Saturday May 20th was another “get up early with baby and then go down for a nap with him as soon as possible” start to the day. While I napped, Colin went to the Frontières proof of concept panel, and I joined him afterwards for a lunch also hosted by the Frontières market folks. They’ve been very good to us over the years, from the very first time we went there with The Void in 2013, through two other projects over the years – both with filmmaker/super-nanny Tim Reis!
At the Frontières lunch we got to see some old pals and colleagues, got to hang with a few folks who we normally only see at Fantasia, and got to recommend our fave pizza place (Papa Nino’s, obvs) to Void producer Casey Walker who’s in Cannes for his first time and presenting at the aforementioned proof of concept panel.
Best of all we got to sit down and catch up with Louis Tisné, who produced one of the fan-faves that Colin had in Midnight Madness back in 2014: the Belgian horror film Cub. Louis is a knowledgeable and insightful guy – and also a dad – so we got to chat about movies and about kids’ school plays in equal measure.
After lunch we raced off to say hi to another Midnight Madness alum and pal of Colin’s, French director Xavier Gens (his film Frontier(s) was at TIFF in ’07), who is completing a new film at the moment, Cold Skin. We got to see the promo, and I’ll say this much: if it delivers on its own promises, it’s gonna be one of my faves of the year.
Xavier Gens was the third in a run of awesome European directors – my version of ‘celebrity spotting’, maybe. I’ll tell you the other two as well, not to name drop (is it still name dropping if they’re not household names?) but to encourage you to see their films, which are so, so good: A.J. Annila, whose super-creepy and beautiful Sauna is easy to seek out because it’s on Shudder; and Koen Mortier, whose mind-fuck Ex Drummer is 100% worth whatever efforts you need to put into seeing it.
Later in the afternoon we decided to be adventurous with bébé so we strapped him to Colin’s chest and brought him to the terrace of the Grand for a meeting. He made friends with people all over the terrace and was delightfully well behaved throughout.
Afterwards, we strolled around in the direction of a meeting that was cancelled at the last minute and then got some Papa Nino’s pizza to go and settled into a nice dinner at home. Turns out that the guy who runs Papa Nino’s is named Alex. That technically makes him Sasha’s namesake, since Sasha is short for Alexander! He was delighted.
And, oh yeah, I picked up two tickets that I acquired through the far-less-complicated-than-it-used-to-be ticketing system. This system doesn’t require paragraphs of explanation. You just log in, make your requests, and then get an email later telling you if you got ’em. Easy!
Movie count: 0
Rosé count: ∞
Pizza count: 3
Friday May 19th was a day of naps and also of productivity. Colin had a ticket to OKJA, the Netflix-funded Bong Joon-ho film that is part of the current hullabaloo between Netflix and the French film industry (I’m simplifying but you can find out more here or here – and I have to add that I’m with Will Smith on this one).
While he and Tim enjoyed the film, I slept with booboo, then woke up with him, fed him and played for a while, then napped with him for another two hours for which I was immensely grateful.
Then a producer friend came over with a wide variety of delightful pastries and we hung out in the garden for a while talking while Sasha played and munched on bits of croissant. Perfect day so far!
Tip #1: if you’re going to a market with a kid, it pays to get a place that’s nice enough to host people.
I will preface this by saying that it’s often not possible. Apartments in Cannes can be wildly expensive, especially if they’re centrally located. However, just like the ‘arrive early’ tip from day 1, this is one of those targets of opportunity that you try to hit but shouldn’t stress out about if you can’t.
Many meetings in Cannes (or at any market or festival) must, by necessity, take place in the offices or booths of the people you’re meeting with. Sales agents, distributors and the like: they have offices and people come to them. Their schedules are too tight to allow them to zip all over town meeting with people, and besides, they need to have promotional materials handy, TV screens to show trailers and clips, and so on. But! There are also the producer types and the financiers and film festival programmers and buyers who float freely from meeting to meeting, location to location.
They’re the ones you meet on the terrace of the Grand hotel or at your favourite cafe. If you’re lucky enough to have a centrally located apartment with a decent-sized living room or balcony (or in our case, a glorious garden – a rare thing for Cannes) you can invite them to come over so that you don’t have to cancel a meeting when your baby decides to nap at an inopportune time. If the difference in cost isn’t a deal-breaker and you have the option of getting a place where you can have people over, I highly recommend it. You might miss out on the late-night drinks at the Petit Majestic because of kiddo, but how nice is it to tell all your friends to swing by for a glass of rosé en route to all their fabulous parties?
