Day Five – Thursday May 25th
Today was going to be a busy one. I had scored red carpet tickets for three consecutive screenings, leaving very little time between them for anything else. There would be no wide-eyed wandering around this time, no touristy photos and certainly no relaxing in the stunning south-of-France sun. This was a mission that must be pulled off with military precision. Seeing as the first film began at 4pm – meaning I’d be queuing from at least 3.30 – and the latest didn’t finish until gone 11, my first priority was food. It’s amazing how many times I’ve said that in my life.
Eating before the screenings wouldn’t be a problem, it was that long stretch of eight or so hours without a bite to eat that worried me. After hopping off of the shuttle and into town, I made my way to McDonald’s (I gave them WAY too much business on this short trip) and procured two boxes of chicken nuggets, one to have after the first screening, the other after the second. At this point I was a little unsure about their rules on taking food into the theatre – I’d been allowed to take water in, but something told me that food wouldn’t warrant the same leniency. For the sake of safety, I hid each box separately in my bag, and joined the queue.
Seeing as I had no time to go home and change between screenings, I was stuck out in the blazing sun in the same stifling penguin suit as the day before, so queuing wasn’t exactly fun. The long line slowly whittled down, and eventually I shuffled to the security desk, flashed my pass, and presented my bag for inspection, my heart in my throat. The metal detector stayed silent as I passed through, and the security agent nodded at my badge. Unfortunately, I had evidently failed to hide my nuggets securely enough, and I was forced to step aside and eat them before I was allowed to continue. I scoffed them down quickly, trying my best to look contrite, but little did they know I walked away with a smile on my face – they’d only found one box! The back-up nuggets were safe!
As with my previous experience of the red carpet, I was surrounded by casually dressed folk, but at least this time I knew I was wearing my duds for a reason, so I felt a little less like an idiot. The first film I was lined up to see was a co-production between France, Germany, Lithuania and the Netherlands called “Krotkaya”, which loosely translates into English as “A Gentle Creature”. The film itself I thought was okay, see the review here for more details, but the experience of watching it was somewhat tarnished by annoying placement of the subtitles. I was sat in the stalls, or Orchestre, as they call it, and really struggled to see the English translations that were placed just below the screen, leaving me with a neck ache from all the craning.
Once I’d made it out of the Theatre, I hurried around to rejoin the queue for the next one. I was well aware that I’d been very lucky to sneak my back-up nuggets through one round of security, and didn’t much fancy their chances at a second inspection, so I picked at them while waiting for the incredibly long line to amble forwards. A helpful steward reminded me to tie my bow-tie and put my jacket back on (I’d made myself comfortable for the previous screening) and this time around I didn’t mind so much because finally, FINALLY, I was surrounded by people in the smartest tuxes and sleekest dresses. I was gearing up for a proper red carpet experience.
It took a long time to get through security, and even longer after that to get onto the crimson catwalk (I’m running out of ways of saying that), but finally I was given a nod by the surly bouncer, slipped past the barrier and joined the steady stream of fabulous people elegantly making their way to the steps. This. This was what I had been waiting for. There were bright lights; there was music; everyone was dressed to the nines, some even reached for the tens; photographers were snapping pics from every angle, and all around there was this electric energy coursing through the air. This was what it was all about – the excitement and passion, the love and commitment. So of course I stopped dead halfway up the stairs and took a few pics of it all. I’m classy like that.
I was back on the balcony for this one, and I couldn’t be happier. I knew that there wouldn’t be any subtitles, but the fact was you could just see a lot more of the place from up there, and I wanted to experience as much of it as possible. Screening number two was actually not a film at all, but rather the first two episodes of “Twin Peaks: The Return”. Almost everyone in my little group of journos wanted to attend this monumental event, but I was the only one lucky enough to snag a ticket. I felt pretty bad about this, because I hadn’t actually watched the show before, but I’d heard that the aim was to make the series accessible to new viewers, so I figured I’d be a good test.
Once we were all settled in our seats, the screen showed live footage of the red carpet, and we all watched as director and series co-creator David Lynch entered the building with his entourage. The passion and energy I’d felt outside erupted into a tumultuous standing ovation as Lynch and co made their way to their seats. The man himself stood for a long time, smiling slightly shyly as hundreds of people whooped and hollered for him. Finally we all shut up, and Lynch sat down, misty eyed but smiling broadly.
Then the show began. Accessible is an interesting word to use when describing Twin Peaks. Having gone on to watch the old series after the festival, I wouldn’t say that The Return would have been any easier to understand, more that I just would have had a greater level of investment in the returning characters. Regardless, I was utterly gripped by the two episodes I watched, you can read all about my thoughts on it here. Once the final credits rolled, David Lynch was treated to yet another standing ovation, pictured below, and he exited the building with the sounds of our approval echoing around him.
important famous people were free and clear, the rest of us were let loose. Again I circled around, and joined the queue, ready to go and see screening number three. It was a long, sad wait without my nuggets, but I survived security and made it back onto the red carpet. This go around was nowhere near as exciting – I think much like drugs, the first time is always the best – so I didn’t bother hanging around taking pictures, I just pushed on through and found my seat.
