05 February, 2010

Back-B-Log: 1990: Cannes - Dread And Victory (I.a.To Cannes (and hell))

[From the 2nd and final issue of the Tuesday Express/American Voyeur Paris/Cannes Issue! 1990 This tale is so epic I'm serializing within the confines of this blog. This includes, somewhat awkwardly chopping the first chapter into three bits. If I ever wrote anything to deserve my tragically lost "Heart of Gonzo" T-shirt, this is it. Welcome to the rollercoaster of Cannes Film Festival 1990.]

Prologue - 4AM Thursday May 17th
{O.K. So, I found something to write on. A moment ago I was thinking of stealing some toilet paper for the medium. Sleep, don't think of sleep. Order another cafe creme. Don't listen to the Variety people at the next table - they might mention sleep; they just noted that the restaurant is only open til 4 AM. That was twenty minutes ago. Write! That will keep you awake! I always wanted to come to Cannes for the festival. It was one of those 'just because' things. I figured, being in Europe, I'd finally do it -- but, until I was sent to Paris, I thought I'd do it next year as part of vacation to get it right. Paris was too close - it didn't make sense to be in the same country and NOT go. My soup had arrived. Eating will keep me awake. Haven't eaten since lunch with exception of an apple and baked potato scrounged from the buffet at the American pavilion party I crashed. Food will help me concentrate. }

I - To Cannes (and hell) Wednesday May 16th (and before, ending late morning the 17th){arrangements from Paris, rearrangements, What I should have noticed}
Plane bus and train.

May is a month fraught with holidays, at least three, all of which fell midweek this year. When a holiday falls midweek on either Tuesday or Thursday, they take the extra day between the weekend, calling it 'le pont' the bridge, for a four day weekend. Knowing that I wanted to take off some time, for both the festival and also to see a friend visiting London, I worked on four of the days that everyone else was off. Helena, an office secretary, arranged my flight for me, leaving late afternoon on Wednesday to Nice, returning very early Monday morning (I wanted the maximum time possible, even if I had to go directly to work). This meant I had to stay in Nice Sunday night, after abortive and confusing attempts for me to make the arrangements over the phone with my little French, I again enlisted Helena's aid.

I had kept in touch with Barrett, the girl whose room I short term let when I first got to London. She was working for Screen International (a British Film Industry Trade Publication). They attend, work and publish a special daily edition at Cannes. Barrett was PA to the main publisher. Before I left London, she gave me the phone number of the boat she was going to be staying on.

I called Barrett from Paris two days before going down to ask if she wanted to get together when I got into town. I told her I was staying in Juan Les Pins. She said, don't bother, she could find a floor for me to crash on in one of the staff hotel rooms. I cancelled my reservation.

What I should have remembered was that on the few occasions when we had met since I moved to Streatham, she had proved somewhat unreliable, with place, time and changing plans. This was to the slight annoying degree which I have the bad habit of forgiving people that I am even vaguely attracted to.

Left work early Wednesday, overloaded pack on back (I did not anticipate having time for laundry). Internal Air France flight like a bus ride, no food, not even a hot towel. Waited half an hour for hour bus ride to train station. Three quarters of an hour to Cannes. I arrive at roughly 10:30 PM.

{The Phone call.}
Noise, very loud, sound of a party? I have to yell into the phone to be understood. Someone goes and gets Barrett. Now I can't quite make out everything she's saying. It takes her a while to get to the point. She's sorry, but she can't offer me any accommodation, before she gets to explain, someone hangs the phone up for her. I'm not sure I've heard correctly. I dial again. Busy line. This seems too much like a nightmare. I try to be rational. Wait a few minutes. Dial again. Busy line. Loop with ever increasing panic. Stay calm.

I spot a girl reading (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). I strike up a conversation, explain my situation and receive some sympathy. She's a student from Atlanta, taking the next train to Nice, hostelling towards Italy. I should have followed her, but momentarily soothed by English conversation, I decide to head towards the Hotel Carlton where I know Screen International have booked a suite, maybe they'll know where the boat is.

