DAY 5 (Tuesday May 22)
The meetings here are quite endless. Everyone schedules them into half-hour blocks, but everyone always takes longer than 30 minutes and doesn’t account for travel time, so it’s kind of amazing that anything really gets done. To be fair, travel time is only an issue if you’re going form the Palais (where most of the sales booths are) to one of the major hotels, but still. I marvel at how people manage schedules this hectic.
I accompany Colin to a few of his meetings because I’m fascinated by how it all works, but it definitely makes me realize that it can be quite hard to actually see any movies here. It’s so hectic, stepping away from the business side of things for a whole 90 minutes seems very indulgent, perhaps even irresponsible.
At some point, we branch off and he continues to meet various people while I wander the market. Later, when we get five minutes of alone time, I tell him excitedly that I saw a horror film by accident that I was apparently not supposed to be allowed into earlier that day. The producers were quite vocal about not allowing in any North Americans (something to do with their sales & distro strategy, but they obviously weren’t checking badges too carefully).
Tonight, we have no films planned, because it’s the night of the much-anticipated and much-beloved Fantastic Fest / Fantasia Karaoke party, an annual event in Cannes and also at the Berlin film fest in February. The Austin and Montreal based festivals team up to organize an insane, always-packed karaoke party.
This year, it’s hosted at the Station Tavern, where I found myself just the night before.
I don’t sing karaoke, but I go because I know it’ll be my only chance to see certain people – friends and colleagues from the US who are members of the whole ‘fantastic film festival’ community, especially. It’s kind of amazing how much business actually takes place at parties in this town. I’m not expecting a big networking schmooze out of this party (it’ll be more of a chance for everyone to let their hair down and relax) but it is quite important to realize just how important socializing is to the Cannes experience. I do not envy any serious introverts who find themselves here, that’s for sure.
On a sidenote, I’m not sure why all these film types are so obsessed with karaoke, but it’s a huge thing. Film people. They love it. Go figure.
Unless you’re at a private party that can serve liquor as long as they feel like it, the city of Cannes is quite strict about their last call policy. Usually, last call is announced a few minutes after 2:00am, but instead of giving patrons a lazy hour to finish up their last drinks, here they shut things down by 2:15, no exceptions. The party ends abruptly, but I’m quite happy to just go to bed. I catch Fantastic Fest / Alamo Drafthouse founder / party host Tim League just before leaving and am told that he’s going for clown-shaped ice cream sundaes. I admire that, but decide not to follow in his footsteps.
DAY 6 (Wednesday May 23)
After last night’s karaoke mayhem, I manage to nonetheless make it to my midday meeting with an awesome woman from a cool distribution company. She’s looking for scouts to bring interesting projects to her, and I’m interested in maybe doing that type of consulting work. We talk a lot about our favourite films and at the end of the meeting, she decides to name her two new kittens after two young German filmmakers who I’m working with and who she’s meeting with later in the day (Norbert and Felix, they’re perfect cat names, no?).
I’ve had a writing deadline looming over my head for about two weeks (unrelated to Cannes, I was supposed to hand a short story in to an editor for inclusion in an anthology before leaving for France, but I didn’t get it edited in time. I’ve hardly had time while I’ve been here to make sure I eat at least one proper meal per day, let alone spend time writing, so today I decide to ditch my exciting film plans. I had intended to catch repeat screenings of the competition film Rust & Bone as well as a screening of a coming of age romance called Fondi ‘91 in the market. It was directed by an old university friend of mine, and I’m super proud of him and excited to see it. However, my sense of impending doom regarding my overdue assignment wins, and I head back to the apartment, where I promptly fall asleep for two hours (I needed it) and then finish all the edits on my story. Triumph!
In the evening, I get to celebrate this success by having dinner with a few friends (pizza, are you surprised?) and then catching the premiere screening of Ben Wheatley’s new film, Sightseers, in the Director’s Fortnight section of the fest. The film is amazingly funny and smart, which makes me very happy, since Ioved his previous effort (Kill List, which played TIFF last year). After the film, we decide to try out our fancy “castle passes” with a couple of friends and head up the rather steep hill to the castle, where on this particular night Wild Bunch is hosting a party for the anthology film 7 Days in Havana.
Gaspar Noé (Irreversible, Enter the Void) is one of the directors, as is Benicio Del Toro (who knew he was a director). At the door of the castle, we see two lines, and the friends convince me to ask the somewhat scary looking security guys which line we should stand in with our passes, because I am ‘a girl’ (to be fair, though, I wasn’t the only girl in the group, I think this was just a fun game that they were playing – I also got the task of ordering drinks from neglectful bartenders a few times for the same reason). As it turns out, our passes get us through the VIP line, and pretty soon we’re in an idyllic courtyard full of make-your- own-mojito stations. We do, and then take a tour of the absolutely labyrinthine castle, which has multiple party levels, several terraces, and a rooftop with a great view of the city.
