Lining the blue white shore, alongside the Festival Palais at Cannes, are be-flagged national pavilions, several dozen of them — among them India’s. In recent years, it has become a packed and happening place, often a meeting point of people who have nothing really to do with India or its films. “See you at the India Pavilion,” you keep hearing and it is not just the free refreshments and samosas that bring them there. The Pavilion is part of something almost as important as the films: the Festiva Marche (the Festival Market). The Pavilions apart, two huge floors of the Palais offer world cinema to the world. Cannes is as important commercially as it is artistically.
Throughout the day, parties meet over breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner. Like the cinema in the Palais, these gatherings help establish identity and objectives.
The hosts are specific film festivals, distributors and producers publicising their wares, or they are the Cannes organisers themselves. The cocktail hour, spanning sundown, is like an open house festival of its own. Last year, the Turkish Pavilion held a surprise birthday reception for British film critic Derek Malcolm, a leading figure in Cannes for a score and more years. Ismail Merchant was known for his fabulous yacht receptions.
The second day of the Cannes festival was marked by an elegant and select lunch given by ‘Directors’ Fortnight’ for its friends and well-wishers hosted by director Edouard Waintrop. Carlo Chatrian of the Locarno film festival threw a cocktail reception for a much larger group. At night, was an event much looked forward to these days, the India dinner. It was on the Majestic Hotel Beach hosted jointly by the National Film Development Corporation of India and the Cannes market organisers.
There was not an inch to move, such was the turnout despite the incessant rain. In attendance were the Secretary of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Uday Kumar Varma, the Joint Secretary, Films, Raghuvendra Singh and First Secretary (Press, Information and Culture) of the embassy of India in Paris, Apoorva Srivastava. A regular recent presence was absent, the Indian ambassador, Ranjan Mathai, unavoidably held up now by being India’s Foreign Secretary in Delhi.
Extremes in back-to-back viewing
Festivals pose extremes for its avid viewers. After the high-living excesses of The Great Gatsby, the second competition film of the opening day was the relentlessly grim Heli from Mexico directed by Amat Escalante, the youngest director competing at this year’s Cannes. The film follows an engaging 12-year-old innocent, Estela, who is besotted by a 17-year-old police cadet and wants to elope with him. But his involvement with a narcotics gang triggers a brutal chain of revenge. The slow burning film is deeply affecting with its unflinching look at violence and bloodshed. In it, somewhere is a cry for justice.
The ‘Un Certain Regard’ section opened yesterday evening with a frothy, fanciful look at the mindless side of Hollywood and the lives of its rich and famous. Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring looks at the antics of four well-to-do young teenagers who steal millions of high-brand designer goods from luxury homes when their owners are away. The film is based on a true story. The four-member gang came to be known as the Bling Ring. Emma Watson stars as one of them, the wide-eyed and empty-headed Nicki. The film lacks much force or truth because it is taken over by the very absurdities that it is trying to ridicule.