13th May 2009

I first went to Cannes in May of l985. I had been appointed Head of Production at the BFI early in that month but everybody that I phoned for a meeting, had declined on the grounds that they would be In Cannes. It struck me very quickly that if I went to Cannes, I could meet everybody. Indeed that remains one of the main reasons for going to Cannes. Everybody is there: producers, distributors, stars, critics, programmers. This year the recession means fewer people but not fewer film people, Indeed the festival is vastly improved by the absence of all the state funded hangers on who had become such an unpleasant feature of recent years. Almost all my friends are there, and those who are not are those who have died. Maybe it is just Hercules’s death or my own age but I am exceptionally conscious as I walk the Croisette of the dead as well as the living.
My first 15 years at Cannes was drink fuelled meetings with distributors and film funds as I tried to raise money for future productions followed by drink fuelled parties. If I saw 2 or 3 films I was lucky. For the last decade, however, I have come to watch films and hope to watch between 30 and 50 in ten days. Parties are a thing of the past as I wake early and without a hangover for the first film of the day at 8.30.
The pleasure of watching a newly struck print perfectly projected with perfect sound first thing in the morning is very considerable and if you follow it with another film at 11, you can eat lunch with a good conscience. And as you eat you can talk. For Cannes is not just watching films, it is discussing them and for ten days movies are discussed under every aspect; technical, financial, social, aesthetic.
Now I always try to make the opening ceremony but this year I am a little late and rather than run the gamut of the hundreds of photographers, I nip up the back stairs. By great good fortune I arrive at the top of the stairs just as the jury are making the long march past the photographers. In the middle of them, looking as though he’s getting ready for a rumble in South London, is Hanif Kureishi. When they reach the top of the stairs he sees me and we go into a Hollywood clinch and I whisper in his ear “ not bad for two poor boys from London. “But I’m from Bromley, Colin’ he exclaims and we roll into the cinema.
The opening film,Up, features a new 3-D technology which all the smart money is saying is the wave of the future. Unsurprisingly the smart money knows nothing. The effects are lame and underwhelming as is the Pixar cartoon We hope for better on the morrow.

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