The Wild Bunch parties famously start at midnight and don’t really shut down until 7:00am. We arrive with the intention of sticking around briefly, just to “see what it looks like”. Three drinks later, our friends decide to go to bed, but Colin and I stay for a nightcap. Of course, by this point the castle has filled up quite a bit and there are more people there who we recognize and want to chat with.
Our nightcap turns into three or four rounds of alternating mojitos and gin & tonics until I suddenly realize, to my horror and delight, that the sun is starting to come up. While I did see and say hello to Gaspar Noé there (more accurately, Colin said hello and introduced me as his new wife, to which Gaspar responded “you made a good choice with him”), there weren’t many other celeb sightings to report. That is, unless you count the time when Benicio Del Toro’s bodyguard butted in front of Colin in the bathroom line so that Benicio could go next.
We stumble home (via a 24 hour bakery, for some ham pastries) after 5:00am and fall immediately asleep. Tomorrow will be a mess, but it was worth it to be able to say “I partied all night in a castle”.
DAY 7 (Thursday May 24)
After last night’s castle adventure, waking up early enough to make my ambitious screening plans happen was difficult. By which I mean “it did not happen at all”. I slept in until about 12:30, then dragged myself out of bed just in time to buy a chevre & avocado sandwich at the local bakery (sidenote: the “chevre” they serve in sandwiches here is basically goat brie, and it is mindblowing) and catch one of the re-screenings of Ken Loach’s The Angels’ Share. The festival always repeats official titles for film market badge holders during the last couple of days of the fest, but even though the market is packing up and many people have left town, the screening rooms were packed for all the hot titles. It is kind of nice to see all these bleary eyed people who’ve clearly spent the past week in a 5×10’ booth actually get out to see some quality cinema. Take a break, guys! Everyone works excessively long hours in this town!
The film was a perfect marriage between “depressing as hell working class Ken Loach” and “brilliantly uplifting triumph of the human spirit” Ken Loach. Probably the feel good film of this year’s official selection, though I haven’t seen Madagascar 3 (which is also in the fest if you can believe it, though out of competition).
After the Loach I’m feeling good enough to get right back into the line to see John Hillcoat’s Lawless. It was written by Nick Cave. It stars Tom Hardy. It’s about prohibition. How can you go wrong with any combination of these elements? As it turns out, you can only by making your film a bit too long. Otherwise, a very well done but quite traditional Hollywood drama. I expect it’ll do well come awards season.
I decide to skip a third screening because nothing in that time slot is on my “must see” list and join Colin for cocktails on the terrace of the Hotel Majestic (at the offices of a film company that he’s meeting with). Their terrace overlooks the front of the hotel, where a very dolled-up crowd is heading out to the red carpet of Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy. The crowds are mental on all sides of the barricades, mostly locals and press, but some industry types as well, lined up to see the stars go up the red carpet. I, on the other hand, are heading out to meet with some young German directors who want help with a project their working on, followed by a BBQ dinner at the apartment of Australian director Jon Hewitt (he made Acolytes, which played a few years ago in Midnight Madness at TIFF and was one of my faves of that year). His wild Aussie BBQs are an annual tradition in Cannes, and the food (lamb, pork, merguez sausages and infinite other snackables) really delivers. The fridge is so full of rosé you couldn’t possibly wedge in another bottle.
After the BBQ we descend on the Petit Majestic, a small bar in a back alley behind the Grand hotel. Here’s how the hierarchy of late night drinking works in Cannes. If you’re not out at a specific party or reception and you just want to have a mellow drink and hopefully run into a lot of people you know, you have two options. The high rent option is the large, opulent terrace of the Grand, where dozens of inflatable couches (as well as tables & chairs) litter the lawn.
If your pocketbook can’t quite stand Grand prices, you can walk around the hotel into the back alley, where the Petit Majestic is situated. The bar is too small to contain the number of people who want to drink in the tiny corner bar, so the crowds spill out onto the intersection, filling almost an entire block. The bar usually sets up an outdoor beer station where a guy with a keg serves plastic cups for a few Euros.
Our strategy has mostly been to cruise through the Grand & say hello to people, then land at the Petit for cheap drinks with friends, because back alley dive bar drinking is, I guess, more our speed? Every festival programmer, screenwriter, not-yet- famous director is there. Every night. Unfortunately after last night’s Castle Adventure, I’m way too wiped out to stay late, so after a couple of beers, I duck out for some serious rest. Tomorrow’s ambitious plan is to catch both Cronenberg films and the Cosmopolis party (eeeeeeee!!), so I need my beauty sleep.