You win some, you lose some. Last year, Cannes was basking in an abundance of riches that ranged from Palme d'Or winner The Pianist to dazzling documentary Bowling For Columbine and red hot discovery City Of God.

This year, the collective Competition choices were considered the worst in living memory and some of those memories stretch back almost forty years. Vincent Gallo's monumental folly has already become a defining moment in Cannes history. Awestruck future generations will ask "were you really present the night they screened The Brown Bunny'" Souvenir medals should be struck and annual reunions of the traumatised survivors seem inevitable.

Gallo's self-indulgent foolishness was the lowpoint of a Competition selection that left most critics numb with the constant grind of daily disappointment. The Festival reportedly saw over 900 features as part of their deliberations. What could they possibly have rejected that was worse than some of the productions they chose to accept'

Even the talk of a glorious year for French cinema has proved to be hollow hype. Leaden swashbuckler Fanfan La Tulipe set the tone from the opening night. The fatally pretentious Tiresia, the tame, tasteful Les Egares and the crude genre chiller Who Killed Bambi all failed to set pulses racing.

In such company Francois Ozon's slim but very entertaining Swimming Pool began to look a potential prize-winner whilst hugely inventive animated feature Belleville Rendez-Vous was a delight.

Swimming Pool and Belleville Rendez-Vous also looked to have a substantial commercial life beyond the Festival which is more than can be said for many titles in which expressing an artistic vision easily eclipsed any notion of connecting with an audience.

Cannes 2003 may be the first Festival that has truly reaped the harvest of films made in the shadows of September 11. The results showed filmmakers of considerable stature struggling to express their sense of horror at a world in which the veneer of civilisation is slowly being eroded by the disturbing excesses of self-interest and belligerence.

Michael Haneke failed to rise to the challenge of such major themes with his increasingly unfocused Time Of The Wolf. The irrepressible Lars Von Trier responded magnificently with the audacious theatricality of Dogville which may have divided critics but might well win him a second Palme d'Or. His strongest competition may come from Denys Arcand's warmly received comeback The Barbarian Invasions.

There was a fairly clear consensus on the films most worthy of prizes, among them Nuri Bilge Ceylan's desolate portrait of alienation Distant (Uzak) and Samira Makhmalbaf's tale At Five In The Afternoon, a powerful account of an independent-minded young woman in post-Taliban Afghanistan.

There was also a strong feeling that if David Mackenzie's Young Adam had not been relegated to Un Certain Regard it would have been a major contender. A powerful, uncompromising adaptation of the Alexander Trocchi novel, it confirmed Mackenzie as British director of international standing.

Roger Michell's The Mother would certainly have made Anne Reid a contender for Best Actress if it had been show in Competition rather than Directors Fortnight.

A line-up of world premieres and unknown quantities meant that Directors Fortnight promised a year of surprises and genuine discoveries but pickings have been slim.

Titles attracting some degree of enthusiasm include Bent Hamer's low-key comedy Kitchen Stories, Takashi Miike's gag-filled shaggy dog story Gozu and especially Osama, a striking, very accessible portrait of life under the Taliban. The outstanding title in Critics Week was Christoffer Boe's ambitious and stylish love story Reconstruction. The heartwarming crowd-pleaser Calendar Girls was one of the few Market screenings to generate some buzz.

Cannes 2003 ultimately felt like a Festival that was winding down before it was even properly cranked up.

Sometimes you are only as good as the titles that are available and it could have been a very different event if work by Tarantino, Campion, the Coens or Ingmar Bergman had been screened.

The closing days still hold the promise of salvation for the Competition and the hope of a dark horse contender or two. Greenaway and Sokurov have yet to screen and advance word on Clint Eastwood's Mystic River is encouraging.

At this stage, a well-crafted, coherent feature from an old American master like Clint Eastwood would make everyone's day.