Holy smokes. What kind of blogger am I?
My study abroad program is over, and I haven’t said a word on this thing since the night it began. I could blame the mind-blowingly horrible internet at the hotel (which the unfriendly front desk employees turn off during the wee hours of the morning when we only have time to use it), but that wouldn’t be the root of the issue. The fact of the matter is this–the festival was quite possibly the fastest but most incredible 11 days of my life. On 3-5 hours of sleep, I’d wake up early, take the train into Cannes, and spend the day and night there. I wouldn’t get home until around 11, often much later. And sometimes I’d have work to do for the next day when I returned.
It wasn’t an easy schedule to manage, but to complain about what transpired would be a serious lie. To be able to witness the movie industry in depth, to be in such a close proximity to some of the most talented and revered people in the business, and to see incredible and carefully projected films on the biggest and most beautiful screens I’ve ever seen has been an experience nothing short of profound.
Here are some highlights:
I saw 24 movies during the festival, from what I remember:
Robin Hood, Exit through the Gift Shop, Coming and Going, That Evening Sun, The Roundup, The Perfect Host, Howl, Wall St. 2: Money Never Sleeps, Another Year, The Housemaid, Brotherhood, The Bang Bang Club, Inside Job, Get Low, The Last Summer of the Boyita, Biutiful, A Screaming Man, Of Gods and Men, Poetry, La Nostra Vita, Rock ‘n’ Roll of Corse, Blue Valentine, The Robber, and Young Paparazzi.
The ones in italics are worth seeing. The underlined ones are the best ones I saw at Cannes. I’ll elaborate more on the best films in a separate blog entry. Look out for that.
I wrote in my previous blog about the Robin Hood premiere and opening ceremonies, which were wonderful. A few days after that, I begged (er… hustled) for tickets again (hence the title of this entry) to the premiere of Wall St. 2: Money Never Sleeps. In a sense I was bummed that I went because Diego Luna’s Un Certain Regard film “Abel” was showing for its only slot at the same time. On the other hand, though, I walked right by Diego Luna on the red carpet. So….
The movie sucked pretty bad, and I’d only rent it if someone paid me to watch it again. But I sat in the same room as Shia Lebouf, Carey Mulligan, Oliver Stone and the rest of the people who made it. I also got to sit in the Lumiere Theater again.
The best premiere I went to was “Biutiful.” I had built up my expectations for this film waaaaay too high. I knew it would be my favorite after I read that it was a competition film, simply because Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Amores Perros,” “21 Grams,” “Babel”) directed it. I talked it up for the entire study abroad prior to the day of the premiere. I told people I’d cry if I didn’t get in.
And I almost didn’t. I begged for tickets for quite a while to no luck. When my friend Michelle texted me to tell me she got a ticket, I almost cried. I persevered, though, and ended up getting two (one to give to another gal in our group).
Seeing such an incredible movie with some 2,300 people, most of whom love film, was life-changing. I’ve never felt so close to a film. Perhaps that was because Inarritu, Javier Bardem and the rest of the cast were sitting below me. My friends and I got front row seats in the balcony, so we could see perfectly into the orchestra level of the theater. After the film ended, the audience erupted in applause that turned into a standing ovation and lasted for over five minutes. Inarritu and the cast hugged one another, tears in their eyes, totally overtaken with emotion after seeing their work come together with such a warm reception.
That’s Javier Bardem next to the camera. I was supa close. It was my best experience at the Festival.
The American Pavilion
When we weren’t in screenings, we spent a good deal of our time in the American Pavilion. Each country, for the most part, had a tent on the beach where people could come to rest, use the internet, get away from the bustle of the festival, etc. Naturally, the American Pavilion was one of the only that required a special paid pass to enter. It was great to use the pavilion as a meeting point when people went off in separate groups to see different movies. It also had laptops with internet that actually functioned(note: all festival tweets occurred at ampav). It also had American employees and American food. Have I mentioned that it was on the beach?
