It‚Äôs only my second year at Cannes but I already recognize so many faces from last year. I prefer to drift in and out of this world without anyone really knowing who I am. Plenty of people I know from observing them online over the years are around the Palais and in the wi-fi room. I saw film critics like Todd McCarthy, Lisa Schwarzbaum, and Michael Phillips. But I also saw these faces of unknown journalists and photographers returning again to Cannes. Another year, another Cannes.
To hear them talk to one another is to sometimes be in a French movie. The other day, the room was full. We were all tapping away on our keyboards, photographers were busy editing their photos, when into the quiet one of them sneezed. It was a small sneeze that came in threes. One person said ‚Äúbless you,‚Äù another said, ‚Äúbless you!‚Äù and a third person said even louder, ‚ÄúBLESS YOU!‚Äù And the entire room burst into applause. The sneezing reporter blushed deeply.
It‚Äôs hard not to feel a camaraderie with them. You wait for an open seat in the wi-fi room, sometimes having to sit on the floor to find a space. You walk over to the coffee bar and order either an espresso or a ‚Äúlungo,‚Äù which is a double. This year, they offered up vitamin drinks. Everyone loved the chocolate flavored kind and only drank the others when the chocolate ran out.
You wait by the window to see if any stars are coming down the walk on their way to the press conference. You watch the press conferences on the flat screen TVs they offer up on the wall. You check your press mailbox every day. You sift through the materials they distribute for the day, usually beautifully designed marketing brochures to get you excited about seeing a movie nobody really wants to see. But it all ends up in the recycle bin anyway. We are the media. We are here to tell the world the goings on in Cannes.
I knew that it was my last day to pretend to be a journalist, to pretend to be a photographer and to pretend to be a film critic. I had my upgraded blue badge swinging back and forth on my chest as I walked at a quickened pace through the Palais. Would this be my last year, or did Cannes once again find its way into my nervous system, leaving me hopelessly addicted?
As a pretend film critic, I saw the movies before anyone else got to see them – freshly cut and brand new. I acted as though my opinion kind of, sort of mattered. But, like everyone else, I did a quick scan of what others thought of it after I blasted mine out into the world. I know that my Twitter followers were slightly bothered that I reported there were some boos at the end of Tree of Life. But when they do boo it seems like a story. Hardly any films do get booed so when it happens it seems a definitive statement. The boos are not dismissive or even nasty. They are passionate pleas for something better. But according to InContention‚Äôs Guy Lodge and ICS‚Äô C√©dric Succivalli the more artistically daring the film, the higher chance it will get booed at Cannes.
Still, as a pretend critic, I found the boos to be not very influential in whether or not I liked the movie.
As a pretend photographer I snapped many photos, even stopping to change my lenses in an especially pretentious move. Having a camera bag in screenings means you always have to check it, repeatedly. One of my favorite parts of the day was, as it turned out, going through security and checking my bag. They always tell me they ‚Äústill have to look‚Äù in my camera bag, even if they‚Äôve seen it a hundred times already. But they are so nice I don‚Äôt mind. And when I visit the bag check booth, they always say, ‚ÄúAh, I know this bag!‚Äù But in French, so something like ‚ÄúJe sais le sac!‚Äù I always say my fake French hellos to them, pretending to also know more French than I do. Sometimes I can sound so French they just start talking to me as if I were one of them. Of course, they talk to everyone in French, all of the time, as very few of them speak English.
I found that so many people just passed them silently by, the security people, the bag checkers, but that if you say hello and ask them how they are they will say hello back and ask you how you are. One of the sweetest things people who live and work here say to me is, after I say ‚ÄúMerci,‚Äù they say ‚ÄúMerci a vous.‚Äù Thanks to you. It‚Äôs something they never said to me in Paris, for instance.
When I leave this part of the world I will hear that little refrain, ‚ÄúMerci a vous‚Äù and remember the people I got to know, however briefly.
The movies are the things you are supposed to take away from here if you‚Äôre a fake film critic, and I will probably end up championing quite a few of the films I saw here throughout the year, especially if they make it into the Oscar race. I especially loved The Artist, The Tree of Life, Le Havre, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and funnily enough, Melancholia. Three of these are life affirming. The other two echo our deeper fears and anxieties.
Our last day in Cannes I brought my daughter to the beach. I owed it to her, after ten days of sitting around the hotel room doing mostly nothing. We put on our bathing suits and pretended to be residents of Juan-les-Pins. If there is one thing everyone should do when they come here is put their bodies in the sea. The water was so cool and clear it couldn‚Äôt possibly be salt water. But as we plunged our heads in it and tasted it on our tongues it reminded us that, yes, it was indeed salty. Little fish swam by our feet. Women laid out on the sand topless. Old women, young women – it didn‚Äôt matter. The French, like the Italians, seem to have no body shame, unlike we poor messed up American women.
We had one last dinner on the sand and then drove into Cannes to drop off my cell phone and say goodbye. Of course, one last mishap – we got to Cannes too late. It was one more power walk to the Palais only to be told ‚Äúthe market is closed, madame.‚Äù
It‚Äôs 3:50am and I‚Äôm writing this diary entry from the comfort of my hotel room in Juan-les-Pins. In one hour I will be driving to Nice and flying out. Soon, I‚Äôll be back where the world makes clearer sense because it is my world. I hope to have brought back with me much of this experience here. I hope that I can still smell the jasmine as it hangs from the walls. I hope I can not resist a freshly baked croissant when I find one. I hope I can drink some dry ros√© from Provence. And I hope I can I hope in a year‚Äôs time that I will be back here, fighting my way through lines, elbowing the paparazzi out of the way in the wi-fi room, filing my stories, beating back the sleep at 8:30am in the Lumiere.
I am part of the media, real or imagined, and I‚Äôm here to tell stories as they really happened. But the real storytellers are the filmmakers themselves. Even though we‚Äôre reporting from Cannes, we are always thinking about those ideas, the ones the artists had. And Cannes is a place for ideas. Everything else it is may evaporate over time. Those ideas, they‚Äôre worth coming back here for.