I was up on the balcony again, which was just fine by me, and while I was getting comfy and waiting for the film to start, I got a message from some of the guys I was there with. Turned out they were up there too, on the far side of the balcony, and we spent a few minutes trying to take pictures of each other – didn’t get very much, it was a very long balcony. We were all there to see a film called “Good Time”, starring Robert Pattinson. Having only seen his in a couple of things, and almost always as a soft-spoken charmer, it took me a while to figure out the rough, wannabe criminal on screen was the same man. I was very impressed with his range and mostly enjoyed the film, for more details check out the review here.
After we were all let out, I met up with the guys on their way to get a McDonald’s. I’d had to sacrifice my plan when my first set of nuggets were discovered, and by now I was pretty hungry, so I decided to join them (like I said, I gave Ronnie McD way too much business). I’d originally planned to get a taxi home, but the others were walking and I figured I could do with seeing a little more of the country, since I was due to leave the following night, so I tagged along. I soon came to regret this: I was absolutely shattered from the last couple days, and struggled to keep up. On the plus side, we saw a dead snake in the road, which was morbidly fascinating, but on the down side, I had to climb that damn hill again (one last time). To cap off this day, here is a picture of the red carpet, devoid of life, its purpose served, now empty.
Day Six – Friday May 26th
Today was my last day. I was booked on a flight that left Nice airport at 10:35pm (more on that later), so I had plenty of time to fill my day with more films and a final bit of exploring. Continuing my string of success with the red carpet lottery, I’d managed to snag tickets to two last films. We were due to checkout sometime today, but since we didn’t have a specific time – the guy was apparently going to call me at 1ish so we could figure out when would be mutually suitable – I figured I’d be okay leaving my stuff in the apartment and hopped in a shuttle, headed for the town.
First up on my list was a German film called “Aus Dem Nichts”, or “In The Fade”, to use its English title. The screening was in the late morning, so I had plenty of time to amble over to the queue and glide through security before I sat down. I knew nothing about this film going in (just like most of the things I saw), so I was pleasantly surprised to find a gritty, emotional drama that made some very brave points about terrorism and the cyclical nature of revenge begetting revenge. I go into more detail in the review, here, but suffice it to say that I came out of my first screening feeling as though my last day at the festival was off to a great start. Let’s see how long that lasts.
Much like the previous day, my two red carpet screenings were pretty much one after the other, so once I was out of the theatre, I swung back around as I had so many times before, and joined the queue for a French film called “L’amant Double”. While waiting to step up to the security booth, I got a message from my Take One boss saying that the landlord (who, for the sake of data protection, and because it’ll be funny, will be referred to as “Hugh Jasshole”) had decided with no prior warning that he wanted the apartment empty by 2pm. Which was in thirty minutes. Cue sad trombone…
Furious that I was going to miss the film, I at least made some random dude’s day by giving him my ticket. So that felt good … ish. The shuttle took a good twenty minutes to get back to the villa, and there was more than five minutes of walking on either side, so of course I was late. Hugh, that is to say, Mister Jasshole, was there already, waiting impatiently with the next occupants. Everyone else I was sharing the apartment with had earlier flights than me, so they had all cleared their stuff out before leaving that morning. That was the good news – I only had to clear out my mess. The bad news was, I still had to clear out my mess.
I hadn’t been expecting an audience, so it was pretty embarrassing stuffing sundries and sullied socks into my suitcase with one hand while gathering up all my considerable rubbish with the other, all while Hugh and the new folk (great band name) tutted and sighed in the doorway. The good mister Jasshole made a few snarky comments as I sidled past his extensive girth to exit the apartment, but he still owed a few of my mates a deposit back, and I didn’t want my smart mouth costing them money, so I bit my tongue and hauled ass outta there.
With the keys handed back, and my second red carpet film well and truly missed, I found myself back in the city with a couple clunky suitcases in tow. For a brief moment, I was sure that I would have to sit at security with a pained expression while gruff bouncers literally aired my dirty laundry, but luckily Take One boss dropped me a line to say that I could stow my gear at the train station while I finished up my day. I hoofed it over to the other side of the city centre and found the luggage drop off area inside the station. The guy manning the desk didn’t speak a lick of English – and, to be fair to him, I didn’t speak a lick of French – so we engaged in a series of awkward mimes and I eventually managed to get out of there, suitcase free.
Back at the Palais and still pissed off that I had missed one of my films, I high-tailed it down to the basement level (pictured above) and found the info booth again. I was desperate to squeeze one last showing in, and didn’t much care what I saw – if I had to wait a little while for something, then I could just fill the time with a little souvenir shopping at the outlet nearby. As it happened, one of the few films I didn’t manage to get a red carpet ticket for (seriously, I was SO lucky with that lottery system) was showing in the Olympia building, in just over ten minutes. I didn’t hesitate, I was gone in a flash, leaving only a Ben-shaped cloud of dust in my wake.
