Spike Lee, pictured in Cannes in 2018 for BlacKkKlansman, said of the Festival cancellation and his role as this year's jury president: 'The world has changed … the stuff we love has to take a back seat' Photo: Richard Mowe
So the organisers of the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival finally have bitten the bullet and bowed to the inevitable by postponing this year’s event late yesterday after intense speculation and criticism of the protracted process.
Instead of the 12 to 23 dates in May, the Festival now may run six weeks later in June, depending on the global state of the Coronavirus contagion. Although the move demonstrates positivity, how many prospective attendees are likely to hold on with baited breath until the next announcement? Most will be scrambling to cancel accommodation and travel and are unlikely to embrace the prospect of the normally packed screenings in air-conditioned theatres and screening rooms that would be a breeding ground for any infection whatever the precautions.
And visitors would still have to make their way to the Riviera, which given the wholesale grounding of aircraft and countries in lockdown is likely to be challenging to predict in the circumstances.
In the long term, it could be argued that it would be better for Cannes simply to pull the plug and work on bumper edition in 2021. Other major film festivals have postponed or cancelled including Edinburgh, which is the same vintage as Cannes. It is also unlikely given the horrendous march of Covid-19 in Italy that the Venice Film Festival at the start of September will take place although no official announcement has been made.
Films that had been touted to bow in Cannes included Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch, which had been slated for 24 July release as well as Paul Verhoeven’s Benedetta, Leos Carax’s Annette and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Memoria, with Tilda Swinton.
French cinemas frequently are awash with titles (some garlanded with prizes) post-Cannes, which is added incentive to maintain some kind of Cannes presence - although at the moment French cinemas, in common with most places around Europe and the States, remain firmly shuttered.
If the festival decided to move dates, Spike Lee, who had been confirmed as president of the jury, has agreed to make himself available for duties. In an interview with the trade magazine Variety he was quoted as saying: “I agree 100% with Thierry [Frémaux, delegate general] and the Cannes Film Festival. The world has changed and it’s changing every day. People are dying and France’s president has said, several times — I’m paraphrasing — ‘We are at war.’ We are in a war-like time.The stuff that we love has to take a back seat: movies, TV, sports, the NBA is a global sport, baseball. So many things have been postponed, and I agree with this move.”
Just how many of those who plan their Cannes excursions months in advance will continue to play the waiting game remains in the balance.