Yes, I Can Cannes*

By Marilyn Ferdinand

I always awaken very early on my first morning in Cannes, just at dawn, and pull on my jeans and a sweater to walk down by the old port for a cup of coffee at the all-night cafe.

OK, so that’s not what I do on my first morning at Cannes. That’s what Roger Ebert does. Good old, Roger. He has so many memories of Cannes. I do not. I’ve never been to that fabled festival. I’ve never met jury member/critic Pauline Kael or Ken Hartford, the film “butcher” who sells movies by the pound. I’ve never gazed on the sands of the Cote d’Azur or met the original Cannes Man, bon vivant Jacques D’Azur. That last name can’t be a coincidence, can it? But then people are constantly reinventing themselves in, at, and through the movies, especially at a circus like Cannes.

Since I started covering film festivals four years ago, I’ve learned a bit about the agony and the ecstasy of these ocular orgies. There are never enough hours in the day or enough cans of Red Bull to sustain one over the long haul. The much-touted films often are not nearly as interesting or satisfying as the films one decides to see based on personal interest, unless the two happily coincide. But I have to wonder if all the Cannes hype might not sweep me away from my sensible sleep schedule and misgivings about some of the films over which more experienced observers are frothing their café au lait. Who knows, I might have been tempted to brave Antichrist. It’s so much better to be psychologically tortured in the company of chic French speakers, n’est-ce pas?

Sadly, the festival ain’t what it used to be, or so the old timers say. Cannes is so much bigger, shinier, more corporatized, less devil-may-care, they say. Maybe that’s the reason Tim Burton is heading up the jury—an attempt to put the zany back in the festival. Quite possibly a loose grouping of fan boys will descend on the resort town, perhaps dressed like Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland or Sweeney Todd, to outrage and entertain the jaded sophisticates of festivals past.

All I do know for sure is that the Oscars are over, and now it’s on to the next landmark of the cinephile calendar. Soon we’ll know which films will be in competition, and the entire blogosphere will be buzzing with predictions. I’m not one for speculation; I’m all about the experience.

One day . . . you wait and see. l

*With thanks to Lee Dorsey and The Pointer Sisters

  • Daniel spoke:
    11th/03/2010 to 11:26 am

    Fun! As far as film festival destinations go, this has to be at or near the top. I’d rather go at a more leisurely manner than the marathon viewing that you allude to, though.

    One thing you can say about Cannes is that it’s a lot more international than a lot of “international” film festivals, though some of the mass appeal films in recent years have been curious (Indiana Jones?).

  • Marilyn spoke:
    11th/03/2010 to 12:30 pm

    Hi Daniel. It’s really hard to be leisurely at a film festival. It’s like being a kid in a candy store, trying to cram as much in as possible, knowing that might be your only chance to see the film. The history of Cannes is so appealing, and they do seem to recognize quality (though their adoration of “Bowling for Columbine” is vaguely anti-American to me, since it’s such a lousy, confused film). I really am going to go some day.

  • Shane spoke:
    11th/03/2010 to 10:26 pm

    If I were Irish it would be the Blarney stone, a beat the Left Bank….let’s face it I’m a film geek and Cannes is the Mecca I bow to 6 times a day, or in breaks between features. I only hope I would have a computer built into my Gucci sunglasses to identify everyone…..”hey isn’t that Jacques D’Azur behind those Foster Grants!??”

  • Rod spoke:
    11th/03/2010 to 11:47 pm

    I’ve read this post through twice now and, er, I still can’t discern its point…

  • Peter Nellhaus spoke:
    12th/03/2010 to 12:04 am

    I like the little festivals, where there is only one screen, and everything is scheduled for a three or four day weekend. I’m not sure if I’d like Telluride now, and I was there for the first two years when a weekend pass was reasonably priced. If I was to travel, it would be to Udine, Italy for the Far East Film Festival.

  • Sam Juliano spoke:
    12th/03/2010 to 9:49 am

    I have applied for a press pass to the Tribeca Film Festival, which launches in late April for 11 days here in Manhattan, so I hope to be in regular attendance. But Cannes of course is the Mother of all film festivals!

  • Marilyn spoke:
    12th/03/2010 to 10:05 am

    Peter – Smaller festivals are much more manageable from a blogging point of view, but there is something very infectious about something a bigger. I probably enjoyed the Big Island Film Festival the most because of the location (Hawaii) and the camaraderie of the filmmakers, organizers, press, and audiences. It definitely was full of aloha spirit.

    Sam – Tribeca is a fairly major festival. Get your rest! Have you covered a festival before?

  • Sam Juliano spoke:
    12th/03/2010 to 10:36 am

    Marilyn, this is the first potential coverage for me of a festival, and a decision to allow me a press pass is still pending, but it’s looking good for a few reasons.

  • Marilyn spoke:
    12th/03/2010 to 10:54 am

    Excellent! I hope you enjoy it. They’re a lot of work but also a lot of fun.

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