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Day 9: By this stage in the Festival, people have that stunned-ox look.
To mentally prepare you for the coming Cannes film festival in May, we continue Nick Roddick’s subversive columns from the daily editions of Moving Pictures at the 2002 Cannes film festival & market, an irreverent, insightful, sometimes cynical and always entertaining take on what Cannes is really – really! – like.

Day Eight, Wednesday, as I write this. Cloudy. Thank God at least for that. Everyone on the street appears to be speaking Spanish so I know I'm in trouble. I stop and watch the Scooby-Doo clip [on an outdoor screen on the Croisette], which has become a kind of reassuring constant this year. I don't know what the people are saying but the dog jumping is the bit I like. I also like the fact that the screen is right in front of the Quinzaine [Directors Fortnight] headquarters. 

Such juxtapositions are the quintessence of Cannes. Elsewhere, things seem to be continuing as normal: it would take an earthquake to stop them. There are the usual packs of buyers moving swiftly along the Croisette like migrating birds, two packs going east, one pack going west. Are there, I wonder, two Fat Controllers sitting in offices I haven't found yet, dispatching groups at regular intervals. "Group B: go west, now. Group C: departure in ten minutes."

You don't have to be in Cannes long to realise that everyone has their own Festival of which the Croisette is more or less the only constant. Sometimes, though, they overlap. Yesterday, I met a producer friend. She is telling me about her life over the past year and showing me pictures of her children and then suddenly, without my noticing exactly where it starts, she is pitching me her latest project. I finally stop her and point this out. She breaks off in mid-sentence, looking confused, then embarrassed. "It's time to go home," she says.

But even this is better than conversations with fellow critics. If I have to have another f***ing conversation about Spider, I'll do serious damage to someone - in addition, that is, to the serious damage I appear to be doing myself. My brain, my body, my sensibility, the belief I cling to that things are not falling apart and the centre can hold. Thank God, at least, in that context, that I'm not Dutch.

The signs for the day are, however, getting better: a number of objects that had gone walkabout have returned and are sitting sheepishly on my desk, trying to persuade me they're really sorry they'd been hiding. Objects are worse than cats: at least cats always turn up at meal-times. Not requiring food, objects only come back when they feel like it. I firmly believe that they misbehave on certain days and yesterday was one of them. After midnight, things suddenly got better. Before midnight, I felt like Sid Vicious in Sid 'n Nancy: my brain hurt. After midnight I felt more like Nancy. I wonder why.

"The best laid plans of mice and men absolutely do not belong on the Croisette."

By this stage in the Festival, people have that stunned-ox look and suddenly want to chat - desperately, about anything. Killing time. It ought to be the other way round: so little time left, so many films to see, people to meet, meals to eat. But it isn't. It's the Festival's put-the-brain-in-neutral-and-hope-something-will-bump-start you day. It's the day you look at the list of all the things you were going to do in Cannes and realise you aren't. The best laid plans of mice and men absolutely do not belong on the Croisette.

Liza, who works at the desk opposite me, arrives two hours late, having got on a bus going in the wrong direction and ended up "in the middle of nowhere". Everyone to whom she tells this story has the same look: the middle of nowhere is where we'd all like to be.

I phone people in the real world. "Are you having a good time?" they ask. I lie. It is patently absurd to anyone watching TV coverage of the second most media-saturated event in the world that we should not all be having a good time, a real ball, an absolutely super, wonderful, whizzo week. We collude in the deception.

Actually, it was someone at the Festival who told me Cannes was the second most media-saturated - médiatisé was the word they used - in the world. The first was the Olympics, they said. I've been wondering ever since about the World Cup.

I guess being part of the press pack at the World Cup - or the Olympics or the Annual Convention of the Honourable Order of Meatpackers - is much the same as doing Cannes. Journalists are the same the world over. A colleague tells me about a significant other who is with the press in Kabul, which kind of puts Cannes in perspective, doesn't it? But it turns out they're just another bunch of journalists doing what journalists do everywhere in the world: apparently they all get together and have wild parties at each other's safe houses. It's just the party has to end because of the curfew, so they start earlier. You can get used to anything.

But I don't need to tell you that, do I?

Published April 24, 2003
First published in Moving Pictures May 23, 2002

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Cannes: The Underside 10


Nick Roddick taught film and theatre at Trinity College, Dublin; the University of Manchester; and California State University, Long Beach, before becoming a journalist in the early eighties. He was Film Editor of Stills Magazine in London from 1983-4 and Editor of Cinema Papers in Australia from 1985-6. From 1987-88, he was Editor of weekly trade paper Screen International and, in 1990, founding Editor of Moving Pictures International. Since 1993, he has been Editor of Preview, a bi-monthly magazine on films in production. He is author of several books on the British and American cinema, and currently runs Split Screen, a Brighton-based publishing and consultancy company specialising in the international film and television business.

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