As I warned in an earlier post, this year’s going to include a lot of niche tips for a niche audience. But really, being able to host a small do – even when you and everyone else you know is out of town! – is one of those slightly underrated but amazing skills that I advise to anyone to pick up. It’s showbiz, after all.
Colin got home from his blitz of post-movie Palais walk-by meetings partway through my garden hangout (I was in the middle of updating our friend on the progress of Birdland) and he whisked sweetpea off to the kids’ amusement area near the Palais to meet up with some pals who brought their older kids along to Cannes.
Yes, by the way, there is a mini kids play area right by the Palais. There’s an adorable double decker carousel which I can’t wait to take bébé on, a little ride where kids can ride different cars along a track-loop, a mini-pool in which you can race remote control boats, and a playground nearby. It’s adorable.
The fun-zone is next to an outdoor restaurant where we decided to stop for lunch. Unfortunately service was so slow that Sasha fell asleep on Colin’s shoulder and he ended up walking him all the way home, fast asleep, and gently sliding him into his crib for a nap.
Tip #2: try not to feel too much crushing mom-guilt over the amazing experiences you’re giving your kid (that they won’t remember anyway).
I can’t tell you how bad I felt that Sasha fell asleep before eating lunch and before getting home to his cozy bed. I felt like I was starving and exhausting my poor perfect little baby, because I’m an awful, selfish mom. But really, he was fine. He was sleepy, so he fell asleep. Later, woke up cheerful and had a good dinner. He is 100% the best. It was as if I’d temporarily forgotten that he is not a shy baby and always makes his voice heard if he has real complaints. Take a chill pill, mom! You’re in the south of France.
After Colin left to put Sasha down for his nap, I got his lunch to go, finished up with our pals and then headed home to get ready for the next thing. We left lovebug with Tim, who’d spent the afternoon watching a film in the market, and we headed off to the TIFF cocktail.
The TIFF cocktail is held at the La Plage des Palmes, a patio / restaurant / party space overlooking the sea on the end of a long row of beachside international pavilions that surround the Palais. It’s a great opportunity to meet up with a lot of Canadians and also a lot of the international film festival community. Plus, since Colin has only been out of TIFF for a few months, everyone was still expecting to catch up with him there. And so we went, and a lovely time was had by all. I reconnected with a woman I hadn’t seen since we spent a delightful afternoon in an Absinthe bar in Paris five-ish years ago with a small group of mutual friends. As one does, in Cannes.
Tip #3: have good answers for questions you’re likely to be asked.
After TIFF we raced over to the Grand for a cocktail hour meeting with our friends at EPIC, the company that is selling Jason Bognacki’s Mark of the Witch. We’ve dealt with a lot of sales, distribution & production companies over the years and they remain at the top of our list for being really good, honest guys who do great work. We talked to them about our future plans and were slightly stumped by their question of what we really want to do next. Gotta work on that one.
After such a packed day I was pretty happy to settle in with the bean and some takeout kebabs from a place across the street while Tim went out to meet friends and Colin went to a screening for Shudder.
Early nights. My new favourite thing about Cannes.
Movie count: 0
Meeting and/or work-related-reception count: 3
Baby playdate count: 1
Ahhh, day two. Thursday May 18th, that is. Already, time is speeding up. The first day felt endless, and now, time is starting to pass swiftly. By next Monday it’ll be whizzing by at breakneck speeds and then before I know it we’ll be home.
After a so-so night of sleep, Sasha ended up taking the world’s longest nap on Thursday late-morning, so we decided to split up for the day – Colin attended the meetings we had booked and I stayed home and relaxed / napped / ate 1,000 croissants / caught up on emails while booboo snoozed.
The biggest benefit of working with your partner is that you can take turns working and taking care of kiddo. But of course, since most of the people we’re meeting here are Colin’s business contacts, if one of us has to stay at home, it’s likely to be me (which, in this case, was completely fine because I needed the downtime).
By late afternoon we were able to leave the sweet, napped out little guy in Tim’s care and head out to a meeting with a Canadian producer who had great insights to share about where the industry is headed. Asking people what they think is working in the current market can be very illuminating.
Tip #1: when you meet with people, make sure you aren’t doing all the talking.
Yes, it’s important to talk if you’re pitching a project. But sales agents, distributors, financiers and other producers can all be very insightful and helpful, if you ask questions and then shut up for a while.
We scheduled a lot of our meetings this year on the terrace of the Grand Hotel, a good see-and-be-seen place where everyone congregates. Our motivation wasn’t so much that we need to ‘be seen’, but that we weren’t 100% organized about our meeting-requests and pre-market emails to reach out to various friends and associates, so being somewhere that’s a central hub helps, because we’re likely to run into everyone we need or want to see.
