By the final weekend, I’m starting to feel like I have been here forever. Almost everyone has left, so Cannes is starting to feel like a ghost town again. The empty, quiet feeling that was so relaxing and vacation-like at the start of the trip now feels kind of sad and lonely. I guess it’s the difference between arriving early for a party that you know is going to be really fun, and being there after it ends and the fun is over.
My stamina is waning as well. The reason we decided to stay until the very end is that all the official competition films (as well as the award winners from the sidebar programmes) are repeated for market badge holders in these final days. It’s way easier to get into the repeat screenings, even when they’re in smaller venues, than it is to try to get tickets for the official premieres. The premiere screenings for the films in competition all take place in the Lumiere, the 2400 seat cinema with the famous red carpet, where women in informal sandals and men without bow ties and black shoes are turned away. It’s a bit of an ordeal not just to get tickets, but to get all dolled up and stand in line for an hour (know what’s not fun? being drenched in the rain while waiting in line in a formal gown, then having to watch a movie sopping wet … in a formal gown).
Once the bulk of the festival and market attendees leave town and the repeat screenings start kicking in, it’s a cinema lovers’ paradise in Cannes. Easy access to competition titles and back to back screenings with minimal waiting / line-up time for three or four days? What could be better? And yet, but this point I’ve been here for so long and am so tired that it’s getting hard to focus on films. In the end, Colin and I only manage to see one film on the final weekend – Alejandro Jodorowsky’s La Danza de la Realidad.
After seeing the awesome documentary, Jodorowsky’s Dune, we were a bit nervous about seeing La Danza. It’s a personal story about his relationship with his father, and it’s the first film he’s made in 23 years. A lot could go wrong, right? And yet, the old master proves he’s still got it with a whimsical and totally unexpected treat that manages to be playful even when it’s tragic. The touching tale stars the director’s son, Brontis Jodorowsky, as the father, and the film is all the more poignant when you think of the father directing the son in the story of the grandfather, and when you think of the raw and shocking performance the son gives, in the directorial hands of his father. It’s a family affair, and probably in my top three films that I’ve seen here. Jodorowsky’s reflections on life, family, aging and art are both fresh and wise. The man’s done a great job of getting to be 84 years old.
At the end of the day on Saturday we decide to invite some friends who are still in town over to our now-empty apartment (the roomies have left town) to drink rosé and catch up. Five bottles of very good local stuff set us back €15, which just makes Toronto prices all the more depressing. Even in a restaurant, a really good bottle of Provancale wine rarely costs us more than €20-30, but the insane cheapness of wine in grocery stores is really something.
After a quiet dinner for two at a French place, a handful of stragglers descend on our place for wine on the balcony and end up staying until 3am, or thereabouts. It’s totally worth it for the fun with friends, but it screws up our ambitious plan to take a ferry on Sunday to Île Sainte-Marguerite, the pine-and-eucalyptus dotted beauty where the real prison from Man in the Iron Mask still stands. Instead, we spend Sunday packing and trying to buy gifts for our moms and dads, before heading into the scenic, cobble-stoned old town for one final meal.
We pick a cute restaurant and sit down at one of their outdoor tables, next two to gents in tuxedoes who obviously just came from a red carpet screening. We strike up a conversation (as one does with strangers, while travelling) and it turns out our table mates don’t work in film at all, but are attending the festival simply as fans!
I’ve blogged before about how tough it can be to get accredited to Cannes, which is an industry-only festival with no real “public tickets” to speak of. Well, as it turns out, our new pal Ray, who works in a healthcare-related startup near San Francisco in silicone valley, managed to fake working in post-production and got himself a pass about seven years ago. Once you’re in the system, it’s considerably easier to just keep coming back, so he’s continued to buy a market pass every year since, and comes to Cannes for ten days just to watch movies. Every year, he convinces a different buddy to tag along, and this year it was an English writer pal who was relying mostly on the kindness of strangers for his film tickets, because he didn’t have the market pass. The two had been having a grand time, and had probably seen more films than we had. It was so delightful sharing our dinner with “civilians” who weren’t exhausted by two weeks of schmoozing, meetings and work-related obligations, but had actually come to town for the love of film, and were totally invigorated by the experience. We tried to talk them into coming to Toronto in the fall, of course. After all, TIFF shows way more movies.
On our final stroll back to the apartment, we pass by the familiar sites where we spent so much time over these past few weeks and say goodbye for another year. The tech crews are already back, taking apart the temporary structures and barricades erected to keep things orderly during the fest. The streets are mostly empty. It’s really and truly over. And I can’t wait to get home to my own bed.
Saturday, the most persistently, brutally rainy day of the fest so far, started really well. We actually managed to get up early and make it to the 9:00am screening of Blue Ruin, which is playing in the Quinzane des Realisateurs (or Director’s Fortnight, although everyone seems to just shorten it to “Quinzane”). It’s the second feature by Jeremy Saulnier, who made the super fun comedy / horror film Murder Party in 2007.
I saw Murder Party at Toronto After Dark and loved it, and have wondered for the past several years what that guy would do next. Apparently, what he did next was work as a cinematographer on several awesome films before returning to directing the make the incredibly beautiful and touching Blue Ruin. Between Saulnier’s masterful cinematography and the emotionally charged performance of lead actor Macon Blair (so adorable in Hellbenders!), I honestly don’t know what I loved most about this film. The answer is: everything.
The Quinzane screenings all take place at the Theatre Croisette, inside the Palais Stephanie, which I guess used to be called the Noga, because that’s what half the people here still call it (I get that, I mean, I’ll never call the Skydome the Rogers Centre as long as I live). The Quinzane is my favourite Cannes sidebar, not only because I’ve only ever seen great films there (last year, it’s where Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers premiered, for example) but also because it seems so damn cool. They even have the best pre-screening bumper.
According to the Quinzane website, the selection was created by the French Directors Guild in the wake of the events of May ’68:
“The Directors’ Fortnight seeks to aid filmmakers and contribute to their discovery by the critics and audiences alike. From its initial program in 1969, it cast its lot with the avant-garde (the glorious seventies), even as it created a breeding ground where the Cannes Festival would regularly find its prestigious auteurs.”
Later in the day, after a few meetings in the miserable rain, we return to the Theatre Croisette to watch Jodorowsky’s Dune, the documentary about the not-making-of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s famous adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel Dune, which was ultimately made into a film by David Lynch. Even though the doc is seemingly about a failure (to make the film, at least), the story ended up being incredibly inspiring and touching, and left the audience obviously feeling like they’d been transported to a magical place by the director’s wild vision.
Oh yeah, and did I mention? AGNES VARDA SAT RIGHT BEHIND ME. SWOOOOOOOOON.
In the evening, we braved the rain to attend the Blue Ruin party at the fancy beachside bar Chivas House, but after two or three glasses of admittedly delicious Chivas-based punch, we were too tired and waterlogged to continue partying. Highlight of the party was getting to catch up with another Quinzane director who’s film we’ll be seeing in a few days, the awesome Jim Mickle (who came to Toronto in 2010 with the post-apocalyptic vampire film Stake Land). I highly recommend Steak Land, if you haven’t seen it.
After catching up with old friends at the party we took the long, rainy stroll home around 12:30 and felt like champions for making it such a (relatively) early night. No rest in Cannes, that’s for sure. And even though we left the party just as it was getting really good, Colin did manage to make one new friend …