Prognosticating the Palme


Cannes, France—

As sent yesterday to (with minor additions in brackets):

Hey Dave:

As per [Cannois cineaste Pierre] Rissient, I certainly don't know anything [about who'll win the Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or], either—but I'm here (waiting for the late night bus to my outta town hotel), for whatever that's worth. As you may know, [Russian director Alexander] Sokurov cancelled his press conference with a day's notice—due to ever-worsening health problems, it's been said—so, in combination with the fact that his film Alexandra has been reasonably well-received (I'm seeing it tomorrow), we shouldn't discount him as a contender, the scale tipped, perhaps, by what they call the "sympathy vote." Seems only a small handful of us find fault with the Coen brothers film (or the Coens), but I would hope the jury would maintain some measure of the advocacy principle as regards the fact that the pair already has one Palme—unless they figure that there should be one for each brother or whatever.

If this is a jury that deems past winners ineligible (as it should?), then the field is narrowed considerably. Further narrowing would occur if we consider that, much as Wong [Kar-wai] might deserve a prize for great work of the past, there's no one in town who'd make a case for the worthiness of My Blueberry Nights. (Only reason I accept his "American sell-out movie" is because it shows his newly healthy willingness to tolerate something (far) less than a masterpiece. Straining for a triumph can be tiring—and the emotional content of the films would take a toll as well. Nights shows that he's not in love anymore—and, on that count, I'm genuinely happy for him.)

Of the three competition films left to screen, two—Une vielle maitresse and The Mourning Forest—are by women (Catherine Breillat and Naomi Kawase, respectively). The Chacun son cinema parade here [with 30 beloved auteurs climbing the red steps for their contributions to an omnibus film] reminded us that only one woman—Jane Campion in 1993—has won the Palme in the festival's entire history. Does [Cannes jury president and film director] Stephen Frears like women?