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Cannes 2002 - Editorial: A happy Cannes
THIS YEAR, THE international film festival at Cannes showcased some of the most positive works seen in a long time. Of course, the Festival chose to call them "energetic". Whatever they were, the movies were inclined to celebrate life, and one suspected that this mood had something to do with what the world saw happen in America last year. The September tragedy had probably pushed producers and directors to sing a different tune, a merry one at that. Most veterans and critics at Cannes felt invigorated after years of melancholy and depression, when the screen appeared dark and forbidding, when films stubbornly refused to look at the brighter side of our existence.
There were many examples. The opening shot, Woody Allen's "Hollywood Ending", may not have been the most magnificent piece of creation from a senior director, but it had the feel of poignant sweetness to it. Mike Leigh's "All or Nothing" travelled through familiar terrain of family woes and maladjustment but ended on a high note with the members looking at one another in a new light. "Punch-Drunk Love" by Paul Thomas Anderson tells us how an awkward young man driven to despair by his seven sisters finds solace in a woman, curiously a friend of one of the siblings. Abbas Kiarostami's "Ten" was a technical novelty: shot entirely inside a car, it shows how a woman comes to terms with her divorce. More challenging than this must have been the plight of two people separated by religion but bonded by love in Elia Suleiman's "Divine Intervention" from Palestine. Even Finland's "gloomy" auteur decided to tell an elevating story in "The Man without a Past". Alexander Sokourov's "Russian Arc" was a full-length feature created through a single shot. "I am so fed up of editing", quipped the maker. France's contribution, "The Son", was a marvellous example of human forgiveness, where a man pardons the teenager who killed his infant son.
But India stuck to its cliched melodramatic madness, and went to town with Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Devdas". With its tears and tragedy, this film appeared out of place this summer. Worse, despite its colour and light spectacle, "Devdas" rang shallow and mournful. Indian cinema's approach has a certain hard-to-digest ingredient. What is more, Cannes saw a callous lack of solidarity among the country's movie fraternity. Given the kind of political and communal tension now being witnessed in India, this was regrettable. When the Festival inaugurated the first ever retrospective of an Indian auteur, Raj Kapoor, the Devdas team — including Mr. Bhansali, Aishwarya Rai and Shahrukh Khan — was embarrassingly conspicuous by its absence. The priorities were quite wrong even elsewhere: no one could explain satisfactorily why India needed a pavilion on the beach and a stall in the market this time. No one knows if the National Film Development Corporation, which had the stall, has ever done that kind of business to warrant such expenditure. Could it not have taken some space in the pavilion like it did last year? The Corporation's trade figures are, of course, kept under tight wraps, and the only explanation ever forthcoming at Cannes is that deals are under negotiation! Unfortunately, India fritters away its bright chances of buying and selling movies at Cannes, the mecca of cinema trade, much the same way as it fails to utilise the Festival to promote the best of its celluloid's talents.
(This editorial appeared in The Hindu dated May 29 2002)