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Monday, 13 May, 2002, 16:42 GMT 17:42 UK
Why I hate Cannes
Photographers at Cannes
Kermode has shunned the press pack at Cannes
test hello test
By Mark Kermode
BBC Radio Five Live film critic
I don't go to the Cannes Film Festival.

Indeed, I consider myself a fully paid-up Cannes Conscientious Objector. If the whole area simply fell into the sea and sank, I wouldn't be sad.

When it comes to the Croissette, my motto is "Cannes Don't".

Why? Well, first off it's in France. Secondly, the weather is atrocious - all sunshine and heat-waves, an abomination to any true movie lover who understands that the only healthy way to exist is in the dark and (preferably) dank.

Thirdly, the place is absolutely full of "media journalists", international hacks desperate for a story, panic-stricken about their next looming deadline, and duty-bound to impress upon their readers/listeners the myth that there's a really great cultural party happening over here, to which they have been invited but you haven't.

Robert Altman
Robert Altman's Kansas City was "stupefyingly dreadful!
I say all this with some authority because I did Cannes myself for six miserable years as Radio One's allegedly chirpy film critic.

Waving goodbye to my dignity as I slithered off the plane on opening night, I then shamelessly whored myself around the Croissette for the next fortnight, spending three-and-a-half minutes in the company of any nit-wit celebrity in town in the pathetic hope of filing "upbeat" stories from the festival.

It was a disaster.

As a film critic, my main objection to Cannes is the festival has nothing to do with films.

Woody Allen's new movie opens the festival
Woody Allen's new movie opens 2002's festival
Even the press-screenings there are an abomination, attended by near-psychotic scribes whose faculties have been terminally impaired by the loathsome environment, watching movies they can't understand at times that they were never meant to be seen, in the company of others who (if truth be told) don't want to be their either.

I had to watch Robert Altman's stupefyingly dreadful Kansas City not once but twice because, after hating it at an 8am screening in France, I couldn't tell whether my hostility was a result of loathing the film or the festival. (It turned out to be both).

No, Cannes is not a film festival but an exercise in ritual humiliation.

The breaking point for me came one afternoon as critics queued to watch an unfinished print of Michael Bay's no-brainer Armageddon (not in competition, obviously).

Nicole Kidman
Nicole Kidman drew the crowds last year
Standing on a broiling pavement amidst a ruck of panicked hacks scrumming for the "privilege" to watch a bad film which no one wanted to see, in a form which wasn't even as good as it was going to be when it was finished (which wasn't even any good then) I felt the will to live slowly ebbing away.

A security guard grabbed my arm and started to explain in pigeon English that the ticket I was holding was not actually a ticket for the unfinished film.

He said it was for the finished fairground ride which was being laid on to convince the people who were about to watch the unfinished film that it was better than they all knew it really was (or would be once it was finished).

I realised that the only thing that was finished was me.

Cannes attracts thousands of hopefuls
Earlier that day I had been thrown out of an official screening of Lars Von Trier's critically acclaimed The Idiots for shouting "Il est merde! Il est merde!" from the back of the auditorium.

Now, I was being ejected from the other end of the Cannes spectrum, from an out-of-competition Hollywood marketing bash which was technically nothing to do with the festival, but which we all knew was the real reason most people were here.

In both cases, all I really wanted was an excuse to leave.

So I left.


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