What's the headline for this year's Cannes'' a journalist from a European news agency asked Screen before the first screening had taken place.

It's not a stupid question. Each year, there tends to be a trend that lends itself to neat and tidy summation. In recent times, we've had years that have leant towards the political, the grand auteurs, the genre pic.

And one can normally rely on a particular part of the world to provide a 'wave' on which we can hang a story or two. Last year, the rise of Romania, Israel and the Lebanon. This year, the pre-Cannes talk was about Latin America, with a number of films from the region in competition.

Yet, starting with Fernando Meirelles' opener Blindness, there was really not enough weight to justify the 'Viva Cannes' headlines. And it is perhaps a little patronising to lump the work of a huge continent under one banner.

If one was looking for any countries that made steps forward it was, perhaps unexpectedly, the Italians, with two prizewinners after some time in the doldrums. Indeed, despite the pre-Cannes pessimism about the poor old UK being overlooked, Steve McQueen's Hunger and Terence Davies' Of Time And The City were among the most talked-about films on the Croisette. So there's nothing in the films themselves to offer a lazy label.

There were some optimists who were hoping the market might provide that elusive excitement, perhaps ending a disappointing run of events for buyers and sellers.

Given the current economic conditions - including a continuing credit squeeze, a glut of product from previous markets and a looming potential actors' dispute - a sudden upturn was always unlikely.

The market itself couldn't add that extra spark because of the weather - Cannes in the rain loses about 80% of its charm and a seemingly astronomical mark-up on prices added to the gloom.

Some of the best news at Cannes itself came from a number of announcements from India. Indian companies, notably Reliance, offered those two essentials to a headline: big numbers and big names. The conglomerate was talking up a $1bn investment in film and backing for the development plans of seven Hollywood stars.

There was a little patronising talk about how India's players had perhaps been a little starstruck by the glamour of Hollywood and a little naive about the sharks swimming in the studio waters.

Perhaps the cynics ought to look at the history of Indian entrepreneurialism elsewhere. Back in the late 1990s there was a trend towards outsourcing lower-grade IT work to Indian companies, which promptly developed their own world-beating technology industries.

The current interest in entertainment is a missing link that will combine technology and content in one global business concern.

The fact that announcements were made in Cannes is a significant signal of intent but one that fits into a trend that has been developing for some time. India has been and will be a big player in global film finance for some time.

So still no splash yet. The biggest danger of the lot is that, in lieu of the easy phrase, one follows the herd mentality that takes over Cannes. A lazy consensus began to form that Cannes had been a disappointment in artistic and business terms. Yet there was a great deal to applaud in the films themselves, going right back to the early screenings with Ari Folman's Waltz With Bashir, which ought to be remembered as an extraordinarily effective piece of innovative cinema even if it left without prizes. A worthy winner, as in Cantet's The Class, also helps.

In business terms, it was a solid market but without the bidding wars that might have captured the imagination (see pages 6-7). It was a festival with substance and texture but missing the heat that marks out a great Cannes. But that's because we're missing the broader context. The headline comes at the end of the story, and the reality is that Cannes is part of an ongoing story of changing business that is still being written.

- Do you agree' E-mail michael.gubbins@emap.com.