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By Mark Peranson
Around this time of year, every year for the last 6-0, bleary-eyed members of the film cognoscenti worldwide are met with the same query upon returning, Odysseus-like, back home: So, how was Cannes? Critics, programmers, casual filmgoers, and even border guards have a great interest in the goings-on in some small town in the south of France, and why not: Cannes is Cannes, and no festival has managed to surpass it in terms of gold (and fool’s gold). I suppose it’s better than reaching customs and being asked, “Have you seen Pirates of the Caribbean 3?” and replying, “No, but I’ve just lived through Pirates of the Mediterranean.”
Though every year it’s my nature to complain, by year’s end, sure enough, them Cannes films sure look pretty damned good. So 2007 will be no exception, despite whatever reservations will follow. For an international film magazine not to cover Cannes would be inconceivable, and in the bulk of the pages that follow one will find an unparalleled heap of selected reviews, interviews, and analyses from the sections that make up that entity known as “Cannes,” including titles in Competition, Un Certain Regard (such as Night Train and Terror’s Advocate), and the Quinzaine (Control, Ploy). Sorry Critic’s Week, you don’t have to be Johnny Depp to avoid walking all the way down to the “other end of the world,” especially when it’s so damned hot. As hot as Asia.
But just as I am punching out this Editor’s Note comes word that the great Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène has died at the age of 84. I’m hoping that other writers with greater brainpower than I have at present will have done justice to the role Sembène has played in world cinema by the time Issue 31 hits the stands, but my currently preoccupied mind takes me back to watching Sembène’s final film in the darkened, energized Salle Debussy, one of the world’s great movie theatres (leg room notwithstanding). Yes, Moolaadé received its premiere at Cannes 2004 to a standing ovation (Sembène and lead actress Fatoumata Coulibaly are pictured above in the lobby after the screening), and won that year’s Prix Un Certain Regard. Yet as soon as the standing ovation subsided, the response was immediate: Why isn’t Moolaadé in Competition? And that, in a nutshell, is Cannes.