As May chugs along to the mid-way point, the eyes of movie-lovers across the globe must cast their gaze towards some sunny beaches in France.
Though some people might think the Cannes Film Festival exists only to give Hollywood’s finest a chance to show off their most expensive clothing on the red carpet, that’s actually not the case. Every year the finest (and less-than-finest) filmmakers throughout the world submit their movies to Cannes, vying for a shot at international cinematic glory.
The festival has been a launching ground for new talent for decades, and perhaps the next great filmmaker is waiting to be discovered during the festival’s two weeks of screenings. Or, maybe this year will be dominated by gigantic failures that will irritate the rabid critics.
Lord knows the festival has been filled with both winners and stinkers over the years, which is why we thought we’d take this opportunity to look at some of the sweetest discoveries and biggest disappointments of the Cannes Film Festival’s 63-year reign.
Roberto Rossellini’s Rome, Open City kicked off the Italian neo-realism movement and won the first Palm d’Or at Cannes in 1946. The win immediately associated the festival with the budding art film community and throughout the ’50s and ’60s, virtually all of the important international films premiered there.
Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, François Truffaut, Satyajit Ray and others launched their careers on the sunny beaches of Cannes during this period.
In 1970, Robert Altman transformed himself from a weathered TV director into one of the great American filmmakers when MASH screened, announcing a new wave of American cinema that cleaned up at the festival for the next decade.
Even Quentin Tarantino’s transition from chatterbox video clerk to movie icon tied into Cannes when Pulp Fiction took the Palm d’Or in 1994.
Of course, it hasn’t all been roses at Cannes. Most of the historic Cannes disasters have thankfully been long forgotten. So let’s focus on a few rough patches from recent years — like the instantly forgotten Americanization of Godzilla that closed the film festival in 1998 to half-empty theatres and a chorus of boos.
Donnie Darko director Richard Kelly saw his career screech to a sudden halt after his sophomore effort, Southland Tales, was slaughtered by critics in 2006.
In recent years, many forgettable Hollywood films like Shrek 2 and X-Men 3 have premiered at Cannes hoping to benefit from the publicity, only to see the festival merely be the first round of a critical mauling.
The Cannes Film Festival opens today and runs through May 24.
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