There was a fascinating story in the L.A. Times today about the origins of the Cannes Film Festival (“What Cannes and the labor protests in Europe have in common”). It all began, apparently, as an anti-fascist response to the Venice Film Festival which had just given its highest award to Lili Riefenstahl for Olympia, her queasily beautiful paean to Hitler’s 1936 übermensch Olympics. The organizer of Cannes, Jean Zay, was a politician of the French left and former member of Leon Blum‘s democratic socialist government (or governments, Blum was prime minister three times as the nation went back and forth between left and right–French politics between the wars was insane, even by French standards). Zay saw the festival as the cinematic equivalent of the great French tradition of protest and revolution and streets full of workers and intellectuals and artists and red banners. He’d present films full of social realism and art and truth. He was later beaten to death for such insolence by Vichy thugs. But the festival survived him and evolved into a celebration of film and the filthy rich. Life does have its odd turns.


Rich people massing on the red carpet at Cannes in metaphorical revolution.

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