They say familiarity breeds contempt, which might explain why this year’s Cannes program was one of the worst received in recent memory.
After the critical bashing suffered by last year’s Cannes selection, the consensus on this year’s edition was more positive, a perplexing conclusion given that the festival’s by-now well-worn curatorial recipe was once again followed more or less to the letter. For all the handwringing about Netflix withdrawing its titles after a spat with artistic director Thierry Frémaux over theatrical distribution, the competition slate offered yet another stolid blend of Cannes stalwarts, established names, and newer faces of questionable merit, with only the latter suggesting that slots needed to be filled
Absence makes the heart grow fond, but does that apply to Cannes? Returning to this biggest, most stressful of film festivals after a years enforced absence due to the ongoing pandemic was strangely ambivalentthe pleasure and privilege of finally seeing new films on the big screen tempered by the worry and uncertainty of the current situation.
For all the shifts in the festival landscape over the last year, the 72nd Locarno Film Festival proved far less of a departure than initially expected. With former festival head Carlo Chatrian and his programming team having moved to the Berlin Film Festival and the equally experimentally-minded Paolo Moretti now at the helm of Directors Fortnight in Cannes, the question was how these curatorial changes might affect the traditionally cutting-edge Swiss festival.
Following a couple of less-than-stellar editions, the Cannes competition returned to a degree of form this year, finding not just a more effective balance between expected quantities and intriguing newcomersbut also managing to assemble them around a loose themenamely, the push and pull between genre and auteurism and how one can often resemble the other.