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Books & CultureSeptember/October 2008



All Things Shining
The 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

The sensible question is why anyone would venture to the sunny Riviera in so lovely a month as May to sit in the dark, hour after hour, day after day, days on end. And all of that sitting in the darkness was to find some kind of light, or at least glimmers thereof. Oddly, though, it worked, and then some, though in a very unexpected way. The 2008 Cannes Film Festival lacked any film that flared incandescently in the usual firmament of many really fine films. Instead, the big surprise was the cumulative efflorescence of the whole lot—not only as cinematic dazzle, of which there was plenty, but as a resounding chorus of wonder and praise for one of the more mystifying portions of the human riddle.

Understand, first, that the entries at Cannes came from all over and went everywhere. A young filmmaker from Kazakh-stan, Sergey Dvortsevoy, brought Tulpan, the plainly told story of a young ex-sailor who wants to herd sheep on the barren steppes. From the Philippines came Serbis, a seamy tale of a dilapidated family-run porn house (still sporting, with ham-fisted irony, the huge marquee from its prosperous days, F-A-M-I-L-Y). From Italy came striking crime stories about guns, the mob, and teenage boys (Gomorrah) and guns, the mob, and aging politicians (El Divo). Brazil and Argentina delivered splendid films about hard lives in hard places. The list goes on, more than one can absorb in the ten days, film after film of fresh story and cinematic elegance. There were bad movies too, very bad, ones to walk out on (once), but, ah, the wonder is that so much was so very good—and that so very many, for all their unsortable profusion, went after the same daunting subject matter. There was with startling regularity a resolute, ...

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