Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Diary #4: What Day is it?

by Leslie Rigoulot

May 13, 1996

I know what day it is by the cover of "Variety" and how many of my little pink Zantacs are left. Sort of a strange system, but Cannes has a way of distorting reality.

Jokingly I told a buddy of mine that I was crashing Cannes. Little did I know how true that would be. Cannes is designed not to let anyone crash the big party. All of the Film Scouts have impeccable credentials with the notable exception of me. Sorry but Dallas Family magazine doesn't cut it here. Neither does Distinctive Lifestyles, or the Southlake Journal. But Paragon Cable as a Time Warner affiliate does have a little weight, very little but enough to get a yellow press pass. The caste system designates that white press cards are for daily newspapers and other heavyweights. Blue and pink are the middleweights, including weekly papers. Then come yellow which has some amorphous grouping of technicians and multi-media types.

Lastly, there are the orange photographers, but they can attend only the scripted star shoots. And only those film cameras with a tripod are allowed to shoot in the press conferences and on the front steps of the Palais. I found this out today when I slipped into the Robert Altman "Kansas City" press conference and was told I wasn't allowed to shoot. At all. I couldn't stand with the cameramen because I didn't have a tripod and couldn't stand on the stairs without one. Given two ounces of authority, the average person will exercise all two ounces of it. That seems to be petty darn universal. So the security guard who initially informed me who told me I couldn't shoot was tres displeased when I tried to get a shot of Robert Altman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Miranda Richardson, as I was leaving. So sue me. At least he didn't throw me out. Maybe they have a rule about that too.

I was fascinated by Altman's "Kansas City". I had heard that if you like jazz, you'd like the film, because it's full of jazz and is structured as a jazz session. Well, I don't like jazz, but I found the movie to be compelling. I just didn't like/comprehend the ending. Jennifer Jason Leigh kidnaps the opium addicted wife (Miranda Richardson) of a politician in order to get her husband released by the black gang he has crossed. I was touched by the odd bond between the two women.

Luckily, Altman commented that some audiences might not understand the ending, but that it was merciful. Ahhh! Suddenly it made sense. But not everyone is going to have the benefit of having the director to explain the ending to them. The movie is supposed to do that. Maybe I'm just not smart enough or movie-literate enough. But don't count on it.

It is Sunday here so all the locals have come out to watch the steps of the Palais for movie stars. They wander around with their ice creams, small children, dogs and cameras. It makes me homesick, or rather more homesick. I love the French, love the films, love the food, but miss my family desperately. Calling home makes things worse. When I hear the voice of my 15 year-old son I burst into tears. "We really miss you, Mom." They are the sweetest words I could hear. Especially since I'm not likely to hear, "We have your tickets for the Kenneth Branagh Cocktail party, Madame."

Walking through the crowds, down the streets or in the stores is never easy. Well, maybe for New Yorkers used to crowds, but I'm from Dallas, where only the freeways and Neiman Marcus are crowded. It takes me ten minutes to walk from the hotel to the Palais, at first. I am deferential to those around me and try to be polite. I catch on pretty quickly that this is not the order of the day. Walking here is like driving in Boston: a contact sport. Do not make eye contact; it is a sign of weakness. Cars have to stop for you in the crosswalk so just step out into traffic...if you dare. Don't take it personally when people bump into you. And keep moving. My time is cut in half and I am feeling pretty confident. Then I bump into an older couple walking on Rue des Serbes. She speaks to me in French. "I don't speak much French," I reply. "Neither do we! Are you with the festival? We are traveling Europe, been all over. Just came from Florence" she overflows. Trying to be polite, I ask where they are from? "Boston." she replies. "Boy, these sidewalks sure are crowded." I walk away glad I encountered them on a sidewalk and not on a Boston freeway.

Walking is just one of the ways that the French women maintain their size 4 figures. Hotel Touring has a special weight reduction plan. The elevator is the size of a phone booth, so most of the time the stairs are faster. Voila! No need for step class. Breakfast is served in a lovely room on the first floor. Tea or coffee is accompanied by orange juice, a baguette and a croissant. This is the standard breakfast in France and is delicious - for awhile. But Cocoa Puffs are sounding better by the minute.

The Festival du Film is also in on the exercise plan. The stairs of the Palais are just the beginning of the training for journalists. After running the initial set of stairs and being told by security to wait, I'm frogwalked into a mad dash up two flights of stairs when the press section is opened. To get blood flowing after two hours of sitting, press conferences are held immediately after screenings to allow journalists to jog to the third floor of the Palais and jostle each other for position at the front of the line. The US military may want to take lessons on keeping the troops in shape.

[By the end of the day, Sunday, Leslie sprained her ankle and went home to Dallas. We wish her a bon voyage, award her the purple heart and wish her a speedy recovery - Film Scouts]

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