Only in the internet age could a born and bred San Diegan cover the Cannes Film Festival for a great publication straight out of Brooklyn. It’s film criticism without borders, without limits. But the facelessness of modern technology and temporal ambiguity of social media can bring out the worst in people, and what makes attending film festivals like Cannes so rewarding, especially for a writer like me who lives far away from the critical hub of New York City, is getting to meet fellow critics, programmers, and talent face-to-face. There is no substitute for a friendly handshake or an infectious laugh, and in many ways these small human moments transcend the films themselves. Great memories are not made via Twitter, but over a cold beer or piping hot espresso.
During a year of endless personal transition, most of it incredibly necessary, Cannes 2012 has been my one constant on the horizon, a reminder of the passion, discovery, and friendship I found at last year’s festival. So to say I’m humbled and excited to go back for a second helping would be an understatement. On paper, the 2012 lineup is impressive by any standard.
Kiarostami, Hong, Audiard, Carax, Resnais, Haneke, Reygadas, Cronenberg, Vinterberg: the list goes on, and that’s just a sampling of the auteurs with films in competition. Especially interesting is the U.S. slant to Cannes 2012, with the inclusion of films by or about Americans ranging from John Hillcoat’s prohibition drama Lawless with Shia LeBouf and Tom Hardy to Jeff Nichols’s Mud, a sun-drenched southern headlined by Matthew McConaughy and Reese Witherspoon. But I’m most excited for Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly, starring Brad Pitt, supposedly a gritty throwback to the Friends of Eddie Coyle style of B-movie filmmaking.
Last year’s Un Certain Regard section offered some of the festival’s strongest entries (Miss Bala, Martha Marcy May Marlene), so my expectations for this year’s crop are high. There’s work by Xavier Dolan, Lou Ye, Pablo Trapero, and 7 Days In Havana, an anthology film focused on the Cuban experience with vignettes by Gaspar Noe, Benecio del Toro, Julio Medem, and more. Personally, I’m curious to see if Sundance sensation Beasts of the Southern Wild can live up to the astronomic hype it’s attained from critics and programmers alike. The Director’s Fortnight sidebar, which I completely ignored last year, has two must-see entries in 2012. There’s Pablo Larrain’s No, the third film (after Tony Manero and Post Mortem) in his trilogy about Chilean repression and isolation under the iron thumb of Pinochet. Even more essential is a special screening of the late Raul Ruiz’s La Noche de Enfrente, supposedly completed one week before the master filmmaker’s death.
Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine me finding time for the Cannes Classics sidebar this year, although seeing the restored (again) cut of Once Upon a Time in America sounds undoubtedly enticing. But like the veteran critic Mike D’Angelo told me during my inaugural trip to the Croissette, “I’m here to see new films”, and it’s a mantra that makes a lot of sense when facing a program as sprawling as Cannes. Time will only tell if this “great” lineup of new films lives up to expectations, but it’s wonderful to be excited about all that potential, especially during the long flight across the Atlantic. It will also be grand to see some old friends, and meet some new ones for the first time.