I tore out of the Palais like a bat out of hell (or another, less copyrighted saying). By the time I hit the street, there were eight minutes to go. I desperately sifted through my bag and found it – the map! – it had the surrounding streets covered to ensure that even the cinemas outside the Palais could be found. I identified the Olympia and bolted in the vague direction the map advised. I found a cinema with Cannes decorations, but no – it was the wrong one! Five minutes now. I sprinted down side streets, round tiny little corners, my trainers pounding against the uneven cobblestones until, finally, with seconds left on the clock, I found myself in what I thought was the right street, my face sweaty, my pathetic smoker’s lungs screaming, heat-stroke imminent.
I was at the back of a very long queue. If my calculations were correct – which was a dubious notion at best – I believed that it led right up to the steps of the Olympia building, and my desired film beyond. I felt like a proper idiot for dashing about, because the line didn’t move an inch for at least ten minutes. I began to wonder if my lacklustre orienteering skills had led me astray once again. I asked the girl in front of me, and both her and the girl in front of her reckoned that I was in the right place – at least, if I was lost, then they were too. Finally, the line began shuffling along, and soon enough I was crossing the threshold into the Olympia and heading up to my screening. The film was a sci-fi/English punk combo called “How to Talk to Girls at Parties”, and it was pretty good, if a little scattered – see my full thoughts in the review here.
I came out of the film humming some punk tunes and just about ready to bid farewell to my time in Cannes. There was only one thing left on my checklist – get some souvenirs for my nearest and dearest. The gift shop was way back in the Palais, but I had a few hours before my flight so I figured the trip couldn’t hurt. Unfortunately, by the time I got back through security and down the stairs, the little alcove that had been occupied by the souvenir was deserted, and the peddlars had all buggered off. I was disappointed – there had been some fun trinkets in there – but at least that meant I’d come home with SOME money. Or so I thought…
Back at the station I engaged in yet more wordless gestures to retrieve my luggage, and painlessly managed to procure a ticket, and board the correct train. I had a roughly half an hour ride until my stop, so I found somewhere comfortable, stowed my bags and settled in. I hooked up to the train’s wi-fi and started chatting to my girlfriend – she’s a big fan of planes and wanted to use one of the tracking apps to watch my journey from Nice airport back to England. She asked for my flight number and I sent her a screenshot of my boarding pass. She ran it and came back to me saying that apparently that flight had already landed. I looked again, and she was right. I wasn’t booked on a flight leaving at 10:35pm, because it had already left at 10:35 that morning.
I was freaking out, she was freaking out, the people around me on the train were freaking out… okay maybe not them, but they should have been. I had effectively missed my flight by more than six hours and left myself stranded in a foreign country with no more nights booked at the inn. I hurriedly looked up flight times, praying that I could still get one that night – if there was nothing left, that not only meant paying for a new flight, but a hotel as well. Beyond luckily, there was ONE flight left that I could make. It wasn’t going to the same airport as my previous one, but it was close enough that I could manage. So eventually my souvenir money went on airfare, any my gift to those around me was my return to England. Least I got this fun badge, eh?
With my new flight booked and my metaphorical wallet even lighter, the train pulled into the station and I rolled my luggage out, expecting to see the airport right in front of me, and … it was nowhere to be seen. Google maps told me that, while it had looked geographically close to the station entrance, I was actually looking at a complicated 20 minute walk to get to the airport. Others around me, luggage in tow, were also looking confused. Despairing, I checked my map app and headed off in the indicated direction. A little ways down the road, I noticed that the confused travellers were following me. Not in a creepy way, just because I must have looked like I knew where I was going. Oops.
And so I led them, following my map through streets, under bridges and over crossings. Along the way we picked up a couple more lost souls, each of the straining under the weight of a hefty backpack or dragging a stuffed suitcase on wheels. I led these people like the Moses of Nice, guiding them to their salvation; when I turned they turned; when I doubled back they doubled back; when I stopped and asked for directions they… they kinda just hung around awkwardly. They were the lemmings now, and I had graduated to the leader! It had all come full circle! Finally, and with minimal mistakes, I delivered the travellers to the sacred steps of the airport, we all went our separate ways, and I went to find my plane.
I was just about sick of going through security checkpoints by now, and I didn’t do myself any favours by accidentally leaving some change in my pocket before I went through the scanner. As a reward for my lapse in attention, I got the full pat down by some dude who had no respect for boundaries. Didn’t even offer to buy me dinner afterwards. Not that he could have anyway – I soon found on the other side that there was nowhere to buy any savoury food. I scoffed a “dinner” of cookies and Twix bars while my flight was delayed again and again. After all that, I was happier than I’ve ever been to squeeze into my seat, buckle up and finally fly home.
At the other side, I touched down into Luton airport, met my girlfriend at the arrivals gate and finished the last leg of my long trip. The whole experience in Cannes was incredible: I saw a tonne of great films, got to explore a beautiful city on the south coast of France, and even spotted a celeb or two (no selfies unfortunately, I didn’t get THAT close). It’s a trip that I’m not going to forget in a hurry, and even if I never get the chance to go back, I’m so glad that I was lucky enough to see this historic institution of film up close, and to be a part, no matter how small, of all its glitz and glamour. Thanks for the good times, France, I’ll be seeing you again soon.