Tip #2: don’t be cranky with security, they’re just doing their damn jobs.
This is kind of an aside, but an important one. Security has been beefed up this year. Big time. There are way more army types with big scary machine guns roaming the streets, and it takes a lot longer to get into the Palais because the badge-scanning and bag-checking system is a bit more thorough than it used to be.
I’ve only gone through security a few times but a note to huffy Americans (they’re almost always Americans): you don’t have to harrumph your way through the lineup or tell the guy who’s just trying to process a thousand irate people a day that you’re “in a hurry” as if he’s trying to delay you on purpose. We’re all in a hurry! Just calm down and be patient. Accept the fact that you might sometimes be five minutes late because of security. Everyone will understand, because they’re going through the same security checkpoints as you. The guy who probably spends ten hours a day looking through handbags does not deserve your attitude.
After some walk-by meetings at the Grand and a fun catch-up with one of our Shudder colleagues, we went back to the apartment to snuggle our BB and get ready for the Shudder team dinner, which was at a fun but way-too-loud restaurant in the centre of town. Am I getting old? Yes. Was it also impossible to hear anyone more than one foot away from my face in there? Yes. The food was very good, though.
Tip #3: go to bed early sometimes.
After dinner, we swung by the Petit Majestic to have a single beer and introduce our Shudder colleague and pal Sam Z to the late night watering hole for his first time. And then we took our plastic cups of beer to go and headed home to bed. Sometimes, it feels just phenomenal to have an early (ish) night.
Movie count: 0
Meeting count: 2 (+ 2 that Colin did alone)
Social fun-gatherings count: 2
Hey y’all, it’s been a while. Last time I posted on this blog, it was February of 2016 and I was one hundred years pregnant and getting ready to take a year’s maternity leave. Our lil potato was born in April, and I spent the better part of the past year struggling to actually be on maternity leave, even though I still had work to do that couldn’t be passed on to anyone else – finalizing the post-production on Birdland (which is now completed, and we’re looking forward to a release later this year!), and programming The Royal (which I am also done with!), and National Canadian Film Day 150 (which was a raging success, and I’m very glad I got to be part of it).
And now that my maternity leave should be over, I’m … actually finally free to spend time with my kiddo without stressing out about work. Ironic, or something.
Anyway, as you might have noticed if you know me or read this blog, Colin and I are not sit-around-and-do-nothing people, so instead of kicking back, we’re packing for Cannes, where we’ll be going (avec bébé) in less than a week.
Remember my Cannes diaries from days of yore? If you don’t, just go to the Cannes diaries tag and read ’em. Well, this year you’re going to get a very different version of the same: the hot-hot Cannes tips that 99% of the Cannes attendees I know do not need: how to pitch projects, attend meetings, walk the red carpet and drink your weight in rosé all while taking great care of a rambunctious one year old and having a wee family vacation on the side.
But y’know what? I’m very ok with focusing my attentions on the not-so-small niche of moms who work in film!
And now back to prepping for the market that brings us such cinematic gems as …
I’ve finally gotten around to reflecting on what films I really enjoyed at Cannes. These are in alphabetical order because I hate choosing favourites among my favourites.
Alleluia (dir. Fabrice Du Welz)
I loved this beautiful, disturbing, strange take on the Honeymoon Killers story, though it strays pretty far from the original. When Michel (Laurent Lucas, who also starred in the director’s debut feature, Calvaire) and single mom Gloria (Lola Dueñas) go out on a date, the last thing she expects to find out is that he’s a scam artist who seduces women and steals from them. And yet, the connection Gloria feels is too strong to ignore, and soon the couple are scheming to rob unsuspecting women together – that is, if they can before Gloria’s jealousy gets the better of her. The two leads are terrific, and the other women that surround them are wonderfully real (older, vibrantly sexual, full of a genuine yearning for love). Du Welz has a masterful eye for visual composition and for creating female characters whose emotional needs are cranked to 11 (or eleventy thousand).
Cold in July (dir. Jim Mickle)
Based on the book by Joe R. Lansdale, this tight little movie is hands down one of the best suspense thrillers of the year. Michael C. Hall (Dexter!) is Richard Dane, a small town Texas picture framer who shoots an intruder in his living room one night. When the intruder’s father – a dangerous ex con played by a perfectly ruthless Sam Shepard – arrives at the Dane’s doorstep looking for vengeance, the two men end up on the dark path together, because of course, nothing is ever as it seems in a good Texas noir. Don Johnson stands out as Jim Bob, the flashy pig-farmer-cum-private-eye who helps the two men get to the bottom of an ugly mystery. Good lord, has Don Johnson still got it! I mean, schwing!
