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Entertainment Last Updated: May 17, 2017 - 9:38:18 PM

Travolta Cooper at Cannes: Why is Netflix here?
By Travolta Cooper, The Cinemas
May 17, 2017 - 8:52:16 PM

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Bahamian filmmaker, Travolta Cooper is covering the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival

The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival (Le Festival International du Film de Cannes) is underway in France, and The Bahamas' very own, Travolta Cooper is covering the prestigious event once again. The Bahamas Weekly will be bringing you his coverage as the festival runs from May 17th through 28th. Here is his first installment:

Cannes, France -  The 70th Cannes Film Festival represents a departure in the whole wide world of cinema. This will be my last year reporting for our television show ‘The Cinemas’ and in print in with Caribbean news outlets such as TheBahamasWeekly.com. “The cinema” itself is at a crossroads, and movies have been at a crossroads for quite some time actually. This is mostly seen and felt when living and traveling in North America, The Caribbean, and Africa.

This year my fourth year covering Cannes, and what has been most invigorating and retreating for me is that the French, at heart, are cinema traditionalists and cinema purists. I have not witnessed a passion for the cinema anywhere else on earth. To watch movies in a theater at the world famous ‘Palais des Festivals’ in Cannes is like being in a church for cinema.

While Hollywood is the biggest promoter of movies around the world, it was the French that invented the cinema. Perhaps this is why they directly and indirectly act as its priests and guardians. The four corners of the world flock to Cannes each year for the glamour and market of it all, but I believe it is the reverence for the cinema that is the true heart and allure of Cannes to the nations. So with all that said what in the world is streaming giant ‘Netflix’ doing at the 70th Cannes?

This was a key topic of discussion at the press conference held this morning with this year’s festival jury president, and Spanish filmmaking giant, Pedro Almodovar and his team of jurors. Hollywood actor Will Smith is one of those jurors, and stated that, “he is here to learn,” and knows full well he’s an offbeat pick for the world’s most respected festival jury.

But Will and Pedro represent two very different philosophies on the cinema and the direction in which it is heading. This was evident when both were asked about Netflix being present at the festival. “Digital platforms are a new way of offering words and images, which in itself are enriching. But these platforms should not take the place of existing forms like the movie theaters,” said Pedro in a statement.

"They should under no circumstances change the offer for spectators. The only solution I think is that the new platforms accept and obey the existing rules that are already adopted and respected by the existing networks,” Pedro continued. “I personally don’t believe the Palme d’Or [should be] given to a film that is then not seen on the big screen. All this doesn’t mean that I am not open or celebrate new technologies and opportunities, but [as long as] I'm alive I’ll be fighting for the capacity of hypnosis of the large screen for the viewer”.

Day one highlights, May 16th, 2017 at Cannes Film Festival in France.

The press circus surrounding Will and his entourage entering the building this morning was epic, and Will had a very different view, but I should note that Will Smith’s upcoming movie “Bright” will be streaming on Netflix.

“I have a 16 year old and an 18 year and a 24 year old at home. They go to the movies twice a week, and they watch Netflix," said Will.  "There’s very little cross between going to the cinema and watching what they watch on Netflix.”

Will added, “In my home, Netflix has had absolutely no effect on what they go to the movie theater to watch, go to the cinema to be humbled by certain images and stay home for others – no cross. In my home Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit – [they] watch films they otherwise wouldn’t have seen. It has broadened my children’s global cinematic comprehension."

Actress Jessica Chastainand actor Paolo Sorrentino, who are also on the jury, stayed mum on the word of streaming giants at the Festival. Also serving on the jury this year is German director Maren Ade ( Toni Erdmann); South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-Wook ( The Handmaiden); Chinese star Fan Bingbing ( Iron Man 3); French actress Agnes Jaoui ( The Taste of Others); and Oscar-winning composer Gabriel Yared ( The English Patient).

The jury’s first order of business will be screening tonight’s opening film Les Fantomes D’ Ismael (Ismael’s Ghost) directed by French auteur Arnaud Desplechin. With this, some things may not change, as it is customary for Cannes to open with a French Film or French Filmmaker. Having seen Ismael’s Ghost this morning though I wonder if there were other choices. Better choices. The film tells the story of Ismael (played by Mathieu Amalric), a filmmaker preparing to direct his next film. Ismael’s life begins to spin out of control when a past love (played by Marion Cotillard) resurfaces after being missing (and declared dead) for 20 years. While the film has a fine cast including French starlet Charlotte Gainsbourg is it an incoherent mess as a narrative. There are at least three different movies in this one script and audiences will have a tough time following the story (or even caring to follow). I wasn’t surprised when critics and viewers began to walk out midway into the film (Cannes, while reverent, is also savage).

I spoke to a French film critic after the screening who said that while the film is “very French” even he had a tough time liking it. There had to be another choice: a better choice to open the film festivals of festivals. Arnaud Desplechin is a Cannes disciple whose feature debut, The Sentinel, played here in competition exactly 25 years ago. His presence, and that of French cinema star Claudia Cardinale twirling on this year’s festival cover poster (posters plastered all over the city amidst Netflix and Amazon movie posters), sends a clear message: We will embrace the future while stay rooted in the past.

Streaming giants, Netflix and Amazon are not the only topics pointing toward change and the future of Cinema. There is the increasing symbiosis of film and television. The festival will show two episodes of David Lynch’s Showtime-backed reboot of Twin Peaks, as well as the second season of Jane Campion’s television mystery series Top of the Lake. This is occurring to much controversy and outrage by critics at the festival. Cannes general delegate, Thierry Frémaux, cited that both Campion and Lynch are friends of the festival, which allows for this open door. Politics. This is a door that will no doubt be pushed wider and wider in the coming years.

Also present at Cannes is Virtual Reality or “VR” as its being called. VR is being pushed as a new art form and is given the seal of credibility by the likes of Alejandro G. Iñárrutu (Academy Award winning filmmaker of  The Revenant  and  Birdman). The director will present, at Cannes, a six-and-a-half-minute virtual-reality installation of his own devising entitled “Carne y arena” which some say could be a game changer for VR.

Oh and as for departures, there are no Hollywood Studios films at Cannes this year. Hollywood, which is mostly in the business of “franchise cinema” these days, has been present for the last three years I visited. What does their departure and absence means this year for Independent Cinema, Caribbean Cinema, and World Cinema at large? I trust those answer will arrive in the coming days.

The Cinemas is the brainchild of its host, Bahamian writer, director, and producer Travolta Cooper, who began the show as a result of an endorsement deal with The Bahamas’ movie theater chain. At heart, The Cinemas is designed to promote and encourage the new wave of Caribbean Cinema happening in the Region and around the world. The show consists of movie reviews and interviews with a Caribbean twist.

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