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Cannes Diary – Of cloudless climes and starry skies

Saying goodbye to this beautiful city is hard. No, coming to this festival is hard. No, it isn’t anywhere near hard. Nothing about coming here is hard. We are the privileged few who get to see movies for free, who get to see them first, who get to sip rich coffee out of a tiny doll’s cup, to breathe the sea air as it whips itself up into a frenzy of wind and bedazzlement, heralding a storm’s coming. And the storm comes. And the rain comes. We city dwellers, imports or locals, scramble for our umbrellas, or buy them from the Nigerians on the street corners. The storm rages through long enough to clean up the streets, water the plants, wash off the yachts and keep humanity in its place, in every place where nature rules with an iron fist. We are lucky, we few who get to come here, and that might be the thing about the whole Cannes fest that’s easy to forget.

As I lay in my bed in my rental flat up high on a hill in the Suquet area, the medieval village with cobblestone streets and Disnelyland-like shops balancing on the hill’s edge, I’m thinking hard about leaving here. Nothing I want more than to land on Los Angeles ground — the horrid flats of smog and blunt buildings. But my whole life is back there. Everything I hold dear. My garden needs tending, my bills need paying, my daughter is about to turn 16, her birthday always hitting right at the end of the Cannes Film Fest. I lay here listening to Spiegel Im Spiegel as quietly as possible so as not to wake the sleeping Craig Kennedy in the next room. He’s sleeping. I’m lying here, with my heart pounding in my chest as it often does if I get anxious. Anxious about what, I wonder. Plane trips, mainly, and yes, life itself.

Happy

Happy

Having dinner last night in Le Suquet, Craig and I indulged in delicious French cuisine, though my vegetarian/almost-vegan diet limits my choices. We drank cocktails and wine. We laughed at silly things until we couldn’t breathe. We looked like those regular French people, or tourists, who sit at those tables on the long hillside in Le Suquet where all of the restaurants are. After our meal, Alex Billington happened by. He sat down so we could catch up, which we did way too long. Alex is one of my favorite people in the whole world for two reasons. The first, he’s authentically himself. This is true of Jeff Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, Craig Kennedy and Ryan Adams. You can be sure that you are talking to the person that they really are. The second reason I like Alex is his unending enthusiasm, which hasn’t dampened in the years I’ve known him. He’s yet to fall prey to cynicism, like I’m just on the verge of doing. No one wants to be a cynic, especially not at Alex’ age. He, like me, gets ridiculed for liking too much or not being in step with the bloggers on certain films. He also got ridiculed for the cell phone debacle — something he may never live down a certain crowd on Twitter.

Alex Billington

Alex Billington

But when Alex asked me how I could stand all of the mean things people said about me on Twitter and on message boards I told him something I hope he took to heart: I’ve been online twenty years. If stuff like that bothered me I’d be long gone. I’m not writing to those people. I’m hardly even talking to those people. I’m writing to the people standing really far behind them, the people out there who aren’t locked into the usual crap that happens to people when they mob up.

Alex makes me remember what it’s like to have your whole life ahead of you and to value that youth and energy. I remember now as I lay here (please don’t say dying, please don’t let this be my last and final thing I ever write as the plane goes tumbling into the sky, bursting apart, shattering into the sea so that CNN can talk about its disappearance for months to come), I am thinking about all of the great people I’ve met here at Cannes and online, all of the wonderful people who write me, who RT my lame tweets and links, who send me fan letters, who contact me on facebook, who want me to know about their movies or new movies that are coming out. I am always meeting people in the real world who have been reading my site for years, some of them since high school even.

I met one such person on this trip, Patrick Heidmann who said a kind hello to me in the wi-fi room. I kept seeing him and we meant to grab a drink but we never did. If I believed all of the shitty things the trolls had to say about me, or prickly defensive snooty bloggers? That would mean diminishing all of the nice things people say, all of the good vibes, all of the love and appreciation. Believe me when I say I only continue doing this site because of them. Because of you, whomever you are, reading this sentence right now. That you’ve got this far in this post tells me that you appreciate my writing enough to stick with this piece on down to this part and that I must again say a thank you for that. And for the faith you’ve had in me for these many years and the encouragement you’ve given me.

Doggie love

Doggie love

When I walk these ancient streets of Cannes, when I put my toes in the sand on the beach that spreads out before the Mediterranean, when I sit down in the cool calm of the Lumiere, I am only rarely filled with sadness — and that’s usually to do with what I’ve left behind in the US. In truth, to Alex and to anyone else who has haters — if no one is hating on you you are doing something very very wrong. Your goal as a writer is not to have everyone like you. If you want everyone to like you deliver them sandwiches and coffee every day, clean their homes, babysit their kids. Otherwise, as Bob Dylan would say, “if I’d have paid attention to what others were thinking, the heart inside me would have died.”

