For years, clever, culture-savvy sophisticates had two responses to the films screened in Cannes -- and that includes everything from Jean-Luc Godard's "Sauve qui peu" ("Every Man for Himself," 1980) to David Lynch's "Wild at Heart" (1990). They either loved them or hated them. Unfortunately today, many cinephiles couldn't care less. The days when curious young film buffs treated the films of François Truffaut, Martin Scorsese, Wim Wenders and Lars von Trier like mysterious messages from the avant-garde and analyzed them down to the last detail, are gone -- and probably for good.
Auteur cinema has had its day in the cultural sunshine and now it's just another niche genre in filmmaking. As the fate of recent Cannes selections demonstrates. After the festival ends, many routinely sink into almost total obscurity. Many never even make it into movie theaters, going straight to DVD instead. Of course, there have always been films with artistic merit that the general public has spurned -- including Cannes winners like Luis Buñuel's "Viridiana" (1961), Andrzej Wajda's "Man of Iron" (1981) or Abbas Kiarostami's "Taste of Cherry" (1997). But then there were also films that did well at Cannes and drew larger audiences -- Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" (1976), Volker Schlöndorff's "The Tin Drum" (1979) and Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction" (1994) among them.
However in recent years it hasn't been just the winners of Cannes' top prize, the Palme D'Or, that need to worry about turning toxic at the box office. A disturbingly large percentage of the selections at film festivals everywhere have not made any money.
Oh BTW, Is anybody going to see Angels and Demons this weekend?