Magazine article Variety

Vets Recall Bests Sans Regrets

Magazine article Variety

Vets Recall Bests Sans Regrets

Article excerpt

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's statistics on baby boomers, 330 people an hour turn 60, making that milestone a ho-hum occurrence.

But the world can't help taking notice as the one and only Cannes Film Festival turns 60 this year. We spoke to veteran film critics who have watched her age - while remaining spry and film-obsessed themselves.

When David Robinson came to Cannes for the first time, in 1958, he was not yet Charlie Chaplin's biographer or film critic to the Times in London.

"I had arrived too late to see The Cranes Are Flying,' " Robinson recalls, "but the press office said, Oh, we have another show for half a dozen people if you don't mind watching with them.'"

Robinson entered the already darkened screening room. "At the end of the film, the lights went on," he recounts, "and there were only four other people with me: (the film's director, Mikhail) Kalatozov, (Russian director) Sergei Yutkevitch, Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso."

"Cranes" went on to win the Palme d'Or.

Robinson says his maiden screening "illustrates what a small and intimate event Cannes was. For the mayor's party, everybody at the festival - stars, press, staff, etc. - all got in a little boat and went for lunch at a restaurant on St. Marguerite Island."

A cozy, clubby atmosphere ruled. "At the Blue Bar, there were always the same old faces - Cocteau, the Begum Aga Khan, Elsa Maxwell," Robinson says. "They didn't seem like celebrities, just folks."

Before the new, bunkerlike Palais opened in 1982, the rue d'Antibes was where most of the action took place. Mary Corliss, who first went to Cannes with hus- band Richard in 1973, penning an annual Cannes Journal for Film Comment through 2003, reminisces: "The competi- tion films played in the old Palais, where the Noga Hilton is now. Everything else was screened in a dozen or so small theaters along, or just off of, the rue d'Antibes."

Roger Ebert, who first hit Cannes in 1972, laments, "Sadly, Cannes has lost some of the excitement of the market with the rise of DVD, and the rue d'Antibes no longer is jammed with hustlers selling their films. But there is a glamour and a prestige you find nowhere else."

Jim Haynes, who covered Cannes for 25 years for the Los Angeles Free Press, remembers taking in a screening one sunny afternoon on the rue d'Antibes. He recalls watching a film "so bad that I said out loud: 'This is such a terrible movie we shouldn't be watching it, we should be back in our hotel rooms making love.' " A woman agreed with him and, taking their cue from any number of implausible European art films, the duo repaired to Haynes' hotel. …

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