{Wandering, picking a room in hell.}
I didn't get very far from the train station before coming back and having another go at memorizing the map on the wall (the tourist office is closed and no maps are available). After calling the hotel, being treated like an idiot for asking directions to one of the world's most famous hotels, I set off again. As I walked I silently devised tortures for Barrett, I knew I would be pleased and relieved to see her, but all the same, in that moment I knew a vast hatred, and I thought of a many particular Dantean niche in hell I would have gladly seen her rot in.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

{Not sleeping = drug.}
There is that point in a college all-nighter when caffeine just won't help anymore. The warmth from the coffee makes you drowsy, and your stomach is so acid, you don't dare pour another cola down there, for fear of becoming one of those gee whiz science fair experiments 'as you can see here Billy, the Duodenal Ulcer is erupting just like Mount Vesuvius!'

Now it's only the steely nerves that used to keep me slumped over a typewriter until dawn of the day that the papers were due, these wired past the assistance of caffeine nerves, like an extra skeleton. I am walking, shambling, shuffling, staggering, through the dark night of the half lit streets of a tourist nightmare. Every lone figure that slinks by in the deChirico'ed deserted streets (though not as bad as getting lost in Venice at night), holds menace, and it is a combination of fear and a sort of grisly determination. I have left behind the café a bit before 5 A.M. after three café au lait and soup. I don't need such comfort, I don't need sleep, I can do this I can stay awake. At least try to think about what I'll write. The drug of awake keeps me moving, aimlessly, I am exhausted, even during my worst collegiate adrenaline at 4 AM marathon, the farthest I would venture is down the block to the Wawa for those sugar and chemical wonders known as Entenmanns Chocolate Donuts. I continue to move, like a shark, I think I'll die if I stop. Then I see it.

{The Bank Machine.}
Most of the Bank Machine's I've seen in France are just the side of the wall jobs... but in front of me is card locked foyer, and I have a card that will let me in. I try this, just to be sure that yes I can do it, and also just to get off the street for a few moments. I could just lie down here. I'm scared, although it seems relatively secure, I now fear the helplessness of the deep sleep that I know I will fall into. I also have some vague, paranoid notion that I could be arrested for vagrancy. I think, of the homeless guy that used to live in the Mellon Bank Machine on Walnut, just up from the Wawa. I might be crying. I lean forward against the wall, hoping its support to ape that of a non-existent companion. The most deserving self-pity of my life envelopes me.

{The only homeless people in Cannes are the hookers and me. Oh! I'm wrong.}
I leave the machine, and continue wandering in the general direction of the park by the quay. I reach there and sit down on a bench. The air is pleasant. It is nice although I feel somewhat vulnerable here in the open. It is so silent. Just as I'm writing the above comment about the homeless, I hear a stirring which is someone asleep on the bench around the corner of the tree mine is propped against. Only momentarily alarmed, he is more down and out, and more sensible for being insensible, asleep.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

{Finding the hotel. Spotting Danny Aiello.}
After leaving the train station a second time, I meandered down to the Croisette, the main drag, a strip along the beachfront, gold-coast hotels, billboards for films, the two-person-wide sidewalk threepersondeep with the nightlife, life-threatening to spill over onto the streets congested with maniacs in sportcars, BMWs, convertibles: you don't see one of those beat-up Citroen shacks-onwheels. I follow the flow. The night is dazzling, confusing, I double back towards the station, thinking I might have passed, the Carlton, which of these opulent high-rise mausoleums is it? I turn again, continue on, finding that my original turning point was just short of my goal.

As I go up the drive to the pillared entrance, I see flashes going off, I move to the wall, to observe. Danny Aiello is coming out of the Carlton, looking harassed, his group of thugs, possibly his stunt-man relatives, are pushing at the journalists. I feel embarrassed for him. He gets in his limo. I go into the lobby of the hotel, I politely ask, first in French, then English, about the Screen International Suite, they don't know anything about the boat, or where it might be (the coastline is dotted with marinas).

I peer around into the foyer, there is a large dark deserted area with booths set up, distributors, publications, video... I'll be seeing lots of this sort of thing in the days to come. I see no sign of a booth for Screen International. I'm painfully slow in admitting this to be a dead end, and in realizing how my scruffy appearance, back-pack and all, is making the staff nervous and uncooperative.

[to be continued...]

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home