Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Six hours in Cannes
It's 530am and I'm sitting in the lobby of the plush Grand Hotel in Cannes with my editor James. We're trying to use the hotel's free wi-fi service to feed to the Atlanta news desk a report we've just completed on the start of Cannes Film Festival's 60th anniversary. We are confronted by the irate night porter who accuses us of trying to sleep for free in the lobby of his hotel. A prickly debate ensues in which neither party fully comprehends the other. Finally he storms off with a uniquely gallic contemptuous wave of his arm, spitting the words "Le Presse! Pah!!!" No comprehension problems with that.
We lose the internet connection. We mutter darkly that it's an act of revenge by the night manager and we haul up our equipment and trudge along Cannes' famous promenade, La Croisette, to the even more sumptuous Carlton Hotel. The staff here are much more welcoming to us as they prepare breakfast for their guests. We manage to feed our report and step back on to the promenade to find no taxis in sight and a 20 minute walk back to our apartment, carrying our gear. I have a screening to attend in three hours.
The possession of a press pass at the world's most famous film festival is no guarantee that you'll actually get to see any films. I have been promised an interview with British actor Jude Law and U.S. singer-songwriter-turned-actress Norah Jones along with the notable Chinese director Wong Kar Wei concerning his first English-language film "My Blueberry Nights." It's clearly important that I see the film before the interview so plan to arrive an hour before the screening.
To my horror, I find a long line of people stretching from the steps in front of the Palais. A very long line. Thoughts of grabbing a bottle of water or visiting the toilet to prepare for a cosy two hours watching a movie disappear with the obvious need to get in line as quickly as possible.
An hour later my neck is sunburnt and thought of water and the toilet have been an ever-present for the past 45 minutes. The adrenalin surges as the holders of the coveted pink pass (mainly on-air talent) are admitted to the 2,000-seater cinema.
After a wait during which I feel I can actually witness global warming around me, the humble blue pass (producers and wordsmiths) are admitted - but only about a hundred of us make it inside before the dreaded words are issued by security: "C'est complet!" I made the cut by just eight people.
I looked back at the confrontation blossoming behind me as three hundred lightly toasted members of the international press corps discover that their morning standing in the sun has been entirely fruitless. I imagine the Liverpool fans who were refused admission to the Champions League Final unknowingly share a common bond with this unhappy group.
As one of the lucky ones I was able to bask in my good fortune just as far as the entrance to the theatre. That was when I realised that getting inside and getting a seat inside provided another stratum of separation.
The lights were already down and through the dark I could make out silhouetted heads jostling for position and angry words exchanged in French, Italian and an Eastern European language I couldn't identify. I have never before watched a film standing up. Nor have I done so with my back to the screen looking over my right shoulder compressed between several other unseen strangers; not to mention the contrasting distractions of a full bladder and a parched throat.
After two hours of this my neck felt as if it had been dislocated and any attempt to return it to a more traditional vista met with excruciating pain, which served as an exceptional means of staying awake despite the nocturnal working hours of the previous night.
I'm not a critic but I regard it as a relatively positive measure of a film if it can sustain my interest and even invoke moments of considerable pleasure during such trying circumstances. As the credits roll I join the throng of other journalists racing for the after-screening press conference. I hear two aristocratic English voices discussing the merits of Jude Law's contribution to the film in less than flattering terms while complementing each other on their own wit and observations. The accents hint at a privileged upbringing and the tone of their conversation clearly belonged to that other privileged class - the ones who got seats!
With a derisory "Pah!" which might even have impressed the night porter of the Grand Hotel I stalk off round the corner to join the queue for the press conference.
My morning is about to take a turn for the worse as I spot the sign: "C'est Complet!"
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