Thursday, May 21, 2009

Theatre Equivalent of Cannes

Roger Ebert continues to cover Cannes and talks about how the landscape is changing:

Cannes has become, in a way, the sundowner party of Day of the Locusts. There was once a world, much deprecated at the time, of patriarchal studios, star machines, genre movies, fan magazines, searchlights, and filmmakers who wanted their movies to play big to everybody all over the world. Now what survives of that old world, hunched and inward, is no longer show business but just--business. A screenplay is evaluated for its demographic appeal, its video game possibilities, its spin-offs, its potential for commercial tie-ins. The suspense of its premiere is diluted by pale, gnome-like creatures hunched over computers down in their parents' basements, busy as bees ripping off video copies of new films and posting them on the internet, to be downloaded by thieves who get more of a thrill out of stealing a film that by watching it.

The critics here are not on junkets. Many of them paid their own way, because if you're a movie critic, baby, this is where you gotta get your ass. Back home, most editors care more about Brad Pitt than Quentin Tarantino. That would be all right if they cared about Pitt for the right reasons. But the American press has been dumbed-down so much that some papers seem edited for an audience that does most of its reading off of TV screens. I ran into an old friend who has free-lanced for USA Today. "Yesterday, Lars von Trier's "Antichrist" was the big story," he told me. "USA Today featured coverage of Jim Carrey as Ebenezer Scrooge, arriving at the Carlton Hotel with Jenny McCarthy in a horse-drawn carriage."

Is there an event or festival to which a Drama critic better get his or her ass?

Also, I wonder, is Ebert giving Cannes too much credit?


99 said...

I would say that Humana is about as close as we get, though it's generally less starry in terms of performers. In a lot of ways, it sets the tone for the following year.

Rolando Teco said...

I have been to Cannes once but once was enough to know that Ebert is dead on on this score. The festival is a must not only for journalists but for producers and distributors because, frankly, for historical reasons, it's evolved into the one reliable event each year at which one is guaranteed to reconnect with EVERYONE in one's rolodex. Literally every major market is represented and buyers and sellers from every continent across the globe are there.

And what Ebert says is true: the film business has become all about business and less and less about film. The only saving grace at Cannes is that the French are still probably the most obsessively romantic about film as an art form. This is one reason why Cannes may still be a bit more palatable than, say, Sundance.

Theatre can never have an event to rival Cannes for one simple reason. There never has been, nor will there ever be, the same dollar figures at stake in theatre as in film. A Broadway run followed by international productions and tours? Well, WICKED may have grossed in the hundreds of millions but that's a once in a decade event. And even so, the odds are far poorer.