The American Pavilion hosted a variety of panels on various aspects of the film industry. One day, though, two in particular interested me. One was a panel on American short film. I’m not a short filmmaker, but it happened to feature the celebrity I have the biggest crush on: James Franco.
Call me a fangirl, but swooooooooooooooon.
The other panel, which proved extremely insightful, was one on the film “Blue Valentine.” I had just seen it the day before, and it’s probably my second favorite of the festival. The director, Derek Cianfrance, had a great deal to say about the filmmaking process and his ideas behind the film. The panel also featured the stars of “Blue Valentine,” Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams. Despite having been close enough to James Franco at one point to sexually harass him (which I struggled not to do), seeing these actors still excited me. I wasn’t blown away by their starpower in any sense, but their comments on the film were interesting and surprisingly comical. Most of my friends met Ryan Gosling afterward and he was very kind to them, but I sketched off and watched from afar because I don’t feel comfortable approaching people like that. At least I can say I could have met him if I wanted to?
Over the course of the festival, our professors and our lovely program coordinator Anna arranged meetings for us with various people in the biz. They functioned basically as lectures, followed with Q&A.
One of these people was Elizabeth Guider, editor of “The Hollywood Reporter.” She gave us insight on the Cannes market as it stands and what she sees as the future of the festival. She also talked about the power of great films, and how the best ones linger in your memory. It seemed apropos that I saw “Biutiful” later that day and that film had such great lasting power in my mind. She’d used it in her example of great cinema at this year’s festival as well.
A few days later we met up with the Australian director Paul Cox. He was controversial, to say the least. He did quite a bit of trashing the entertainment industry and the general population’s opinions on good cinema. Regardless, he had us talking about him the rest of the day.
Our final meeting, which turned out to be one of my favorite festival memories, was with the film critic Michael Phillips. He works for the Chicago Tribune and hosts the soon-to-be-over series “At the Movies” (famously begun by Siskell and Ebert) with my favorite critic, A.O. Scott. He gave us a sort of tutorial on writing good film reviews, and he also asked us what we thought about film criticism. I loved getting to see such a well-known and well-informed critic so interested in our knowledge of his area of expertise.
The Short Film Corner
In the interest of full disclosure, I only went to the Short Film Corner to watch short films on one occasion. The Corner was composed of various meeting places for business transactions, but its main focus was a set of booths with computers that used a YouTube-like program for our viewing pleasure.
If I hadn’t been busy spending my time watching feature-length films, I’d have gone there more often. I did go there whenever possible, though, for happy hour. Think: 5 p.m… Free Stella Artois.
The food (sort of)
Cannes offers a far larger selection of food than Juan Les Pins, so the festival became a good excuse for good meals. One night a bunch of us craved Sushi, and we found a place that actually resembled the real thing. Fo cheap. It was one of the earlier nights in the festival, but it became one of the best bonding experiences we had. It got even better afterward, when we went to one of our favorite spots, Station Tavern, for karaoke.
Toward the end of the festival, I had my first foreign McDonald’s experience. It consisted of the following: potato wedges, a crispy chicken sandwich with bacon and bacon on top of the sandwich, and beer.
Unfortunately, not every restaurant satisfied me quite so much (note: fake McDonald’s chicken is worse in France). I’ve gathered that the French people (or at least the ones in this area) have no grasp of the concept of flavor. I ordered pasta arrabiata, I got some luke-warm spaghetti with a light sprinkle of tomato paste. I decided to try a Croque Monsieur, I almost vommed when I bit down on a luke-warm ham and cheese sandwich soaked in the love child of butter and white gravy. But really—flavorlessness has been a recurring theme in this study abroad.
Still, I can’t complain. If any of you who read this have a passion for film or a genuine interest in the industry as a whole, try your darndest to make it to this program. I have become tremendously inspired. I know what I want to do with my life, and I know I’m going in the right direction.