Monday, May 24, 2021

Cannes 1984: The Winners

 Last text of the "Serge Daney at Cannes 1984" series.

The Winners 

In its emptied bunker (no carpet, no bar, no nothing, a set worthy of Tati), the press waited long for the jury to deign to announce the winners list. It fidgeted aimlessly with its typewriters, and understood all of a sudden that it didn’t carry much weight compared to the small screen. For the award ceremony was broadcast live on Channel 2 at 7:15pm. The Cannes Festival awards suddenly looked like the Eurovision prizes or a vulgar César award ceremony. 

Discovering the winners list didn’t provide any comfort. Apart from Wim Wenders’ thoroughly deserved Palme d’Or, it was nonsense. Disconcerting? That’s what we thought at first. And then, out of habit, we began looking for a logic, an intimate consistency, an intent. We searched and we found something. First, the winners list shows a clear retreat into Europe (no Asia, no Latin America). And a retreat not into any Europe, but into the Europe of cultural drama. All those films that are stuffy, dreadfully dignified, exhausting with their noble tone, their intimism bordering on boredom, bear witness, beyond their diverse qualities, to the triumph of this intermediary form, half-way between television and cinema. Cinema as the “museum of popular arts and traditions” moves forward in giant TV-steps. So much so that the victory of Channel 2 yesterday seemed only logical. It takes a television ritual to crown products that are almost televisual. Of course, the films by Metzaros, Pat O’Connor, Mario Camus, Tavernier or Kaniewska are not all bad (bar one) but they have less to do with fierce competition between filmmakers than with cultural exchanges between film clubs, ready to feature on Cinéma sans visa

The losers in all this are obviously filmmakers: those that dive fully dressed into the adventures of cinema and not those that float with a TV-buoy. The absence of Skolimowski, Doillon, Satyajit Ray, Herzog and even Huston (vaguely “thanked” for the entirety of his work) from the winners list proves that there was no room for them this year (unlike last year, it must be said). 

Or rather, there was room for only one of them. Thankfully, it was Wenders and we are unanimous in saying that the Palme d’Or for Paris, Texas really warmed what is left of our hearts. As if, with it, the jury had deigned to consider something that does exist and is called pleasure. The most blasé, weary and exhausted members of the festival crowd were grateful to Wenders for having made a film that reconciled them with cinema, with narration, with wide-open spaces, with a cinema-duration of things, with the American landscape, with family, with all this imaginary world that still resists the shrinking of cinema, its constriction, its global cultural-folklorisation. 

There is no point (right now) questioning whether Paris, Texas is the best Wenders film, whether it’s a qualitative leap, whether it is repetitive or highly innovative. What I know is that Wenders was moved to receive the Palme d’Or, that he looked more youthful than ever, that he thanked everybody, in French and in German, and that I was happy for him. 

As for those who regularly complain that France never wins the Palme d’Or, let them find comfort in the fact that Paris, Texas is a Franco-German co-production. 

First published in Libération as “Wenders, thankfully” on 24 May 1984. Reprinted in Ciné journal 1981-86, Cahiers du cinéma, 1986. Translation by Laurent Kretzschmar and Srikanth Srinivasan.

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