*The Land of the Unknown: Roberto Minervini on What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? By Jordan Cronk. “Poetry floats up in my memory like sailboats in the fog”:Alexei German’s Khrustalyov, My Car! By Daniel Witkin. With Forever Presence: Jonathan Schwartz (1973-2018). By Max Goldberg. *Soft and Hard: Claire Denis on High Life. By Adam Nayman.
By Mark Peranson
Why was the 2008 Festival de Cannes different from all other Festivals de Cannes? I hope that every critic has his or her own answer, but for my subjective reply, I refer you to laugh at pages xx-xx. (If you can’t have fun, why live?) Besides that seriously surreal convergence of chance, opportunity, and hellacious acting prowess—that I must admit impacted on how I processed the rest of the festival—there were same high expectations and disappointing results. As usual, as I get into later on, Cannes didn’t knock me out, but after almost a decade of doing this, I realize that I’ll take those 12 rainy days in late May over whatever happenings await me this sure-to-be fallow summer.
So while the Canadian Competition offerings of Blindness—the first Canadian film ever to open Cannes—and Adoration were, well, less than impressive, two of the highlights of Cannes were very different documentaries from very different filmmakers more famous for their personal, fictional narratives, James Toback and Terence Davies—two gentlemen I’d love to see in a Celebrity Death Match. In roughly the same vein was what many smart critics deemed the highlight of a flaccid Competition, a docufiction hybrid from the great Jia Zhangke, though others defended Ari Folman’s animated documentary, Waltz With Bashir—both will be distributed in the coming months in Canadian cinemas, following festival screenings, and covered in subsequent issues of Cinema Scope (if I find the energy to continue with this folly). As much as I hate to admit it, all of you mutating filmmakers owe Michael Moore a debt of gratitude for breaking the glass ceiling. He’s the goddamned Hillary Clinton of the documentary world.
On that topic, it wasn’t intentional that almost all of the coverage that appears before to the Cannes spotlight pages covers nonfiction filmmaking, though I’m beyond being surprised (admittedly, this does include interviews with those two filmmakers responsible for Cannes’ standouts—we’ve got that Cannes-do spirit!),. If there’s any one trend dominating the circuit today, it’s an interest from filmmakers, critics, programmers, and audiences in something resembling reality, and I use the word “resembling” carefully. Everyone reading this is part of the contemporary movement to dissolve the old boundaries—from both fiction and nonfiction ends—and I thank you for it, because years from now (if, pace Toback, there’s still life on this planet), future critics may just single out this period with more enthusiasm than I can conjure up at the present.
One last note directed to subscribers and potential subscribers: you’ve probably noticed the lack of a DVD included in your envelope with this issue. It’s still in production, and customers not content to wait a few months can ask for their $20 back, though I hope that, for the time being, the tangible pages of a pretty decent, heartfelt magazine on international cinema will tide you over. Either that, or, pace Be Kind Rewind, the Cinema Scope reparatory players can offer up a sweded version of Colossal Youth; I’ve committed the seminal letter to memory, so I’m pretty confident that I can do a mean Ventura, and I’ll even deliver his lines in Hebrew. And if that falls through, each of you gets an autographed copy of Waiting for Sancho.