The opening ceremony has been and gone, the first night’s rest in Cannes completed. It may not be the sunniest of starts to the Cannes Film Festival, with umbrellas a must in the lengthy queues, but the array of films just around the corner is awe-inspiring.
What does it take for one to “settle in” to the Cannes Film Festival? I naively assumed that as I’d been here the past two years in a row, that year three would be like muscle memory, with the routines and routes that I had picked up before coming straight back to me. In truth, the first few days of the festival are usually a little disorientating and for me at least, slightly lonesome. Whilst I do meet up with folk for half an hour here and there, the majority is spent in that “isolation within the crowd” phase you can so often get in the bigger cities of the world. Thank goodness for the films is all I can say, as the prospect of queuing for 2 hours plus for most films, becomes less and less attractive an option for spending my time. I think deep down it’s a bit of that goldfish in a small pond analogy – back in Cambridge I have a network of friends and colleagues I see on a regular basis. Out here, I am a minnow in a vast ocean of cinema. Everyone seems to walk as if they own that piece of the pavement, as if they are walking on their own unique, eternal red carpet – invisible to everyone but themselves. Perhaps that’s the price to pay for being one of the world’s biggest and most prestigious film festivals?
My second day started off queuing outside Salle du Soixantième for Woody Allen’s latest film, CAFÉ SOCIETY – his forty-sixth or forty-seventh feature film! What an achievement. You may dislike his style of filmmaking, but you can’t but help respect a creative work ethic like that. I, for one, am a big fan – a relative recent convert to the Allen cause, over the past three years, I have actively tracked down films from his back catalogue of work, and nearly always (MAGIC IN THE MOONLIGHT not withstanding) have been impressed. In the queue I get chatting to a couple of American guys who see me sitting on the floor right by the front of the queue and decide, after thirty minutes of observing, to come and join me. I see little point in standing in the Mediterranean sunshine for two hours or more, when I can be sat on the floor in the sunshine, reading a festival daily or finally catching up on a novel. The ever-unnerving flow of press stream by in their separate priority queue – I’m on a Marche du Film badge, and so, duly queue in the Marche and Festival queue. This cinema screen has capacity for over four hundred thought, so all is well and I get a seat on the front row (my favourite place to sit for festivals – no light distraction from mobile phones, and more often than not, great access to the Q&A afterwards). This is a repeat screening of the film, which opened the festival the day before, so no Q&A this time, but a thoroughly enjoyable film nonetheless.
In a cinema auditorium of over two thousand seats, in which I’m sat on the very back row this time, somehow I meet up with Picturehouse Cinemas Marketing Executive, John-Paul Pierrot
I end up getting a ticket for Alain Guiraudie’s latest film, RESTER VERTICAL, in the Grand Theatre Lumière at 10.30pm, and this is a red carpet affair. I’ve really enjoyed the “queering the normal” aspect to his previous two films: STRANGER BY THE LAKE and THE KING OF ESCAPE, and I’d read in one of the dailies that although there are dramatically less penises on screen than in SBTL, the director is still hoping to win the prestigious Queer Palm at this year’s festival. In a cinema auditorium of over two thousand seats, in which I’m sat on the very back row this time, somehow I meet up with Picturehouse Cinemas Marketing Executive, John-Paul Pierrot, and we share the film’s unique sense of humour with some backseat chuckles. It’s going to be great to see how UK audiences deal with this one!
Dressing up smartly for the red carpet with Cambridge Film Festival programmer, Loretta Gandolfi, I swear we both see a lady very casually walk up the carpet in a pair of blue jeans just behind us. I thought the debacle about high heels and flats at last year’s festival was ugly and sexist, but a red carpet event in jeans? I reckon she must have been a producer of the film, for who dress code doesn’t seem to apply in as strict a manner.
Day Three at the festival saw me take some of my gear out to Cannes La Bocca, a district of the town about one or two miles out from the centre of activities. A lovely walk along the shoreline and then a steep climb up some windy, Mediterranean roads lead me to a lovely complex, complete with eternity pool and on-site shop. I’m aiming to stay here with my Parisian friend Falila, when I get the chance to get back out there – which is proving a challenge so far with red carpet events both evenings. I don’t mind the walk in trainers, but dressed up smartly in brand new brogues, I think is asking for a pair of knackered feet by the end of the festival!
I finished the day off with my favourite film so far, Ken Loach’s new film: I, DANIEL BLAKE. Rounds of applause during the film, and a good ten minutes of applause after were enough to send shivers down my spine. The injustices of the current government’s attack on disabled and jobless citizens of the UK are laid bare in a very human tale. I hope it does incredibly well in the UK upon its release. A day of writing tomorrow I think…