(Times3, eh? They keep moving the MP further and further into the supplements?)
Therein lies his appeal for the Cannes jury. After awarding the Palme d’Or to Michael Moore in 2004 for Fahrenheit 9/11, Ken Loach was the obvious winner this time round.
The judges in Cannes have shown that they enjoy rewarding directors who rubbish their own countries, and that enjoyment is all the greater when the countries being rubbished are America or Britain. What makes the enjoyment positively exquisite is when a contemporary political lesson, preferably about the folly of the Iraq war, can be read into the award. Giving Michael Moore the Palme in 2004 for his anti-Bush polemic was almost too obvious. But I’m glad to say the French feting of Moore did have the predictable, and desired political effect. President Bush was re-elected that year with the highest number of votes ever.
The jury have been a little more subtle this year in giving their top prize to Loach. But only a little. The Wind That Shakes the Barley is not actually subtitled “The Brits were at it all 80 Years Ago” but Loach doesn’t mask his desire that people should read into his account of colonialist excess in Ireland a commentary on current events in Iraq. You don’t have to be Mark Lawson, Tom Paulin or Germaine Greer to detect that Loach’s depiction of the British in the 1920s is meant to put us in mind of the Allies in 2006 — indiscriminately violent and repressive in their suppression of an insurgency, ultimately doomed to failure.
Should the parallel have eluded anyone, Loach himself collected his award with a clenched fist and a barely-coded request, “maybe if you tell the truth about the past, you might tell the truth about the present”.
And, that old familiar refrain:
When Ken Loach was a boy, we produced film after film in which British servicemen were contemporary heroes, but now it is inconceivable that such a film would ever be made. Perhaps the most important question we can still ask the cultural establishment is a simple, “Why?”