What a wonderful festival it’s been yet again, even though you’re going to hear a lot of silly proclamations about how lackluster it’s been. Anyone who says that has soul cancer. We get to be here. We are lucky. We are lucky to be alive when we think about how much Roger Ebert loved this fest, or all of the brilliant feet that have walked these streets over the past 67 years.

Market

Market

It’s France. The sun is almost always shining. It’s ice cream and happy dogs on leashes. It’s wine shops with the most delicious rosé you’ve ever had in your life. It’s music on the streets, seagulls in the air, giant movie screens playing films from all over the world. For free. If that isn’t good enough, you probably should rethink this whole living life business.

Yesterday, I was walking down to the Palais, only this time I’d lost my headphones so I couldn’t listen to music. When you can’t blot the world out you start listening to the world. I could hear the cry of birds, of course, the whirring of mopeds, the occasional honking of tiny trucks delivering morning supplies. But I could also hear people talking to me. Three men standing at the docks said something to me — I turned and I realized they wanted me to take their picture. A tiny moment in life captured forever by my camera.

Three Guys

Three Guys

I could complain about a lot of things. I could say that my suitcase was not big enough and is too heavy and that I’m dreading dragging it down the eight flights of hobbit stairs. I could say that Cannes is a money-suck and that I have spent way more than I should have. I could say that I blew my diet completely with all of this terribly fattening French food (so why aren’t the French fat?) and I could say that I’m disappointed by the way many of the critics have received so many films directed by or starring women.

Rootop

Rootop

But I’m not going to start complaining. The sun is soon coming up over the Pixar-animated rooftops. There’s nothing quite like another day in Cannes. In a short while, Craig and I will drag our monster-sized suitcases down tiny cobblestone streets – kulunk kulunk kulunk. I will sweat in places I barely knew about. Craig has long legs and so he walks much faster than me. I toddle after him like his grandmother. Occasionally, if he isn’t in a hurry, he’ll stop and wait for me. He’s patient with someone who never can get it quite together and keeps breaking things. We will arrive at the right spot because Craig will know how to get us there. We’ll fight our way onto the shuttle as we fought our way onto it back at the airport. We’ll arrive at the Nice airport hopefully on time and we’ll get one last coffee, maybe some kind of bread. Then we’ll fly away and back home, dipping my head in so much gratitude that maybe, just maybe, that gratitude will take me at last to sleep.

The State of the Race: The Ghost of Roger Ebert, The Future of Film

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Cannes 2014 FIPRESCI Prizes

22 Comments

  1. May 22, 2014

    And you missed “Leviathan”?

  2. Sandra D
    May 23, 2014

    Great read Sasha. I must say you’re a rather good writer!

  3. Bob Burns
    May 23, 2014

    I know that feeling of holding onto happiness in the face of twenty hours in the airline cattle pens. The flight is so awful that we always stay in Europe two weeks. Yeah… opportunity costs….. but leaving before you look around is an opportunity cost, too.

  4. May 23, 2014

    Superb and engaging report. And beautifully written. Certainly I wish I were a fly over your shoulder. Hope many of the films will make appearances stateside in the near future. You and Craig had an unforgettable time there.

  5. murtaza
    May 23, 2014

    Angela Bassett to direct a film on Whitney Houston..

  6. steve50
    May 23, 2014

    Thanks for the great posts, Sasha. Always a high point of the year.

  7. Philipp
    May 23, 2014

    I agree!

  8. Scott
    May 23, 2014

    The HAPPY picture is awesome. Once again thanks for sharing Cannes with us Sasha. You are the best!

  9. Kasia
    May 23, 2014

    I hope you never get cynical. Your passion for films is what brings me to this site :) Thank you for that!

  10. Rob Y
    May 23, 2014

    That happy pic is beyond amazing. So is the article.

  11. Robin Write
    May 23, 2014

    I was going to be profound, and say I am a follower of yours Sasha, and have been for I don’t know how many years now, but don’t always agree with you. And I am sure you will agree, that is fine. But I won’t say any of that.

    What I will say is this is one of the best pieces you have written {and pretty sure I have read everything you have written here}. I love it when you just drop in personal stuff in the middle of movie talk. I know that feeling of leaving a great place, and I felt a little sadness myself as the reality of you and Craig leaving Cannes hits home. I wonder if you {and Craig and Ryan} even comprehend what some of us, here at the other side, go through with you guys.

