DAY 8 (Friday May 25)

I wake up early enough to get to a 9:30am screening of Reality, an interesting Italian film about a man whose life is turned upside down as a result of his obsession with getting onto the still hugely popular (in Italy, at least) show Big Brother. I barely get enough time for a sandwich between this and the screening of David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, so I’m pretty sleepy and out of it by the time I sit down in the theatre. The film is odd even for Cronenberg, and will I think be a hard sell for a lot of people, but in spite of my constant battle with exhaustion I end up really enjoying it.

After Cosmopolis, I race down to a restaurant on the beach for lunch with some friends – a mix of journalists and film programmers. Of course, we talk about the films we’ve seen, but everyone also remarks on the fact that this is the first actual lunch break they’ve taken since arriving. An important lesson to learn about Cannes: it’s all go, go, go. Nobody takes breaks until quite late, when all the business that can possibly be done has been squeezed out of the day.

If you leave your apartment or hotel room in the morning thinking “I’ll pop back in here later between meetings to grab my coat for the evening”, you’ll likely end up cold and coat-less later. The breaks that seem possible when you look at your schedule just never seem to materialize. Meetings run late, walking from one location to another takes twice as long as anticipated because the streets are so insanely crowded, you end up running into people you know on some random corner and stopping to chat, and before you know it, that half hour “break” during which you were going to change and dump your bag at home is gone. Better to leave the house with everything you could possibly need. Treat the festival like a survivalist mission, basically. This is why nobody ends up eating lunch. It just takes too long.

The other thing about meals in Cannes is that they all happen really late. It’s a European thing, I guess, but most dinners don’t start until 9 or 10pm, so if you didn’t get lunch either, then you really have to get creative about grabbing street food whenever you can, to keep yourself sane. Lots of people swear by the various kebab joints around town. I’m not sure if the Lebanese food in LA is terrible (in comparison to the amazing restaurants all over Toronto) but I’ve never seen so many people rave about shawarma.

In the evening, I end up seeing my favourite film of the fest, Leos Carax’s confounding and delightful Holy Motors. When I first arrive at the cinema, I see a bunch of people looking confused and angry and huddled around a sign that proclaims Holy Motors has been cancelled in favour of a screening of George Lucas’ WWII flying ace film Red Tails. This seems like a cruel joke (or, seriously, just someone’s idea of an actual joke) but it seems that Red Tails was originally scheduled to be played on the beach, but threats of rain have forced organizers to move it, as Lucas is in town, and they can’t just cancel his appearance. I wonder if anyone cares that Leos Carax is also in town and might be annoyed that his film was being bumped, but before I have a chance to fully hatch my plan to burn the entire city of Cannes to the ground, we’re told that it’s not going to rain after all, and Holy Motors is back on. Sometimes, the rollercoaster of emotion is just too much!

The film is brilliant, and an exuberant group of us decide to celebrate our good post-movie moods by going to the American Pavilion, which has thrown its doors open for a ‘queer party’ DJ’d by Lee Daniels (whose Paperboy I failed to see in Cannes). The music is ok, but the beers are 5 Euros, so Colin and I decide to hike up the hill for a nightcap at the castle. After all, if you have a pass to the party castle, you’ve gotta use it more than once, right?

A lesson I’d like to learn for the next time I go to Cannes, however, is that going to sleep early at least half the time can really save your ass. There’s nothing quite as frustrating or potentially embarrassing as falling asleep in a film you were really looking forward to or blanking out on what you were going to say in a meeting because you’re just so sleep deprived and running on pure adrenaline.

It’s a marathon, not a 100 meter dash, I keep having to tell myself.

DAY 9 (Saturday May 26)

This morning starts with what is hands down the most heartwarming film I will see all year, a beautiful animated film called Ernest and Celestine, from the Belgian filmmakers behind the wacky A Town Called Panic, which played TIFF a few years back. Ernest and Celestine is much more kid-appropriate, a love story between a bear and a mouse in a world in which mice and bears hate and fear each other.

I then race off to see Mud, by Jeff Nichols. By this point in the fest, tickets to the red carpet screenings have become quite a bit easier to get, because so many people have gone home. The film market lasted until the 25 th (yesterday) but many vendors started wrapping up a couple of days earlier than that. For those who can’t afford to take a luxurious 10 day trip to the south of France, the first few days are crucial, the rest not.

I loved Take Shelter, but I’m worried that I won’t be able to stay awake during the over-two- hour running time of Mud, because I still haven’t quite caught up with my sleep. Fortunately, I’m immediately captivated by it and love every second.

For our final real night in Cannes with pals, Colin has organized an excursion to a rum bar called Coco Loco, which has a ‘happy hour’ (it lasts four hours and is quite deadly, actually) during which an unlimited flow of piña coladas, planter’s punch and daiquiris descend upon our large and rowdy table until everyone is totally incapacitated and I miss the evening screening I was intending to catch.

Instead, we stumble to the fascinating Cannes Cinema Club where IFC is hosting a party. The building is full of secret rooms, and we end up spending nearly half an hour in an office behind a bookshelf in which we end up taking turns sitting at the desk and carrying out fake conversations on a rotary phone.

After such a party, the midnight screening of Maniac isn’t quite what anyone is in the mood for, but Colin and I brave it anyway, before falling into a deep sleep that lasts all of Sunday – we get up only to have lunch and dinner, going back to bed in between. I wake up on Monday morning after sleeping for about 24 out of the previous 30 hours and feel totally ready to pack and hop on a train. It sure takes its toll, this festival.