08 February, 2010

Back-B-Log: 1990: Cannes - Dread And Victory (III Banana Republic and the Grand Palais)

[From the 2nd and final issue of the Tuesday Express/American Voyeur Paris/Cannes Issue! 1990]
III Friday, May 18th: Banana Republic and other guises.

Morning is hot, I head straight for the Carlton, just to get inside while I wait for Barrett. I look around the booths in the foyer, one - pushing subscriptions to the Hollywood Reporter, others - video sales for schlock films. I leaf through publicity material, but in some cases this is snatched from me, as it is obvious I'm not going to be doing business with them. An English woman working for the Australian Film Commission admires my Banana Republic T-shirt (Minister of Propaganda). Her daughter goes to school in the states and buys out the store. She is very friendly, and generous with the leaflets. After all, I'm the only one whose been loitering through here all day.

I head across the Croissette, wait for a free phone booth. There is a huge inflatable siren, a Thanksgiving Day Parade sized balloon of The Little Mermaid from the Disney film of the same name, she basks in the sun floating about fifty feet from the beach. I call Barrett. She comes down from the office to meet me, I'm sitting out in the sun doing origami. Boss lady isn't around so she takes me up to the office, introduces me around, I'm already a story to them, legendary embarrassment. I assure them, I'm OK now.

Colin the photographer shows up trailed by an artsy media-type in her early thirties, she's does freelance research for an English independent TV company, she's living in Paris. After I tell her I'm working there she gives me her business card, 'Carina B.' it says, maybe she couldn't afford to print the whole of her last name.

Barrett has to stop by the Palais to grab some of the competitors dailies - she has to classify and count the advertisements, and she has to get something at the boat. While we're waiting around for Barrett to change a small group forms chatting and scarfing down free pretzels, nuts, chips and OJ. I chat up one of the two women crew members, she's an Aussie ex-nurse working her way around the world. Two of the freelance writers show up, one in his forties a film critic, he seems interested in knowing how well I know Barrett... there seems to be a good deal of male posturing floating about here.

About this time my lie begins... a line of bull that I pitch in various forms to people while I'm down here. The gist: I'm here first and foremost a film buff, I work for a Computer consulting firm that is vaguely interested in acquiring a firm that does computer generated special effects (this is a left turn from the truth, we do acquire other firms, and most of the software we deal with has some sort of graphics capability). This seems enough to justify my presence, without making me look a complete tourist.

We finally head off to lunch, Barrett, myself, Colin, and the critic tags along; I invite Aussie girl, but she has boat stuff to do.

We have mediterranean pizza at crowded outside tables with authentically rude terrible service. We fight over the bill, I pay. We want more than one copy of the receipt so that we can all claim it for our expenses. The restaurant refuses, but we've already left the tip.

We wander back up the Croissette, towards the Carlton. I wander back towards the Palais alone, thinking I should just give the film idea up and go bask in the sun on the sand, but I'm afraid of ruining my camera (in tow). Anyway, I'd just hopelessly ogle the topless tannists. I stroll the promenade by the beach. I'm wrong, of course, when the whole beach is by and large topless, you lose that prurience, leaving only vague attraction without lust. I head towards the Brit pavilion, hoping to run into one of the women I met who works there.

Chatting up one of the workers in the Brit pavilion, I finally begin to find out some sensible things about getting into the barred screenings and convention rooms. There are three kinds of pass that I could conceivably get: press pass (which I thought I might have been able to sleaze out of Barrett, before the fiasco), to get one on my own I would have had to apply with credentials and clippings months ahead of time; market pass (this gives access to pavilions and to market screenings - non-festival related, popular entertainment films like Amazon Island of Cannibal Women) for which I'd have to pay 1000 francs (roughly $200, which seems tempting, but it's a little late in the game to blow that kind of money with only 2 days left); and day card, as I soon found out, all you need to get a day card is a business card and proof of identity (a passport), but the day card only gets you into the pavilions, not into the screenings.

On the way over to the pavilion, I tried the Film Societe office, if you pay a membership fee, they might be able to get you some tickets. After getting some pretty inconclusive answers as to the availability for the films I'm interested in, I finally wind up speaking with a French woman who lives in London, she is pleased by attempts at French, and says that I would have to get to the office early. Anyone who I mention trying to get tickets to the screenings of 'Wild At Heart' the new David Lynch film, just shakes their heads, it's the hottest ticket in town.

I go to the pavilion entrance to the Palais, but I'm barred entry by the thugs. I eventually manage to explain that I need a day card, they eventually manage to explain where the office is, but they insist I take the separate entrance to get to it. Nervous as hell, I enter the festival office, it's nearing the end of the day, so things are pretty sparse, I finally get the attention of one of the workers, she doesn't seem to want to be bothered, but after a cursory glance at my passport and business card, she gives me the day card.

I'm in, I proudly stride past the thugs. The inner sanctum, the Grand Palais du Festival, is just a convention center, on the lowest level there are partitioned booths and 'room's for various companies ranging from rival manufacturers of movie theater seats, to porn video distributors trying to channel some of their profits into more legitimate ventures - R-rated exploitation films - no, I didn't ask for samples. Film boards of various European countries, including the East Block (It's like 'ROAD WARRIOR', only with farm machinery). I stifle the urge to gorge myself on free publicity materials for films I may never see, or even hear of again. In one area a largescreen video is set up showing the French TV and European cable coverage of the Festival.

