Biting into a green tea macaron on the way out the door from the Weinstein first look party was not quite on the level of Proust’s madeline but it was close. Missing was the wave of childhood memories rushing in. I didn’t have that but one bite was like a religious experience. The crispy outer layer, the sweet gooey inner layer, the hints of green tea — have I ever put something that sweet in my mouth?
After three glasses of good, cold rosé and a sizzle reel of Weinstein’s upcoming films, that macaron was a hard reset — priorities, it said. When in France make sure to taste things. The Weinstein gathering is in its third year and might be turning into a thing, a must-stop on the road to Oscar. Weinstein is one of the few who uses Oscar shorthand regularly, so when he speaks of, say, Jake Gyllenhaal and says “he should have been nominated” we all know what he’s talking about. Nightcrawler. Gyllenhaal’s physical transformation in the upcoming Southpaw all but ensures a nod this time around. He appeared alongside Weinstein showing a commitment to that cause.
I came to the Weinstein gig after a long mid-morning nap. The way I’ve learned to deal with jet-lag here is to sleep whenever possible and not commit to getting on a regular sleep schedule. If my body wants to be awake at 4am and eat breakfast, we do that. If it then wants to sleep at 1pm for four hours we do that. The upside to this is miraculous: I never fall asleep during screenings. If I tried to stay on a schedule I’m sure I would be falling asleep during all of the morning screenings.
That morning was Mad Max: Fury Road which has the benefit of both rocking the Lumiere and giving the Croissette a tall drink of water in Charlize Theron, whose appearance shut down the boulevard for all reasonable foot traffic. Someone behind me kept complaining that the line wasn’t moving. Bodies crammed together moving one step at a time, people pushing through, fans gawking for a glimpse of the canary yellow superstar. Theron would always draw a crowd here but there is something in the air this year around Theron’s ascent in the Mad Max film that is causing a frenzy. It probably didn’t hurt that Sean Penn was her date.
On the way back I saw people lining up for a screening at the Debussy. I asked what it was for. “An,” someone told me. I knew it was a film directed by a woman opening Un Certain Regard, so why not. It was the opening night film, which meant the screening was very crowded. I was seated a few rows behind Isabella Rossellini. I’ve never seen her before in person and it was like seeing a ghost, especially since her mother, Ingrid Bergman is the face of Cannes this year. Watching her mother’s DNA in her beautiful daughter was as close as I would ever get to Bergman.
An is about many things but one thing in particular made it so very relevant to Cannes and that is our relationship to the things we cook and the things we eat. Making sweet red bean paste can be done with minimal effort to bring minimal results. It can also be done with love and a deeper understanding of where the beans come from, how they’re picked, dried and cleaned and then to understand how to coax the sweetness out of them. The film spends much time on this process before moving on to the drama of its characters.
As an American, coming to France is always a reminder of how food fits into and shapes our lives. In America, it’s both the mistress and the enemy. We use it for all sorts of reasons — to numb out, to forget, to binge, to distract. We hate it for making us fat so we spend hours trying to break out obsessive relationship to it — well, many of us do, though clearly not all. Once you break free from that disastrous cycle and see food as elements of style and beauty, that relationship begins to shift. How the animals are raised, for instance, matters to flavor. America will never achieve that balance until we figure out how to stop this brutality and inhumane practice of factory farming methods. Our dairy will never taste as good, our meat will continue to make us sicker and fatter. These are thoughts that keep me awake as I try to drift back to the sleep cycle here in a place where time has mostly stopped.
The more you visit and work here the more party invites begin trickling in. Though I’m not yet of the stature where I get black tie screening premiere invites I do occasionally get the celebrations for films. Unlike other film festivals, there is never the feeling of intimacy here. You get really the opposite — total anonymity. It isn’t even just being just one of the many countries represented; it’s also because every person here has a different reason for being here. We are thrown together and treated to a variety of stories about human beings from all over the world. Students, producers, millionaires, barefoot and penniless street dwellers — each of us with our own connectivity to our broader world. Cannes is like the heart pumping through the arteries to every pocket of civilization. Mine happens to be the Oscar race, the least thought of on this massive stage.
At the Weinstein event I spoke with one of the organizers of Telluride. She was here scoping out the scene, looking for the year’s best films for her own audience, which usually translates to Oscar. That would be a great job, I told her. I also ran into my new pal Patrick Heidemann from Germany. I asked him to put me in a vat of ice water because it was so hot. I’m fairly sure those words came out of my mouth. Pete Hammond, Jeff Wells, and one of my favorite film critics from the Guardian, Peter Bradshaw, were hanging around. On my way out I spoke briefly to the Wrap’s Sharon Waxman who loved Tale of Tales. I told her I thought it could win the Palme, given the sensibilities of the jury, though it is too soon to make that call. She was saying she couldn’t believe it didn’t have a buyer yet. “How would you even sell it,” I asked. “It’s a work of art. You figure it out. In the right hands…” She has a way of getting right to the point. And she’s right — why hasn’t it been snatched up yet?
As I write this, and as usual, I’ve run out of time. This morning’s screenings include The Lobster and Woody Allen’s latest. It’s time to put on something respectable and feel the cool Cannes breeze on my face as I walk down Rue St George Clemenceau, down to where the boats dock, past the still closed cafes to the Palais. Each day begins again with the ever present question, what have you seen? And its equally important sister question, what haven’t you seen that you wished you’d seen. You can’t fit everything in. You grab what you can on the way to the next big thing.