Day 1 (Friday May 18)
I arrived in Cannes on Friday afternoon, a couple of days after the festival’s opening on Wednesday night. I’d already missed a couple of the big films, like Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, and the much talked about Rust and Bone.
Cannes is too small a town to have its own major airport, so festival goers have to fly to Nice and take a bus in. The bus only takes about 45 minutes and drops you right in the centre of the action – a block or two away from the Palais des Festivals, the enormous convention centre that hosts the Marché du Film (or film market) as well as housing a number of cinemas (seriously, there are at least 20 screening rooms in the Palais complex, including the astonishing 2300 seat Grand Théâtre Lumière).
Behind the Palais are a series of white tents along the beach – these makeshift structures are the international pavilions. Pretty much every country’s got one. Some nations are quite friendly, and open their pavilions up for daily cocktails to anyone who cares to check out their nation’s film industry. Others are quite exclusive and even charge admission (the Americans).
On my first day (the festival’s third) I try to outrun my travel exhaustion by immediately going to a party that will make me feel right at home. The annual TIFF / OMDC co-hosted event takes place on a beautiful terrace overlooking the beach, and is intended to be a welcome reception for members of the Canadian film industry (with an emphasis on Ontario) – but of course, there’s a motley crew of international guests there as well.
It’s been pouring rain all day (the winds are especially wicked in Cannes) but it clears up nicely just in time for the reception. In another corner of the room, people are buzzing around Brandon Cronenberg (whose debut feature, Antiviral, premieres here as part of the Un Certain Regard selection). Rue Morgue Magazine founder Rod Gudiño is also here – his debut feature, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh is screening in the market.
I settle into a glass of rosé and tell myself that there’s no such thing as jetlag.
Later in the evening, my husband (TIFF programmer Colin Geddes, who is here for work, and a 12-ish year veteran of the fest) takes me to a Scandinavian party, on the terrace of one of the festival’s larger and more glamorous hotels, but the lack of food and sleep I’ve had all day gets to me, so we duck out for a quiet italian dinner on one of the city’s many restaurant-littered side streets. Cannes is obsessed with pizza. You can’t spit in this town without hitting a traditional Neopolitan pizzeria (for a Toronto comparison, think Pizza Libretto quality, but as ubiquitous as Pizza Pizza). It’s weird, but I like it. A bacon and potato covered “white pizza” is the perfect pre-bed snack, right?
Day 2 (Saturday May 19)
My second day here is the fourth day of the festival, and it seems like a lot of the busier attendees are already hitting a wall. Bleary eyed sales agents stumble through the streets and people are noticeably nodding off during movies. I kick off my Cannes experience by watching three horror films in the market. There’s nothing quite like going to one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world and immediately overdosing on really trashy cinema. I’ll catch up with some of the official titles soon, but I’m not quite ready to get myself entangled in the complex ticket ordering system.
I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence that two of the three films I happened to pick to watch today involve scary and terrible things happening to people who are camping. Perhaps I’m seeing the first signs of a hot new trend in horror?
Since Colin is here to work (and it’s one of the most hectic and crucial weeks in his TIFF-programming year, I leave him to his non-stop meetings in the market while I wander around and explore for myself. In addition to the seemingly endless number of screening rooms in the Palais building, the city of Cannes also boasts the Olympia, the Arcades and the Star cinemas all within a few blocks of each other (all have multiple screening rooms). One of the bigger hotels, the Gray D’Albion, also has several screening rooms on the mezzanine level. Every single one of these spaces is booked for screenings during the entire run of the market. The “pocket guide” to the Marché du Film is a whopping 215 pages of schedules, film descriptions and of course some ads. You can only imagine just how many finished films from around the world people are trying to buy and sell here. And that doesn’t even begin to take into account the films that people are pitching, and trying to get produced. For a festival that has a relatively small number of officially selected titles, the all-business underbelly of the fest is staggeringly huge.
In the evening, I manage to snag a ticket to the Grand Theatre Lumière screening of Dario Argento’s Dracula 3D. The film is one of nine films selected out of competition, and one of only three selected to play as ‘midnight screenings’, though the actual start time is 12:30. By 2:00am, the film is almost over, but my patience with it has worn so thin that I slip out the back. Since I didn’t finish watching it, you won’t be reading a review from me, but the stilted dialogue and stale take on the story that I sat through for about an hour felt like it was made by a student who picked up a Cole’s Notes version of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and decided to clumsily adapt it to the screen without so much as a passing awareness of the fact that any other vampire film had ever been made in the history of cinema. Baffling. I decide my time will be better spent going to bed so that I can wake up for a very big day of screenings, meetings, and my very first red carpet (for Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt, one of my most anticipated titles in competition this year).