The dealmaking story of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival was succinctly summed up this way by Inferno’s Bill Johnson: “Worst weather I’ve ever seen in Cannes, no big headlines, but a solid market with nice product, but probably too much of it. The good news is that distributors around the world opened their wallets, there are plenty of private equity and high net worth investors.”
Last year’s Cannes saw domestic and foreign buyers plunking down big sums to acquire films based on little more than sizzle reels. And for drama, you had Lars von Trier’s bizarre application to the Nazi party, and the wonder of Terrence Malick’s return to directing with Palme D’Or winner and eventual Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree Of Life.
This year, the most widely hyped competition film has been Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, mostly for the graphic, depraved sexual exploits perpetrated by Nicole Kidman’s death row groupie. Then there’s all the free-love doled out by Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund in Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. Neither film drew raves. Despite a 16-minute standing ovation for Paperboy at its festival screening and enthusiasm in the market, the biggest record set at this festival was for rainfall – and contents of the pockets of those guys selling $50 umbrellas along the Croisette.
That doesn’t mean this wasn’t a very successful festival that demonstrated vibrancy of film around the world. Despite the struggling economies in European countries, sellers all week reported surprisingly strong sales, with Italy and Greece the exceptions. Japan was pre-buying again and the importance of China is growing. These territories weren’t shy about making deals for films that have no domestic deals.