Two Days, One Night At The Cannes Film Festival

I was on the train from my home town in Yorkshire, England, en voyage to Cannes France, and found there was something instrumentally surreal about travelling so early in the morning (the train departed sometime before 6am), the day has barely opened its eyes, I was doing something new, adventurous, spontaneous – I had so much anticipation, adrenaline, anxiety in my semi-awake state to the extent I didn’t recognize where I was from. And that was a good thing, I thought, I was somehow focused on where I was going. When I opened the care package that my dear wife had lovingly put together (sausage / egg sandwiches, a flapjack, apple pies, a bowl of magnificent, homemade keftedes), I was indeed comforted. She could have almost been here with me, and obviously wish she was. And the kids too if they must.

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Cannes is a wonderful place to write about. Primarily, though, the writing comes hard because the soaking up of this extraordinary experience takes up the majority of your time. And so it should. At the back of your mind you know at some point you simply have to write these moments down, and, of course, sleep. Breathing comes with the territory. As does eating. Finding a place to sit is relatively easy given the hustle bustle every which way you turn. But this is so due to the sheer amount of venues to park your butt, pick up a menu, and make your choice. And those choices are seldom easy, so much variety of food and drink, that even succumbing to your default favorites is hardly possible as the range almost brainwashes you.

I overheard an American say “Hey they do croissants here”, even the implicit, buried notions of France (and indeed Americans) and the French ring true at times as a pleasant surprise. Of course they do croissants here, I mean, where you searching for the basics for some time? The idea the French are rude is perhaps exaggerated too – a stereotype with as much weight as me having a cup of tea and looking down my nose at you. You should come walk around the streets of the UK sometime, we have rude people too, folk that hardly look where they are going, and struggle to hold a door open for you. From what I saw, the French people walk across the street when they feel like it, even during police / security patrolled barrier – no man in uniform or indeed red lit man man is going to tell them what to do. That’s the nature of the beast.

And although the Cannes experience at this time of year is about the movies, there are so many social strands you simply must live through – the full benefits of which you will have to settle for dreaming about as the variables are just too vast. Overhearing conversations about a film they saw, they produced, they wrote, they were part of in some way, here to represent, even seeing the red carpet arrivals – those faces we don’t recognize, they all contribute to film and we have no true way of measuring to what significance – thy are integral all the same. While I was finishing an espresso, two young women sat at my table, one was telling the other, while finger pointing through a program, about various Canadian funded film projects she was perhaps endorsing. I eavesdropped naturally, I would be an idiot not to. The film talk exudes and is part of the oxygen. It was exhilarating at that moment, and not just because of the caffeine, to hear them mention names I had mostly not heard of – the art of discovery.

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I often wondered is this laid back aura here when the festival is not with us. I suspect with less congestion and hectic flocks of people with badges it is far more serene. And for those that reside here in the south of France this is all so normal anyway. Those badges then, you’re basically an outsider if you are not wearing one. Every man and his dog is wearing an official festival badge on a lanyard around their necks. Like the one I wear for work but with far more prestige, pride and power attached. In fact so many folk from around the world were donning these badges I wondered why on Earth I didn’t apply for accreditation this year. I mean, I love this festival as much as anyone who has yet to experience the full force of it. And I endorse it with unadulterated passion, especially this time of year. You could say, they need my publicity. You could. I saw people of all demographics with a badge – photographers, journalists, bloggers, students, young, old, female, male – hell, I was in danger of being stampeded by badge-wearing children. Okay, I kid. But it was a peculiar feeling, that I sat at opposing ends of an abstract spectrum, I was too old, too young, shackled, privileged, all simultaneously.

I thus felt completely out of it from time to time, like that will never be me queuing for a press screening, or do I even have the ultimate confidence and audacity to partake. I’m not ashamed to admit that at minor times during my French rendezvous, I felt a suffocating despair and regret, an overwhelming sense of being a complete outsider. Those emotions are fleeting, but they hit hard. Certainly not helped by the amount of walking I did, immeasurable, self-inflicted, but my poor feet hated me I know it. Acting on the age-old tip to pack comfortable shoes would have somewhat halted the severe pain I was in, and still feeling the aches up to my calves days later. Alas, the Cannes Films Festival is not just about watching movies. But as well as enjoying the sun, the walking (to a point), the food, the hospitality, the views, the high life, you also have to have your wits about you. A little bit of sneakiness, minor shoulder charging, nifty footwork amidst the event crowds doesn’t have to be rude barging or kicking. Skills I will work on, and be better and stronger the next time.

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With the beautiful Claudia Cardinale plastered all over town, on one of the festival’s finest posters I might add, Cannes was aglow with the movies. But the true starlet, the angel that stood grander than the iconic Italian / Tunisian actress towering above me in red, was the Greek legend who made this small but immense trip possible. I’d like to add to that what else she has made possible in my life but there are too many words to attribute to. In this instance, my uncompromisingly, generous wife gave me the kick I wanted to just get up and go to Cannes. It’s true I missed her dearly, even in those two days and one night, and ultimately returning home was something concrete I could look forward to beyond the excellent film adventure I had. Efharisto agapi mou. Je t’aime.

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3 responses to “Two Days, One Night At The Cannes Film Festival

  1. Hello! I’m a film and travel blogger from Manchester and I think I was in Cannes at the same time as you! I’d never been to the festival before and I honestly had no clue what to expect. I resonate entirely with your thoughts on being a complete outsider. I had cinephile accreditation for the festival, which I was super proud of getting beforehand, but when I got there I realised just how hierarchical and elitist the system is and felt a bit of a fraud. I guess that even if someday I managed to get the lowest of the low press badges, it still wouldn’t be enough. I hope you had a good experience 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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