Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #1: An American in Paris

by Leslie Rigoulot

May 11, 1996

I was seriously considering getting a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over at the American Pavilion. All the Americans drop by for a Coors, to get the LA Times and maybe munch some nachos. Tonight the cantina area was packed, and I decided to skip the PBJ. Everyone was gathered around two TV screens blaring a basketball game. Well, it would make a nice photo so see all these crazy Americans staring at TV while the most beautiful seashore, glamorous parties and elegant casinos lie in the background. I took one shot and then I noticed him. Instant connection: this is a Bulls and Knicks game, and that is Spike Lee. Yep, the fan in the front row is here pitching "Girl 6", which has been deep-sixed by critics in the states. What a strange turn of events. He is besieged by fans, but everyone backs off when the game starts again.

"Whatsa score," asks the receptionist, as I head out of the pavilion? "Didn't notice," I reply. "Dustin Hoffman might come down now that the TV's are working." Maybe I'll stick around after all.

Dustin doesn't show but watching Spike is enough. One side of the room becomes his Knicks' side and the other belongs to the Bulls. Cheers ring for Michael Jordan, as he evens the score again and for Patrick Ewing as he brings the Knicks back into game. Dennis Rodman plays rough as usual but Spike is pointing it out, as if he can influence the ref thousands of miles away.

The crowd starts the countdown, but the game goes into overtime. Lee intently stares at the screen trying to ignore the huge TV camera that has positioned itself just out of his line of sight. Lights fill the room as everyone waits to catch Spike's reaction to the Knicks, win or lose. About 27 seconds remain in overtime, when the TV screens go blank and then blue. The crowd erupts into chaos. Did someone trip a plug, flip a switch? "I swear I paid the cable bill!" someone exclaims. Just as suddenly as it went off, the TV is restored and seemingly no time has elapsed. The Bulls make their move, and the Knicks answer. The Knicks take the third game of the finals, and Lee is on his feet, arms in the air. Everyone wants a shot of him, and soon he is standing on the table waving to everyone. But for a little while there, we are just fans away from home, enjoying a basketball game.

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