Today while walking through the Palais du Festivals I saw Chaz Ebert. She was walking across the second floor, heading for the escalator. I stepped on behind her. We slowly rode it down to the lower floor. She stood in front of me not having any idea who was, of course, but I knew so much about her. She was wearing an elegant caramel-colored suit but her expression carried a slight look of worry — and was it sadness I sensed, or was that something I was projecting onto her. Ebert was always such a fixture in Cannes, long before I ever came here. He leaves behind a legacy, and his wife who now must see this crowded festival in a different way. What a difference a year makes. Was it last year or the year before when I saw Ebert and Chaz walking across that same floor in the Palais du Festival? Then she was smiling. You never saw them apart. Things have changed here at Cannes in some ways. In other ways they haven’t. After four years of coming here I now recognize so many of the faces of people I’ve seen before but don’t yet know. They are distinctive in that European way of letting nature take its course. In America we try to beat back age. I saw the face of a woman I’d taken a picture of two years ago. When I’d seen her I’d assumed she was a patron, maybe, or a tourist. She stood out because she wears her gray hair unchanged. She is maybe in her mid 60s. And she’s still a journalist coming to Cannes to work the festival. We see what we want to see. A few of the faces turn my way and briefly flicker with recognition. We may see each other every year but we’ve never said hello. I wonder how long we’ll all keep coming here and not saying hello. Seeing Chaz on the same day as Farhadi’s The Past amounted to a melancholy that would not be helped by the sudden storm that blew the sunlight away. You’re not allowed to feel sad here, of course. With so many people wanting to attend, and the close proximity of the Mediterranean you’re obligated to enjoy yourself, or at the very least, appreciate the time you get to spend here. Most of the festival machinery so far has operated smoothly. The only real inconvenience being the unending rain. What most of us wouldn’t give for one full day of a sparkling sea beneath a gleaming sun. By the time Jaws screens on Tuesday for the Cinema de la Plage the sun might have finally come out. Spending the night on a wet, sandy beach freezing your ass off isn’t the right setting for Jaws. But a clear night with a shimmering surface of sea just a few feet away watching Crissy go night swimming? What could be better. After seeing Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, I spent several hours in the wi-fi room since I’d secured a nice spot on one of the sofas. The chatter in there is usually about saving seats and how annoying it is when someone puts their computer down and then disappears for hours. I joked with a man sitting next to me about it so when either of us had to leave our spot we’d ask the other to reserve it. A minor detail turned into a running joke. The coffee at the bar poured freely. But no food is allowed in the wi-fi room. It would be among the most disgusting places in the Palais if it were. As it is we junk up the room with our piles of equipment, press materials, empty coffee cups, the plastic spoons they give you to stir in the little straw full of sucre. On the large TVs the press conferences play feeds from the day’s screenings. We hear fleeting quotes from various directors and actors. Most of the interesting remarks came from Farhadi, naturally. When asked whether he is more comfortable directing films in Iran than France, he said that Gabriel Garcia Marquez would never be asked that question. He went anywhere to write. I had to kill time until the Weinstein sizzle reel event but as the time approached the sun started to come out, to flirt a little with exhibitionism. Not enough to celebrate yet, Saturday was expected to rain all day. My friend, Living in Cinema’s Craig Kennedy was nice enough to attend the Weinstein event with me. My lifelong affliction with shyness usually has me canceling out of attending things like this, but who could pass up a chance to see footage from upcoming movies. Plus, free food and drink. By the time the rain today had ended, Cannes was beginning to look again like the city it is meant to be — baked in golden light, at the mercy of the gentle lapping of the Mediterranean. Craig and I were drawn towards the water if, for no other reason, to take photos in that light, the magic hour. Standing there, on the concrete dock, watching the French also drawn towards the water experience this brief sun shower, I looked out at the yachts in the bay. Those mysterious, Gatsby-esque boats are as much a part of Cannes as the medieval city on the hill, the Italian invasion of pizza, the glittering dresses on women, the little dogs, the fog of cigarette smoke and the past, always the past, Hollywood’s past, cinema’s past, Cannes’ past. To be here is to always look forward while still reaching back. The sea was restless as it coughed out the last minutes of the storm that just moved through it. But what a thrill to see the sun light up the waves. What a thrill to see a French teenager throw his body in the air in a series of backflips across the sand, a sun dance. For a brief moment I saw what Cannes must look like August, when the French really do flood the beaches for their month-long vacations. It took me a while before I realized how long it had been since I’d heard a television blaring at me. And was that the reason I felt so calm here? In America, you are never left alone with your thoughts. Always somewhere there is a voice on an ad broadcasting the news of the day or the latest anxiety about our diets, our health, our children, our dwindling fertility, our economy. We feast on worry there. The French, not so much. After drinking in the sun of that afternoon, Craig and I walked back to our flats. My host family had wanted to have a drink with me and I was sort of dreading it. Again the shy affliction, you see. But how nice to sit down with them, have a glass of red wine and just talk. I felt the urge to reach for my phone and check my email but I realized I’d left it behind in my room. They have a fifteen-year-old son who looks a little like Ben Whishaw. I thought of my own fourteen year-old daughter back home and how much I missed her. Then I wondered if I’d brought her along what kind of memories she’d have built… you know, meeting the fifteen-year-old boy? the beaches of Cannes? Best not to go there. We talked about how computers and games are overtaking our teens and how little of the world they experience now. I guess it’s a problem everywhere. My host couple had met and grown up in Bordeaux but moved to Cannes a few years back. “Do you like living here?” I asked. The woman said yes, it’s better for the kids. The man paused a bit, looking a little like he missed the action but then reluctantly said with his expression how could anyone not? I had to say as I headed back to my room, the red wine tugging me down to sleep, that he was right. Being here can produce bursts of happiness that pushes back the clouds and lights up the sea. Tomorrow would be a screening of one of the films that makes flying thousands of miles worth the trip. The Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis. All the same, I’m already starting to feel the tiny dings of homesickness. I hope to keep them at bay for one more week. I decided that if I saw Chaz again I would tell her what seeing her meant to me, how inspiring her mere presence was. She’s moving forward anyway, even as the past wraps in tangles at her feet.