Nothing benefits the future like the past. The Festival de Cannes does not forget this in its programming to enrich the present. It runs a fine ‘Cannes Classics’ section, launched three years ago with Ray’s Pather Panchali, and now hosts a program of reconditioned prints, sometimes featuring films edited from rescued material.
Last night, the past was re-visited delectably with a screening that kept 1,800 journalists, film market folk and cineastes away from the bent elbow at a popular cocktail hour. They packed the Salle Debussy for a screening of The Red Shoes, the 1948 masterpiece signed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.
Martin Scorsese was the evening’s presentor. Said this creator of Taxidriver, Raging Bull and Colour of Money, “If I come back from a night shoot at 3am or at dawn and The Red Shoes is on, I find it difficult to get to sleep. It’s a film that I continually and obsessively am drawn to.” So are numerous others, top men behind the camera today. Among them is Francis Ford Copolla, who happens to be across the street in Cannes with his Tetro, in the ‘Director’s Fortnight’ section.
Last night’s print was billed as a reconditioned one but nobody expected the beauty of the final Technicolour product. The end titles prominently credited Prasad Laboratories, Chennai, for involvement in work on the print.
The Red Shoes brings back an age of innocence and hope, when world cinema was getting into its stride after World War II. It tells of a ballerina (the marvelous Moira Shearer, who never made another film), torn between her art and her heart.
The Cannes section that is second only to the elect 20 of La Competition, opened with No One Knows About Persian Cats by Bahman Ghobadi. He acquired international acclaim with his first feature, A Time for Drunken Horses. It won him the Camera d’Or, an award given to a debut film adjudged the best in all of Cannes’ main sections.
The film is a portrait of Tehran, which reads like a spruced-up, better-looking Mumbai with one instant similarity: too many cars and jams. The film was shot in a rush and without authorisation, a story of Iranian youth persecuted because they play music too much like Western music. Ghobadi says “When I saw all they go through simply because they sing, play an instrument, love music.. I said to myself, this film has got to be made.” Now everybody will know about Persian cats who play great rock, soul and heavy metal. Another terrific Ghobadi.