The morning we move from Juan-les-Pins to Cannes is sunny and beautiful. We are in the last phase of an 11-day pleasure trip to the south of France which culminates at the Cannes Film Festival, where my husband has a film in competition.
I think back on our days at le Mas des Etoiles, our heavenly B&B in the Luberon Valley of Provence. Back to the natural sights of Rouisillon and the vineyards; the feast of art work in Bonnieux, Gordes and La Coste; the gluttony of fine dining on Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, le Mas de Tourtellon and les Figuiers de Saint Esprit that have marked the past week. The stroll together along the ramparts as the sun fell over Antibes harbor, yacht railings shimmering in the pink light. We have enjoyed much beauty.
Our Cannes Home off La Croisette
Cannes is mobbed with glamorous women and a variety of white guys — in and out of suits — plus some more exotic people, as Hakan Gokgurler , our broker from Agence Elite-Concept (firstname.lastname@example.org) , leads us to the elegant-gradnma style two-bedroom flat whose balcony overlooks the Croisette. The boys — our teen Regan and his roommate Tucker — have already spotted the Sparkling Nightclub and Fendi shop down the lane from our ritzy abode.
Barely in town long enough to find the felafel joint where we spend 80 euros on four gyros with a glass of water, we run into an old friend of Ron's who has two extra tickets to "The Beaver," the new Jodie Foster – Mel Gibson flick. It has a lot of buzz at the festival and getting a coveted Premier ticket is a huge score. We give the tickets to our two teens and they run back to the condo to change.
I write as soon as they leave in their tuxedos for the Red Carpet and we agree to meet at 9.30 for a Moroccan meal. Very handsome fellows. My husband and I dance with the intermittent Orange cable-modem internet connection and discuss strolling along the Vieux Port to find a glass of the yummy new rosé. We never leave the apartment.
Cannesdemonium Reigns at Cannes
My reporter friend Ralph Spielman has called it Cannesdemonium and it is. Very hard to get a ticket, tough to decipher which credentials give you entree to which screenings, overwhelming in its variety with the maddening Festival rules that no one knows. (We know Black Tie is required at all evening screenings and no sneakers allowed.)
The official program of Cannes Festival LXVI says to log onto their smartphone app each morning at 8.20 to request tickets to the night's Red Carpet premier, and we do, but there are never any tickets available. The boys scramble, too, waiting on many lines, never gaining entree. The only guaranteed seats we have are to the premier of Ron's film, our Friday night black tie event and its party and after-party.
Over the coming days, together we see a lot of short films, largely the work of student filmmakers, and enjoy them very much. The boys hook up with a British school chum whose family has a second home in the hills above Cap d'Antibes, and he takes them out partying all night to the private clubs where no one is carded. Heaven.
But Cannes is a very attractive port and the visuals of the people and billboards and 3D commercials for new films are wonderful. Between screenings, we roam the backstreets looking for worthy places to eat. Famous haunts like the Carlton Terrace outside the main hotel, or the Martinez or Majestic, are off limits to anyone except guests and guests of guests. More than 4,500 people are registered for the festival, and the tradition of roaming from cafe to cafe to do business has disappeared in the scrum.
Nonetheless, Ron continues to run into friends on the pedestrian lanes off the port giving it that small town feel he loves. We spend an evening at the villa of his Italian producers, Lucky Red, feasting on couscous and rosé in the garden and enjoying many laughs and memories of an America well traveled and a road movie well produced.
Big Day at Cannes – The Premier of Ron's Movie
It's very exciting to be here and be a small part of the Cannes Film Festival… Finally, Ron's film opens tonight. There is so much media interest in the film after the 8:30am screening that there is no room in the press conference. We gather with many other cast and crew in the lower level of Le Palais du Cinema, the festival headquarters. His Italian colleagues wait for the White Carpet — to begin.
Regan and Tucker are at another screening in Le Palais; we sit and swivel our heads from the monitor where Italian is being translated into French, to the TV where Italian is being translated into English. Very good questions, even better answers. One writer says knowingly, "This Must Be The Place" should be called "This Must Be The Film" as I am sure it will win the Palme d'Or." There is lots of buzz about the film because the new Almodovar film was not so well received last night and Lars von Trier, whose film was well liked, has made an insulting anti-Semitic comment at his press conference that may sway the judges.
Nine days in and it's been great weather so far, high 70s and sunny with that Med breeze. We have seen Jean-Paul Belmondo at Cinema sur la Plage, when movies are shown on a big screen set up on the beach. There are enough parties for the boys and they connect again with their connected college friend. We have had too much fun. Tout va bien.
The Red Carpet Begins the Race
Friday after the press conference was big time ticket trading. Who sits where, who rides with whom, who goes to dinner party, who goes to after party. Ron has many people from his much loved crew in town and there is a lot of two-cheek kissing and laughter. Then, lots of fussing and dressing, of course, for the big night.
Women wear incredibly short skirts here, Ron calls them belts. And let me say now that it's impossible to compete with les filles L'Oreal and les hommes Roberto Cavallo — lots of models in designer samples hit the Red Carpet among the filmmakers to do product placement (the cumulative physical beauty is almost overwhelming…)
We have lunched on the plage at a wonderful temporary seafood restaurant where elegant older men in linen jackets dine with young ladies in sort-of swimsuits. We have dressed and we have taken Black Tie pictures on the balcony of our French apartment on rue Frere Perignac. We must be seated by 7pm and Ron must be at the Carlton to meet the car escort by 6pm.
