However stiff-necked the festival might have been on streaming this year, it was obvious on the Croisette that this year’s festival was all about breaking the rules. Although there were no major studio blockbusters at the festival this year for the first time in decades (a welcome change if you ask most festival goers), the Cannes Film Festival made television series a focal points of the festival, something they’ve never done before.
Not just one series, but two were screened at Cannes this year, Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks and BBC’s Top of the Lake: China Girl. Shocking indeed, as David Lynch’s last soiree into the realm of Twin Peaks with the feature film Fire Walk With Me was so famously booed at Cannes that it squashed the series and any subsequent films for over 20 years. However, this year, the two episodes that premiered back to back were so well received they were met with a several minutes long standing ovation. This Showtime iteration of David Lynch’s brain child was loved by crowds and critics, breathing new life to a series that is deemed simply a “cult classic”.
Top of the Lake: China Girl was so well liked by the Cannes programmers that they not only premiered one or two episodes of the series, but they showed six episodes of the new season back to back, taking up precious theatre space for over 7 hours. And they allowed food and drinks into said theatre for the duration of the screening, possibly the most shocking twist in the entire festival. It wasn’t just the programmers who enjoyed Top of the Lake: China Girl. The theatre stayed fairly full for the six hour time span and the episodes were met with much praise from usually stiff necked Cannes critics.
An ongoing and rather large debate in the film industry is whether or not television will ever catch up to the quality and prestige that feature films can obtain. We’ve seen some gains being made with the cinematic quality of shows like Game of Thrones and the talent crossover from film to television increasing rapidly, but nothing ever seemed quite enough for the critics to feel as though television and feature films were on the same level of prestige. Well, premiering at the Cannes Film Festival is just about as prestigious as it gets.