Everyone’s already linked to this, but having just been through ten days at the Cannes Film Festival I can say with some authority that Shane Danielsen‘s short Guardian piece is one of the most honest assessments of what journalists go through there that I’ve ever read, particularly for these two observations:
(a) “The discomforting and little-known truth is, if you’re a filmmaker in competition, your film’s success or failure is largely decided in about five minutes at the bottom of the steps outside the Salle Debussy or the Grand Palais Lumiere, by about four groups of highly film-literate critics, who tend to cluster according to nationality. There are the Americans, the Brits, the French (with a necessary distance between the Cahiers du Cinema and Positif camps, bien sur) and…miscellaneous.
“They light cigarettes and bow their heads in earnest discussion. The preceding work is discussed, debated, dissected. And for the first few moments, at least, a wary equivocation prevails: few will vouchsafe either extravagant praise or damning condemnation at once. Rather, they wait to see which way the wind is blowing; subconsciously or not, they take the temperature of the crowd.
“But it’s a tough crowd, and if the film in question has proved less than pitch-perfect, those little flaws soon add up. The criticisms accumulate, growing in ferocity, until by the time cigarette butts are being crushed underfoot, a rough consensus has emerged, soon to be graven in stone. C’est merde!
(b) “What is rarely noted is the sheer fatigue that Cannes, more than any other festival, engenders. Your average critic is recovering from a near-toxic combination of too little sleep, too much alcohol, incessant deadlines, mild food poisoning from some dodgy canapes … and, above all, too many movies, watched in too-rapid succession (often five or six a day, separated by 40-minute intervals) to be accorded anything like the consideration they deserve.”