It Follows (dir. David Robert Mitchell)
Maika Monroe (who also stars in Adam Wingard’s The Guest this year) is great in It Follows, as Jay, a teenage girl who gets more than she bargained for while on a date with a seemingly normal, mild-mannered dude. Seems he’s the carrier of an unusual sexually transmitted phantom that stalks and kills it prey. Now Jay’s got to enlist the help of her cadre of teenage pals to help her outrun the danger – or figure out a way to beat it, without getting killed in the process. It Follows delivers a driving synthy soundtrack and a very tense atmosphere throughout. I especially loved Mitchell’s portrayal of realistic teenagers and realistic teenage sexuality that never veers into exploitative territory in spite of the subject matter.
Lost River (dir. Ryan Gosling)
Gosling got a lot of bad reviews for Lost River, but I think that’s mainly because people had their knives out for him. The film takes place in the ruined outskirts of Detroit, where single mom Billy (Christina Hendricks) struggles to keep her dilapidated home and raise two boys. Her teenage son, Bones, (Iain De Caestecker), has problems of his own, mostly dealing with local thug Bully (Matt Smith, whose transformation from the endearingly tweedy Doctor Who to total monster is impressive). The film wears its influences on its sleeve (Refn, Wenders, Lynch, and others) but is a strong debut feature that looks absolutely gorgeous, mostly thanks to Benoît Debie, the DoP behind films like Vinyan, Enter the Void and Spring Breakers. I’ll say this much: it’s better than anything James Franco has ever directed, and Gosling is at least trying to do something artful and different, which we should be encouraging in any emerging filmmaker, instead of snarkily mocking him for it.
When Animals Dream (dir. Jonas Alexander Arnby)
This film was totally mis-marketed as a horror film. It’s not one. It’s a completely stunning and deeply moving drama about how the difficulties of being a young woman and growing up in a repressive small community. When strange things begin to happen to 16 year old Marie’s body, she starts to learn that her family has bigger secrets than she ever realized, and that perhaps her heavily sedated mother is not a helpless invalid but something else entirely – something that she too is now becoming. A great metaphor for how women’s power is often suppressed for “their own good” because men don’t know how to cope with it. A very different transformation / coming of age story than Ginger Snaps, but dealing with some similar issues.
White God (dir. Kornél Mundruczó)
A very, very odd film about a girl and her dog. The first half plays out like an urban Hungarian Incredible Journey. Precocious 12-year old Lili is separated from her beloved dog, Hagen, a lively mutt who goes on a wild adventure trying to find his way back to her. After Hagen falls into the hands of some bad guys, the film takes an unexpected turn. The final act is straight out of the grimmest revenge film, as Hagen goes on a bloody rampage (flanked by about 200 other dogs from the city pound) to punish everyone who’s ever wronged him. I couldn’t tell: was this an art house film with magic realism elements, or was it a genre film that leaves an insane number of loose ends and open questions? Either way, it has to be seen to be believed.
Friday May 23
The final weekend of Cannes was indeed wonderful, but could have been a lot more so if I hadn’t fallen into the oh-so-familiar trap of total festival burnout. After eight or nine days of racing around like a maniac, staying up too late, and eating erratically (I swear, this town is the king of “croissant for breakfast, forget to eat until 9pm dinner”), I started to get a little scratch in my throat. On Friday, I was still ok. By Saturday … well, you’ll read that in the next blog post, eh?
On Friday, that throat-scratch was still just a distant murmur, something I barely realized would become an issue. I dragged my butt out of bed and went to two films, both of which I really enjoyed. The first was the supremely weird Hungarian dog movie White God. I look forward to writing more about this one when I do my roundup of festival faves. The second was the almost universally panned Ryan Gosling joint, Lost River. I thought it was a pretty strong debut. Flawed, sure, but nowhere near as bad as many of the totally knives-out reviews would suggest. More on both of those in my movie roundup post in a couple of days.
After the films, C + I went back to the apartment to briefly chill before dinner, which was a lovely affair with Paul (from Frightfest), Chad (from the internet) and our lovely writer & food lover & all around charming friend Jason Gorber (from Toronto – how novel) at La Brouette de Grand-Mère (Grandmother’s Wheelbarrow), a restaurant we try to hit every year for its charming fixed price menu.
