Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Day at Cannes

Cannes sounds pretty exotic, and it is an awfully nice place, for sure, situated on a lovely bay with hills and then mountains beyond those. At this time of year, it is lovely with temperatures in the low 70s and a gentle breeze. Cannes begins the Cote d'Azur, a fabled shoreline that ends, at least in popular lore, with Monaco, the small kingdom of Grace Kelly. It is no wonder, then, that when the notion of the Cannes Film Festival comes up, most folks conjure an image of attendees lolling about in penthouse garden soirees with movie stars or leisurely strolling the Croisette among the beautiful people with an appropriately exotic alcoholic beverage in hand. Truth is that this sort of thing usually happens just in the movies, though in actuality it may work for a very few of the megarich and famous. For the overwhelming hordes here, however, such dreamscapes are just that, dreams, and big ones at that. Not even movie stars can get away with it, for they are, poor souls, celebrities, and they really don't belong to themselves. They can try strolling, but chances are they would fast experience an agonizing demise by a stampede of crazed humans called fans.

At the Film Festival, most people at Cannes are plain-old working stiffs. If you're in the industry, it is trying to hustle product because Cannes is preeminently a marketplace for great numbers of foreign and domestic films seeking a distributor so whoever paid for production can get their money back and maybe even profit. Straight to video is not usually deemed success.

And for the journalists, of which there are many from all around the world, it tends to be work. Me, I typically catch a 7:10 AM train each morning for the short ride to Cannes. Three blocks walk from the station, and I'm in line by 7:40 for the first press showing of the day, which begins at 8:30. And after that, back in line for a late morning viewing. These are films in the main competition, films such as Malick's The Tree of Life and von Trier's Melancholia. In the afternoon, usually without lunch other than an energy bar, it's off to one or two afternoon or early evening showings the Un Certain Regard series of somewhat to very unconventional films. Happily, that is where some of the best film comes round. Still, in betweeen are many waits, chutes, and gates that might well lead to a theater, provided, that is, that you got there early enough. And often, there are three good places to be at once, and to be sure, it is humanly impossible to take in all of the best. Besides catching up on some reading, I've spent considerable time trying to discover the system with which the Cannes folks schedule films. Predictability is not their forte.

Arrival back in Juan les Pins and my Best Western is anywhere from 6:30 to 8, followed by a bit of work and dinner somewhere. A couple of times a day I stop in the Press Room (actually several rooms attached). These include a small lounge, workstations, computers, and lots of receptacles for plug-ins devices. That is a lovely spot in the rear of the Palais that looks to the east upon the Croisette and to the west the bay, and the large sliding windows let in ample breeze. That is the spot where I am happily writing this, sipping the limitless supply of potent French coffee the Festival provides for the decidedly unglamorous working folk. They number many, and they really do slave away. Bon soir.

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