  12. May 23, 2014

    This year again, thoroughly enjoyed your Cannes coverage. Hope you made it home safe and sound.

  13. Rodrigo de Oliveira
    May 23, 2014

    I don’t know how to say this without sounding pervy, so I’ll just state first that I’m a gay man.

    I love you, Sasha. And it’s been this way for 10 years now, the only site I still check out daily after all this time. And I hope I can also see you at the wifi spot come next Cannes and say hi.

  14. Christophe
    May 24, 2014

    Palme d’Or/Grand Prix/Prix du Jury: Mommy, Timbuktu or Mr. Turner
    Best Actress: Marion Cotillard
    Best Actor: Steve Carrell
    Screenplay/Direction: Saint-Laurent, The Homesman, The Search or Maps to the Stars

  15. Bryce Forestieri
    May 24, 2014

    Awards are tomorrow, right? Ceylanist through and through here (been doing homework), but rooting for LEVIATHAN. It might be a silly exercise not having seen anything, but based on directors’ filmos and everything I’ve read about both films I’m thinking I will fall head over heels for the Zvyagintsev. If it wins I only hope we don’t eventually see stories about how it was an anti-Putin statement from the “inside the jury”…so to the jury members, if you didn’t like it, please say so. Don’t be zeitgeist whores.

    I also want the bonus of being able to say “LEVIATHAN, the good one!”.

    Something for Cronenberg?

  16. evelyn garver
    May 24, 2014

    A little off topic. Have a wonderful time with your daughter. The years fly by. My little girl is soon to be a college senior. Best to both of you.

  17. Christophe
    May 24, 2014

    Bryce,

    Awards are tonight! 7:30 PM Paris time, because tomorrow is an election day.

    Latest rumors based on who was asked to attend the ceremony:

    Palme d’Or, Grand Prix or Prix du Jury: Mommy (Dolan), Le Meraviglie (Rorhwacher), Adieu au Langage (Godard)
    Best Actress: Julianne Moore (Maps to the Stars)
    Best Actor: Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner)
    Best Director: Bennett Miller (Foxcatcher)
    Best Screenplay: Leviathan or Winter Sleep

    Cotillard and the Dardenne Brothers were definitely NOT called back and despite heavy campaigning by journalists, Timbuktu was not so well received by the jury.

    But it’s Cannes so there’s no way to know for sure whether all those rumors are true or false???

  18. JPNS Viewer
    May 24, 2014

    Thanks for a good read as usual, Sasha. [Read it a couple of days ago or so]

    The “happy” pic could have been an indie rock CD jacket cover.
    Or even that of a Sheryl Crow single.
    Or equally great if not better – for a brand new CD jacket of Sasha’s Bob Dylan’s upcoming number.
    #But I believe, bif Bob Bylan ever fancies re-releasing Blowing In The Wind on a CD, #this could be a strong contender for its jacket. Look at the way the wind’s caressing Sasha’s hair . . . . (Well, for the record: if this [the deal] rings true in the future, I’d like to have a reasonable amount of referral fee for my part, too.) : )
    Good pic, Sasha. Good pic.

  19. Bryce Forestieri
    May 24, 2014

    “Cotillard and the Dardenne Brothers were definitely NOT called back and despite heavy campaigning by journalists”

    Yeah I don’t feel foolish anymore by noticing journalists/critics being a little too vehement with the “it’s Cotillard’s year!”

    Godard, really? Bummer. I guess it must be his best since WEEK-END by a great (big-ass) margin because otherwise…

    I’ll be thrilled for Julianne Moore if it happens! Actually, it’d be the highlight for me!

  20. Christophe
    May 24, 2014

    Bryce,

    Nonetheless, you just never know, every year there are all sorts of rumors circulating, allegedly coming from the PR teams of films/actors, but sometimes they can be directed by the festival to tell the contrary of what’s going on so we won’t know until a little while.

  21. May 24, 2014

    Christophe, those rumours were frighteningly accurate.

  22. Christophe
    May 24, 2014

    Paddy,

    I know right there is a link to the French newspaper that published the results at 3:44 PM Paris time, that is almost 4 hours before the ceremony! They collected information from the PR teams of the competing films during the afternoon. I’ll have to remember the journos’ names next year…

    http://www.lefigaro.fr/festival-de-cannes/2014/05/24/03011-20140524ARTFIG00090-cannes-2014-dernieres-rumeurs-avant-la-palme.php

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