There are a couple of “set” courses that get brought out to the table family style – a big bowl of delicious salad and a huge loaf of homemade terrine with lots of bread (I think I ate my annual quota of bread during these two weeks) which comes accompanied by a glass of champagne.
This followed by a smoked salmon course (which is served with a shot of vodka) followed by individually selected mains (I had the pork loin and it was mighty fine) which are served with a big batch of communal scalloped potatoes (to die for, seriously). Tim & Karrie League joined us for dessert and some final catching up (my caramel pana cotta was excellent), which would have been a perfect end to the night. But of course, we went to the Petit instead.
A dear Toronto friend had been trying for a couple of days to hook me up with a cool lady he knows from the UK who happened to also be in Cannes, and on Friday we finally succeeded in meeting up at the Petit Majestic. She was delightful, the cheap (ish) beer flowed as easily as the conversation, and before I knew it I was hoarse and exhausted and it was 4am again. Oh, Cannes. You cruel mistress.
** Note: I’ve been behind on finishing the blog entries because I caught the mother of all Cannes Colds toward the end of the fest, but since I’m finally starting to see the light at the end of that tunnel, I figured I’d wrap up my last few days’ worth of diary entries. The rest will come tomorrow, and next week a mini roundup of my favourite films from Cannes 2014! Enjoy, and stay healthy, friends. **
Thursday May 22
This was one of those days that started out as a semi-failure (pouring rain, a failed attempt to get into the 11:30am screening of Fabrice Du Welz’s Alleluia) and then turned into a totally successful three movie bonanza!
The rain definitely put the kibosh on my desire to race around getting things done (you know, buying gifts for family, etc) so I stayed in the apartment, caught up on some emails, worked on that cursed Telefilm application (cursed only because they make it more complicated than the guidelines would have you believe. There are way more little details once you enter the actual back end of the online submission system, and many were quite time consuming. I was pretty motivated to get it the hell done though, so I was glad to be able to spend some time on it – that is, until the system kicked me out for maintenance, or something. Cursed, I swear.
In the evening, we managed to secure hard tickets to Alleluia, which was one of my most hotly anticipated titles and absolutely did not disappoint. It’s a Belgian take on The Honeymoon Killers and it’s both supremely weird and very fantastic. There are many friends to whom I want to heartily recommend this one.
The perfect double bill was semi-accidentally created when we also managed to land tickets to the remastered 40th anniversary screening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Watching a gorgeous restoration film with a crowd (a very fancily dressed crowd, I might add) really drove home the point of how amazing the film actually is. It doesn’t jut “hold up” after 40 years. It actually could easily stand against any horror film of the present day in terms of good villains, incredibly creepy production design and generally effective terror. We haven’t improved a lot on that formula in the last four decades, honestly.
The film was preceded by a really moving introduction by Nicolas Winding Refn, who talked about how this was the film that inspired him to want to make movies. He also talked about how Tobe Hooper deserved to win the Palme d’Or 40 years ago. Refn was full of zingers about his own career and jokes about how soon he’d win a Palme d’Or himself. “Oscars you buy,” he said, “Palmes you earn”. He implored the audience to give him an “emotional Palme d’Or” by standing and applauding for him – which the audience did for such a long time that Hooper was visibly moved by the time he came on stage. It was actually really moving. Tears were shed.
After the Texas Chainsaw Massacre experience, we raced over to the Palais to catch the Korean film screening at midnight, The Target. It was raining while we stood in line, and we didn’t have umbrellas, but what the hell, the weather’s been great all week so who’s complaining? The film itself was fun enough, but if it had been English language, I highly doubt we’d be talking about it right now and there’s no way in hell it’d be screening in Cannes, y’know what I mean?
The triple-bill left us dinner-less so we hoofed it up to our old neighbourhood (circa two years ago) nearer the train station to a small kiosk that sells shockingly good baked goods until very, very late at night. Walked home with some cheesy pastries and Merguez sausage rolls and avoided the Petit Majestic entirely, because sometimes you just have to eat flaky pastries and fall the hell asleep. Besides, it’s not like it was even early. The midnight films actually start at 12:30 in Cannes and are rarely on time, so by the time the 2+ hour film let out it was nigh on three o’clock.
Anyway, this is my tip for you for next year. If you need a late night snack, this place is called Au P’tit Creux d’Azur. It’s got a blue awning and is on Rue de Maréchal Foch just south of Place de la Gare (so, really, right by the train station). It’s about one block east of the big Monoprix and it’s open very, very late. Trust me on this. It is the best tip I’ve given you all month. I just wish I’d remembered earlier.