Le Palais du Cinema is a very large tiered theatre with big, cushy seats and great sound. They usher in the plebeians like us along the Red Carpet and get you seated first, then they let you watch the real filmmakers come in, almost one by one. Paolo Sorrentino, director, has won here before and is very loved by the French. The Red Carpet, called marche montee I think in French, takes about 30 minutes (45 if you work with Sean Penn who is always late.) It is broadcast live on the theatre screen so we see many unknown-to-us celebrities pause for pictures and words of wisdom to the entertainment press.
Ron looked very handsome: He did the limo arrival with the police escort and special flags on the cars. We saw it all, but did not see him broadcast on the Carpet because it really focuses on the cast and director. Great fun to see and to speculate on the personalities — here's a video that Raffaello Vignoli, Ron's assistant during the shoot, made as the VIPs arrive at their seats –
Screening is a Big Success
The film finally began, after an altercation between two evening-gowned women over a seat. We were all taken aback by their scuffle, quite undignified in the palace of cinema. Regan and Tucker loved the movie, really seemed to relate to it, but maybe that's the Euro atmosphere they were in. It is truly an "art" film in every sense, and quite wonderful.
The screening was quiet but engaged; it seemed like the audience sang along with the Talking Heads music (David Byrne composed the score and is in the film) and stayed with the storyline. Then the credits began to dance across the screen and the audience erupted, about 7-8 minutes of standing ovation. True jubilation.
There were cries of 'Paolo, Paolo' then 'Sean, Sean' and the applause would die down and one of them — director and star — would stand or wave and it would start again. 'Paolo, Paolo…' 'Sean, Sean…' 'Bravo, Bravo' punctuated the air.
We heard the record was 26 minutes at Cannes for a standing ovation (no one knew which film), so you have to take this adoration in perspective. But when I saw, in dramatic closeup through the big screen coverage of the orchestra, that my hero Pedro Almodovar left his seat to come and kiss Paolo, it was a very special praise.
You can see from the pictures taken from inside the Palais stairs out to the street that a huge fuss is made about all of this. Lots of people remained outside waiting to get into the next film ("Drive" which got very good reviews too) and also to see stars from Ron's film exiting.
Afterwards, there was a very nice, posh party at La Mandala, one of these fixed tent restaurants on the beach. Tons of champagne flowed, and slim young men passed around trays of tiny pate type hors d'oeuvres, then little plates of pasta, hamburgers and frites, crazy variety, little cups of gelato, who picked this menu?
At 1am we left the boys to party a bit more and roam la Croissette, the seaside promenade, looking for fun. We oldies went home to sleep, but only after Ron caught the very positive review from Variety.com. The Italian trades have come in, very positive too. And of course it's been sold to the US, to a distributor who is known for recutting much of what he buys, so no one really knows the fate of the wonderful arthouse film we have seen.
Last Day and Night in France
On Saturday we ran around, had lunch in the city with a German cast member and his wife, and listened to her and Tucker trade stories about their days in Moscow. We have loved this international veneer to all our days in France and I think it's part of what makes this experience so special for Regan. After lunch I insisted I wanted to see Grasse, but the boys refused to go on a perfume factory tour so we continued up into the hills to see Vallauris, where Picasso did his ceramics. In that old compound, there is a very pretty chapel that he did a mural for.
After all the last minute shopping, cleaning, packing, Tucker took us all to a fabulous meal at L'Oasis, a beautiful stone courtyard under huge chestnut trees in the nearby town of La Napoule. We drove our Renault along the seashore (the Croissette of Cannes was closed to traffic for the last night's film) and watched the sun glimmer over the yachts, the bobbing bouys now vacant after their film tenants have sailed away, teens at the end of a beach day still holding hands.
The meal was fabulous, that's all I can really say since I don't speak that vocabulary. A Michelin-rated chef, impeccable service (someone escorts you to the bathroom…) in a low-key and very pretty Relais & Chateau inn. Tucker ordered a rose champagne — the restaurant has its own vineyard — and that epitomized the life we had led in the south of France. We all had the chef's selection: pureed gelee style bouillabaise in a tiny espresso cup, then asparagus with baby octapus and kumquats to start; a filet of sea breem over seasonal vegetables minced to look like a bed of couscous. Then, a breast of pigeon with morels and a goose liver pate…
Wait, there's more. A big bowl of the madeleines, a tray of chocolates, a pretty waitress with a dessert tower from which to choose, then a plate of tiny loucoumi, then some green and silver-striped marshmallow type things… I promise I won't write more, but you can imagine the deliciously prolonged and savory feast.
We walked a bit after supper and got home quite late after failing to digest everything. Last night in France, so the boys stayed up to watch movies online and leaned over our balcony to admire the club action on the street below. We crashed of course, up at 6am to pack.
And the Winner Is…
The Cannes Film Festival Awards were given out while we were mid-air. Terence Malick's controversial film, "The Tree of Life," won the Palme d'Or. Ron's movie won an Ecumenical Prize, we were told for its themes of revenge and redemption. Since the film was sold to the US market at the festival, Ron and the Italians are already super pleased, so we are happy. The flight home whizzes by.
Wish you all could have been here!
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