So what, apart from the movies, am I looking forward to at Cannes? Maybe a Sylvester Stallone sighting, while he’s promoting Rambo V – Last Blood. You kids will snigger and scream “has been”, but back in the day, back in my day, he was Rocky, he was Rambo, he was Cobra, he was huge. So some star-spotting is a big attraction, which is why bleachers are put up outside the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, the main theatre that has the red carpet premieres, making the already narrow road even narrower. People come there early and sit and wait. And wait. And wait. I want to think I’m above this, but a couple of times I have found myself frozen at the spot, gawking at the LCD screens showing who’s getting out from this car and who’s posing for the photographers there. How do you know when a star has landed? It’s simple. Just wait for the crowd in the bleachers to roar.
Then, there’s the weather. Berlin is too cold. Cannes is warm. Hot, even. And that makes the mid-festival break even nicer. You know about the mid-festival break, don’t you? It’s when you decide you need to breathe some outside air and skip a few screenings so you can do outdoorsy things. Not beach volleyball or something. That’s too outdoorsy for me. But last year, I found myself on a boat, courtesy a friend. Bobbing in the Mediterranean for a few hours isn’t a shabby way to recharge yourself. Or if nothing else, just a walk down La Croisette, the most famous walk in Cannes, along the beach. The promise of stands selling homemade ice-cream makes the walk even better.
What else do I look forward to? Oh, the festival bag. I have a nice little collection now. I don’t use half of them, but they’re unbeatable as souvenirs. I look forward to writing my pieces on rooftops, with a view of the sea. They’re right, you know. A change of pace (and place) does change your writing. I look forward to people dressed up in serious clothes (and in France, the clothes are serious business) and holding up placards with pleas for tickets. (Say: “Two tickets for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood please!”) Why are they dressed up when what they’re doing, essentially, is begging for tickets? Because if they get those tickets at the last minute and they have to rush to a formal screening, then they won’t have the time to change. I’ve wondered about attending one of these formal screenings. I’ll need to rent a tuxedo, shoes. I think I’ll look silly and very penguin-like in a tuxedo. Still…
I look forward to the man I call Libération Dude. He carries a stack of Libération newspapers, and keeps yelling the name, looking for buyers while we stand in line for screenings. Lee-bération! Lee-bération! I look forward to the rain. It almost always rains during the festival, for a day or two. The first year, I had to buy an umbrella. (Of course, I did some mental math. 12 Euros times 80 rupees equals sonofabitch!) The second year, I wised up and took one along. I also take a hat, because the Cannes sun burns more than the Indian sun. Strange, but true. Someone said it’s because there’s less pollution to filter the rays. True? I look forward to the screenings on the beach: Cinéma de la Plage. I’ve never been to one yet. It needs tickets. It’s a big outdoor screen and people come with picnic baskets.
I look forward to the food. I’m vegetarian, so it’s mostly grilled-cheese paninis. That’s all the stalls near the theatres sell, and you want to grab something quick and rush back in. But last year, a bunch of critics from India decided to have a longish lunch. We had Italian food, wine. Lots of wine. The subsequent screenings turned out to be really good. I look forward to the chatter. All these streets with all these piazzas filled with all these people having all this food and doing all this chatter. It’s the kind of atmosphere you don’t find in Berlin, because the weather forces you to huddle indoors. Here, the sun draws you out. Until, of course, it’s time for the next movie. It’s almost a sin to be indoors, but a job’s a job. And yes, snigger away, but movie-watching is a job. Watch. Write. Stand in line. Watch. Write. Stand in line. Oh, I’m not looking for sympathy. Just saying it like it is. I look forward to the next ten days.