Offscreen Notes

Film Festivals, 2023

January 11th, 2023

The Cannes Film Festival is scheduled for May 16 through May 27, 2023; and, as usual, there is anticipation for the kinds of works that might gain the attention of its accomplished judges. Past judges have included Luis Bunuel, Andre Bazin, Dolores Del Rio, George Stevens, Henry Miller, Francois Truffaut, Ousmane Sembene, Anthony Burgess, Mario Vargas Llosa, Raul Ruiz, Luc Besson, Toni Morrison, Joel and Ethan Coen, and Rebecca Hall. The Golden Palm—the Palme d’or, named for the coat of arms of the city of Cannes on the French Riviera—is the most prestigious award at the Cannes Film Festival; and in 2022 it was given to Triangle of Sadness, a satire of fame and wealth focusing on the survival of a luxury cruise disaster, and featuring actors Charlbi Dean Kriek and Woody Harrelson, and directed by filmmaker Ruben Östlund, who had won the award in 2017 for his art world portrait, The Square, starring Claes Bang as a museum curator whose sophistication and success are sabotaged by a lapse in judgement. The film The Square suggests the limits of attempting to make art relevant – the issues roiling outside the museum or theatre world are not easy to control.

A visit to Cannes to see pleasing and provocative motion pictures is one of the highlights of the year for resourceful film lovers. The Cannes Festival began in 1939, and its attendees were welcomed to international cinema in a beautiful location with fanfare and elegant parties, despite the threatening atmosphere of military conflict (Hitler and Mussolini had interfered with another festival, and an early September 1939 declaration of war delayed aspects of this one); and after the war’s end, Cannes began anew in 1946. Black Orpheus won the Palme d’Or in 1959, La Dolce Vita in 1960, and The Leopard in 1963. Taxi Driver won it in 1978, The Mission in 1986, and Wild at Heart in 1990. The rest, as they say, is history; and registration for the official selections for 2023 is now open. Of course, Cannes is one of many significant festivals, part of a contemporary film culture that includes technical skills, business trade, and aesthetic theory; theatrical screenings, television, and digital streaming; and commentary and reviews in books and periodicals as well as the most ordinary conversations.

Film festivals offer the opportunity to celebrate the appeal of cinema beyond box office receipts: art; and the origins of festivals may be found in the film appreciation clubs of the 1920s that affirmed serious work and sought to articulate the unique qualities of motion pictures—and the ability of films to recharge the possibilities for new perceptions as they provided both novel and mundane objects of consideration. However, these days, the recognition and recommendations of international festivals are used to buttress the reputations of films for commercial purposes (the complexities of our human existence!). Film lovers are there and so are film marketers—sometimes in the same body. Before the Cannes Film Festival in May, there will be the Sundance Film Festival January 20 – 30, 2023; the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, January 25 – February 5, 2023; the Berlin International Film Festival February 16 – 26, 2023; the South by Southwest Conference and Festival March 10 – 19, 2023; the Istanbul Film Festival April 7 – 18, 2023; and the Harlem International Film Festival May 18 – 28, 2023. The festivals will allow for the introduction to new talent and the ongoing exploration of established masters.

Once the parade of celebrity and contemplation and controversy is finished at this year’s Cannes festival, many will turn their eyes to other places, other premieres: The Tribeca Film Festival is from June 7 through June18, 2023; and the Jerusalem Film Festival is July 13 – 23, 2023; the Fantasia International Film Festival in Canada July 13 – August 2, 2023; the Zurich Film Festival September 28 – October 8, 2023; the Adelaide Film Festival in Australia October 18 – 29, 2023; and the Stockholm International Film Festival November 8 – 19, 2023. One can find festivals devoted to particular cultures and orientations. They will open windows to wander and wonder. (Daniel Garrett)

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