Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

1999 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
#10, The End of the Line

by Richard Schwartz

Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999 is brought to you by:

CANNES, May 22 - It happens like this every year but still catches people by surprise every time. One day the Croisette is bustling with tourists, the pavilions are packed, the hotel lobbies are overrun. And then, the next morning, one walks out of his hotel and the crowds are far more sparse, the sidewalks are far easier to navigate and this place begins to feel like a port town again. It's as if everybody has just disappeared mysteriously overnight, making like the Baltimore Colts and loading their belongings in Mayflower trucks.

The exodus from Cannes usually begins around the final Thursday or Friday of the festival when the film market folks take down their signs and pack up their tents, heading back to L.A. or London or wherever they originated. Next, the number of journalists, which at the outset of the fest comprises the largest annual media event in Europe, begins to dwindle. Those prime hotel room waiting lists suddenly get shorter and those previously impossible-to-secure screening tickets suddenly begin appearing as offerings from the hands of kind strangers. Loud beach parties are fewer and further between.

The Daily Variety pavilion, which was standing room only just a couple days ago for a Roger Ebert-moderated panel of American directors, is now nearly empty, save for a few soccer fans catching the televised FA Cup final between Man U and Newcastle. The American Pavilion is dead as well, except for a small E! Television reception in the backyard to celebrate the arrival of Joan and Melissa Rivers in town. Down at the Carlton Hotel Beach, chairs actually become available for the first time in weeks.

Talk at the beach turns to this year's competition slate. As usual, many call this year's selection disappointing and downbeat while other praise the diversity of offerings. In the sidebars, talk turns to the Camera D'Or award (given to a first-time director) and main candidates seem to be Canadian Jeremy Podeswa (for "The Five Senses") and surprise Sofia Coppola, whose "Virgin Suicides" scored some heavy approval. Spike Lee has turned up in town for "Summer of Sam" and initial word of mouth is lukewarm to warm. (In a somewhat macabre fashion statement, people begin sporting "Summer of Sam" baseball caps, which carry the Yankees logo and the number "77" for the year in which the film is set. Don't expect this to catch on like the Malcom "X" paraperhnelia.)

And the buzz still hasn't died down for Pedro Almodovar's film. "Todo Sobre Mi Madre" leads the Palme talk, but the talk now includes such names as Egoyan, Kitano, Lynch and, depending on its reception tonight, John Sayles' "Limbo."

The awards ceremony, schlock-full and amateurish but full of some great moments (remember last year when some Italian comedian named Benigni jumped out of his seat and kissed the feet of Marty Scorsese and it was still considered charming?), will reveal the winners tomorrow evening.

Later today, Gilles Jacob's office will contact the competition filmmakers via cellular phone and let them know if they should book an extra night at the hotel or catch the next flight out of Nice.

We all wait with baited breath. Those of us that are still in town, that is.

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