There is construction going on all over Cannes. They are building a new train station at the bottom of the hill. I know because I usually stay up that way and use the train station, and the tunnel underneath it, to find my way. The tunnel smells like urine mixed with cigarettes. This was my fourth year to Cannes and I was planning to show my expertise to my friend Craig Kennedy from Living in Cinema who was coming along for his first ever Cannes Film Festival. We’ll take the shuttle, I told him. It should give us plenty of time to get to the press office and get our badges. We’d flown out of Los Angeles on the red-eye to Zurich. Neither of us were successful at requesting aisle or window seats so we sandwiched ourselves between other travelers and tried not to sleep. “If you stay up most of the night you won’t be as jet lagged,” Craig had said. I fell asleep two thirds of the way through Psycho and didn’t wake up until Swiss Air was ready to serve breakfast. The flight out of Zurich was uneventful, except that to fly over the Swiss Alps is worth risking a scolding from a flight attendant to switch on the iPhone for a shot as we passed over. We landed in Nice with time to spare. Surely we would easily hop on a shuttle and get to the Cannes proper before the press office closed. When you first arrive in Cannes you immediately go to the press office where they hand you your badge and the groovy Cannes collectable bag they hand out every year. After bumbling around the airport looking for the shuttle stop, I could see Craig getting nervous. Surely I knew what I was doing, right? I’d been doing it for four years. When we couldn’t easily find the shuttle stop I could feel the panic sweat starting already. Then I spotted the sign. Fifty or so international journalists were gathered at one spot. That had to be. “It’s over here!” I shouted to Craig, who wheeled his suitcase noisily across the airport parking lot. We took our place in a cluster of international journalists clouded in cigarette smoke who were likewise hoping to get a free seat on the non-stop shuttle from Nice Airport into Cannes. “You just have to push in,” I said to Craig about the growing cluster that couldn’t really be called a line. They don’t line up. They push their bodies forward, hurling en mass in one direction and if you don’t push in right along with them you will get squeezed out. “I don’t want to be that guy,” Craig said. “I’d rather not get a seat if I have to push someone else out of the way to get it.” We hovered, we didn’t push. Everyone else did. We got squeezed out. There was another shuttle coming but by now, but the press office was long since closed. 1st world problems, we reminded ourselves. We eventually got on a bus that took us to Cannes. We rolled our suitcases down the Boulevard de la Croisette as I showed Craig around. He was too tired at this point to be impressed by it being Cannes so we just kept our heads down and tried to find our way to the hotel. It was a quiet, frustrating walk through the streets of Cannes towards the train station, which was now masked as a barely recognizable construction site. “Okay, here we go,” I said to Craig in my mom voice as we hit the stairs that led down to the tunnel. We hoisted up our heavy bags and carried them, step by step down the stairs. We then slapped them back down on the stone, urine stained flooring of the train station and rolled on forward. We hoisted them back up again to take the stairs out. “Just a minute,” I said. Then I stopped and took some deep breaths. “Do you need some help?” Craig said. “No, I got it,” I said, stubbornly. An amiable tourist walked by, “Do you need some help?” He looked at me, then at Craig, as if to say “Why aren’t you helping her, asshole?” “No,” I said. “I got it.” Why did I insist I had it? I don’t know. It’s just one of those things. I want to be able to do it. We came upon my flat first. An entire French family greeted me upon arrival. Three children stared at Craig and me like we we’d just landed our space pod outside their door. We were two Americans looking, no doubt, slightly disheveled. They kindly showed me to my rental located behind their house on the patio. Hard wood floors, a small kitchen, a bed — La chambre de Van Gogh à Arles on one wall, Henri Matisse’s Fleurs et ceramique on the other. This was home. I knew once I moved in I would never want to leave. But the night was young. We still had to find Craig’s place. First we went up this road. Nope. Then we went up that road. Still, nothing. We finally mapped it on my iPhone and got close but all of the houses were dark and no one was answering when we rang the bell. Craig called the woman renting the flat — her English was better than either of our French but we were still at a loss how to describe where we were. It was looking like I’d have to ask the nice French family if Craig could sleep on the couch when suddenly his landlady showed up. She greeted us with warmth, even offered to drive me back to my own flat. How easy all of this would have been had we simply rented hotel rooms instead but somehow that hardly seems worth it. Convenience and organization are overrated, after all. The one thing that plagues us all is jet lag. I knew I wouldn’t sleep that night. I was only hoping I could stay awake for the Gatsby screening the following morning. The film brought excitement to Cannes because it meant Leo was going to show up for the gala screening, whether it rained or not (it did). After the film ended we expected to hear some kind of reaction — applause or boos. But no, all we heard was the silence of contemplation. Moments later, that was erased by the sound of coats and umbrellas being lifted, and bodies filing out of the darkened Lumiere. Each Cannes film festival has its own rhythm, its own tone. After only attending four years so far it has been decidedly different every time. One thing that doesn’t change is the enthusiasm of the moviegoers. They cram into every available seat, whether they have a yellow badge or a public ticket. Seeing films here requires that you “push in” rather than wait in line. There is a lot of body contact, a lot of bumping into people, a lot of human hair so close you could pull off a strand with your teeth, if you were so inclined. Whatever will make this year’s festival stand out hasn’t yet revealed itself. I know that for me every year is an education in world cinema; these are stories told by those with requisite courage. What will a jury led by Steven Spielberg pick for the Palme d’or? What, if anything, will gain traction as its heads into the Oscar race? I couldn’t do much after the Great Gatsby but stagger home in a blur of jet lag and fatigue. I collapsed in my Van Gogh studio and slept for five solid hours. The rain drops beat gently on the roof, and through my French windows I could see them drip off the leaves of the trees outside. A small wall heater kept the room cozy. The bed was so warm and inviting I couldn’t wake up or do anything but sleep into darkness and listen to the rain.