated shark, whose jerking fins show it has fangs, Oh President Spielberg!

In short, everything that serves to magnify the cardinal virtue of the festival film, starting with exaggeration. Excess in all its forms.

At other times, the festival film quiets down, and the subterfuge takes a different form. Now it's all internalized expressions; sobriety is of the essence, minimalism on show. Meryl Streep's imperceptibly quivering nostril in The Bridges of Madison County just as the peak of emotion is meant to be reached, and the top prize is pre-empted.

Admittedly, a tear sometimes formed in the corner of the selection committee's dry eyes, but we always ended up by finding somebody insensitive enough to shout "Oh no! Not for me..." And the film was not chosen, because it is so true one person's opinion expressed categorically can tip the balance in favor of disfavor.

The snobbery of the "art film" appeared around 1910-1920, then of the "avant-garde film", and so on, from one genre to the next, but by the time we realized they existed, the trend was over, demonstrating once again with Euclid (300 BC) that the sum of prime numbers does continue to infinity, i.e.:


This is why, after so many attempts, the concept of the festival film fell by the wayside and we returned to the practice of making, quite simply, the best films possible.

Which was already not so bad after all.

Translated and cross-posted from the original French on Le Huffington Post.