The meandering corridors seem endless. I duck up a deserted stairwell coming out in the lobby of the second largest theater in the building, I quickly go in before any security show up. There is a screening in progress. I simultaneously try to make sense of what is going on on screen and leaf through the dailies for details about this screening. Credits are running, oh great, I just missed something, no, it turns out this is a program of short subjects, ok, not the big thing, but something. The next one comes on: it starts off arty strange b/w, woman in an apartment suddenly realizes that the ceiling is slowly descending, she tries to cry for help, but can't open her windows looking out high above the city, she tries to prop up furniture, but that is crushed by the inexorable architecture, nearly impaled by her chandelier, in the last possible moments she begins to hit and tear at the ceiling, she breaks through, she is suddenly seen to be breaking through and emerging astonished from beneath the surface of a city street. After one other brief short, the program ended. Oh well, I've gotten my feet wet.

They're clearing out the theater, and ostensibly, the Palais, I duck into another stairwell and head back to the convention area. It's ghost-town time. Turning a corner, there are some chairs by one of the booths, I sit down exhausted. There are two women conversing loudly, a man and a boy, the only other people I've seen in twenty minutes. They are Americans of course; the guy, middle-aged well vetted, casual, figures out I'm American too, strikes up conversation. He is Carl Person, a New York Lawyer, he specializes in copyright law and is about to score big for his early involvement with the multimillion case against Mattel by the guy who invented the flanges on the Hot Wheels track; until now he's had no experience of the film industry. His wife, one of the women, Lu-Ann Horst Person, was a singer/songwriter, decided to add writer/director and made this musical inde movie on a sizeable shoestring (Carl's, he has shoestrings to spare). The movie is called "Ramblin' Gal", it's about a singer/songwriter who leaves her family to go to the big city, its a serious drama. Carl is under the misapprehension that I've sat through their film in a little video screening they just had. He seems quite glad, if not relieved to talk to me, another industry outsider. In New York he's a flash savvy lawyer, here, naive sitting duck.

His wife is talking to this faded American ballerina who's living in Paris. They're going to be working on a children's musical together. It turns out that this and the film are second ditch efforts after an Off-Broadway production they were trying to run ran out of steam and money in rehearsals. No, these are bland Americans, nothing Runyonesque or even Damonic about them. Their kid is assembling a cardboard working camera, probably a freebie from the Fuji booth. About nine years old, obviously bored, but not impatient, which seems surprising, he seems intelligent but he's not at all enthused or interested by being here, this is reason enough for me to ignore him, though I usually like smart kids.

Carl's telling me about some of the new developments in copyright's regarding 'intellectual property' and how that's going to be applied to software. I recall both: Lotus suing one of their competitors for making their program 'look and feel' too much like theirs, although the 'program' behind it is different; and: my friend Ken, has written a program which he's marketing through his company - he's been concerned about the ethics of the French company - apparently the French are close to the Japanese in idea stealing. Lawyer Person tells me Ken should almost hope that they steal, then whack them with a lawsuit. I get his business card to forward to Ken, who knows? I wish them good luck with the film, I feel strangely sorry for them, they'll need it.

This is fantastic, the palais is empty, I explore, the grown-ups are gone. I run around the several levels, ducking up stairwells, I find the roof and survey all around. I go down a corridor with mostly shut offices, risking discovery; I try to appear as if I know where I am. It's about six o'clock, it occurs to me that I could just stay in the building and then sneak into the Premiers that night with all the celebs, but, I'm not dressed to get away with it, and the film that night is Nouvelle Vague, the new Godard, which I'm not interested in. After a bit more on the roof (I'm joined by some lost Italian tourists), I leave the Palais before the magic grows thin.

I meander towards the cinema where I saw the Russian movie yesterday - maybe I'll get another offer, (maybe 'Plot Against Harry'?). No luck, I explore my way towards the train station, trying to decide whether to eat here or back in Juan Les Pins. The lagged tiredness is returning. I'm eyeing a cafe, when I notice this tall thin plain woman who looks familiar, not just because she's American, and is sort of a type... it's Ellen McWhirter, one of my professors from the U of P English Dept.

I approach her timidly and ask. She remembers me. She taught a course on Alfred Hitchcock, for which I developed my impersonation of the same to tease her. She's fairly blasé, she's waiting for a group of friends for dinner. We sit down for a coffee with a butch American woman and a somewhat fey Oriental guy. She's here as an instructor for PENN in CANNES some absurd summer program for rich Penn students. She's got tickets to 'Wild at Heart' and tells me to give up hope of getting any, they're impossible. The group they've been waiting for arrives and I leave, somewhat put off by what seems like gloating or mere disinterest.

Back in Juan Les Pins I rest for a bit, debate whether to bother doing Laundry, it's too late. I must eat to stay healthy, about 10:30 I stalk about, settling once again on Pizza (just about the only reasonable places that are open), but I go for the seafood (Pescadore) for a change, annoyed that it arrives with no cheese whatsoever. Afterwards I wander past the closed tourist arcades and a restaurant for tourists with a live conga band and umbrellaed cocktails. Down another street I am greeted with the welcome sight of a gelati place, and I splurge nearly 35 francs for a waffle sugar cone dipped in chocolate with stracciatella (chocolate chip) and framboise gelati. Strolling back along the promenade, gropers and interlopers on benches, it's a Felliniesque heaven, dimly lit by strings of coloured bulbs swaying slightly in the breeze, trespassing in the sky amidst the quiet stars.

[to be continued in IV Wild Thing...]

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