Thursday, August 26, 2010

Cannes Postmortem--The Experiential Paper

"We become these human jukeboxes spitting out these anecdotes to dine out on like we're doing right now. Well I will not turn [it] into an anecdote, it was an experience. How do we hold onto the experience?"
-Ouisa Kittredge, John Guare's "Six Degrees of Separation

Faculty of the UGA Cannes Abroad Program,

Sitting in class, I have heard countless anecdotes about how a film has touched one of my peers. The particular motion picture has resonated inside of them; a character haunts their psyche; a line of dialogue stays on their minds; they were moved. I wish I too could join these fine few who broke the fourth wall and became part of the plot they now cherish. However, the words of man I barely know--a stranger really--has robbed me of that ability, leaving me to question everything I thought I knew about the film industry.

“Frankie and Alice should be a good film. You know, Halle Berry wouldn’t show her tits for it though? Yep, costs over half a million dollars for her to flash us a peek.”

While I am no Cornelia Vanderbilt, I was greatly sickened by this remark. My stomach turned not because of the crudeness of his comment but rather my disgust was caused by the lack of respect he had for the art form. Halle Berry is an Academy Award-winning actress; her performance in Monster’s Ball alone should make those of the industry fall on their knees in praise, but yet this man was acting as if she was a piece of cattle up for auction. I have no doubt this was printed across my forehead, for when he read my face, he instantly apologized. It did not matter; the damage was done.

In retrospect, this should have not come as such of a shock to me. As an avid classic cinema follower, the Hollywood studio system is well known to me. I understand that even since its creation, the motion picture business is first and foremost a business. Nonetheless, I allowed this notion to be shadowed by the bright performances by the actresses of that era--Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Ingrid Bergman to name a few. I was entranced by these women, they way they commanded the screen, and brought to life some of my favorite friends like Margo Channing and Mildred Pierce. Thoughts about the cost of a given film never crossed my mind; the money did not matter; the quality of the film was my top priority.

Then why was his remark still boiling in me a week later? Could what appears as merely an accidental remark, actually be a sign of divine intervention? I think, well I hope, that someone sent this slime ball of masculinity to question my dedication to film. He was the perfection replication of my fears about Hollywood and the kind of fungi that feed off of great artists only to churn high revenues. I knew that I would never be comfortable in an industry where the projects where based on what exactly would sell to the widest audience. Even when I continued my screening of films at the festival, I kept reminding myself that these artistic ventures I see before me would never reach the regal megaplexes of America.

And so here I sit once again in uncertainty about my future. You would think it would by over by now; I’ve dealt with the college application process, but the application for life is a little more challenging. The horrors of Hollywood have been unveiled, and thanks to this experience, I have seen that there are a few like me who hold the quality of the film as their top priority. It’s only a matter of finding them; but that search can last decades. Perhaps, this is my cue to return to my realm--the theatre. I do not know. I just do not know. Whatever the future has in store, I know that every time I turn on the television or walk into a theatre, my mind will always jump to the price and this notion of monetary value will forever change my viewing experience.

Jordan Overstreet

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