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A Historic Cannes-cellation!

Experience the Famed Film Fête Through Books

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • May 13, 2020

Cannes Canned?

The Cannes International Film Festival, scheduled to begin yesterday, has been postponed, along with just about everything else!

Are we feeling a little bleu about the Cannes-cellation? Mais, oui! However, we must carry on, of course. As always, we turn to the page for a way to celebrate the famed French fête. Learn about the history of the event, and read the books that inspired the winning films.

La Commencement de Cannes

Cannes wasn’t the first international film festival, but it is arguably the most magnifique, assembling a bevy of swoon-worthy stars and glamorous parties to kick off the summer season along the glittering French Riviera. It was first organized in 1939 as an alternative to the Venice Film Festival, which was thought to be operating under the influence of political forces.

The first iteration of the event was planned for September of 1939, but celebrations were interrupted by the onset of World War II. The festival was relaunched in 1946, only to be shuttered in 1949 and 1950 due to budgetary issues. In 1968, the festivities were halted early to show solidarity with students and workers protesting the French government. Since then, nothing has gotten in the way of the grand celebration . . . until now.

For a virtual experience of the festival, pick up a copy of Cannes: A Festival Virgin’s Guide by Benjamin Craig. As the title suggests, it is intended as a guide for first-time attendees, but with thorough descriptions of the environs and details of the event, it’s a satisfying read for anyone interested in knowing more about Cannes. For a fun novel that delves into the inside story, Super-Cannes by J. G. Ballard offers cinephiles (and Francophiles) an unvarnished view of the sometimes-seamy business of the festival.

La Films d’Inspiration

These ten literature-inspired films won the festival’s top prize, The Palm D’Or. (Or in some years, The Grand Prix) Read the great works that inspired them.

1949—The Third Man
This piece of British film noir by Graham Greene was, in actuality, written for the screen. After being invited by director Carol Reed to write the screenplay, Greene decided to first write it as a novella first in order to develop the characterization, mood, and atmosphere.

1952—The Tragedy of Othello
Orson Welles did triple duty on this project, adapting the play of the same title by William Shakespeare for the screen and both directing and starring in the film.

1957—Friendly Persuasian
Based on a novel, The Friendly Persuasian by Jessamyn West, this drama centers on a Quaker family living in Civil War-era America. The film is directed by William Wyler and stars Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, and Anthony Perkins.

1963—The Leopard
Based on Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s novel of the same name, this Italian film was directed by Luchino Visconti. The epic period drama portrays a decadent, dying Sicilian aristocracy threatened by revolution and democracy.

1970—MASH
Directed by Robert Altman, this black comedy war film is based on MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors by Richard Hooker. Set during the Korean War, the book-inspired film went on to spawn the hit TV show that ran from 1972 to 1983.

1979—Apocalypse Now
This juggernaut, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, features an all-star cast including Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Harrison Ford, Lawrence Fishburne, and Dennis Hopper. The epic film is loosely based on Heart of Darkness, an 1899 novella by Joseph Conrad, although the setting has been changed from late nineteenth-century Congo to the Vietnam War.

1988—Pelle the Conqueror
This Danish-Swedish film adaptation directed by Bille August is based on series by Martin Andersen Nexø, which is considered essential reading in Denmark. The film depicts a young peasant boy living in Sweden and Denmark, who later becomes a leader in the labor movement.

1997—The Eel
This winning Japanese drama is loosely based on Akira Yoshimura’s On Parole. Both the film and the novel tell the story a man released from prison many years after a crime of passion as he struggles to find redemption in a world that has moved on without him.

2002—The Pianist
The Roman Polanski drama stars Adrien Brody. The film is based on a 1946 memoir of the same title, written by Polish-Jewish pianist and composer, Wladyslaw Szpilman, a Holocaust survivor.

2014—Winter Sleep
The Turkish film directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan examines the significant divide between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the powerless. The drama derives its story pulling aspects from Anton Chekhov’s short story The Wife, as well as a subplot from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

C’est La Vie!

Whether or not we attend, The Cannes Film Festival, like so many seminal annual events, serves as a marker in our seasonal timeline. We pore over photos and stories from the event. We read about the winning films and look forward to their theatrical releases.

With our regular events, activities, and rituals being cancelled or postponed, it is easy to feel adrift and untethered. So this is our attempt to note the absence and find a different way to celebrate. Vive la cinéma!

Note: At the time of this writing, inventory on some of these books and movies was running low. If you find the item is out of stock, you can add it to your wishlist for later. As always, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for daily book recommendations, literary tidbits, and more.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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