Coming to France is a lot like having an affair. The love at first sight turns to passion, lust and undeniable true love. Suddenly, your world back home loses its shimmer ever so slightly. You begin to compare the two worlds. But what can compare with France? Even tourist-choked, traffic-clogged, over-priced Cannes beats just about any other city in the US.
That’s it, you think. I’m packing my bags just like Owen Wilson in "Midnight in Paris," and I’m exiling myself away from the capitalist nightmare – the over-medicated, over-populated, health-care-lacking, economically depressed, mind-numbingly stupid country that is America – and I’m moving to France.
Specifically, I'm moving to the South of France, where the people are so warm and friendly; where they always smile at you and say thank you and “au revoir madame”; where they do things with flour, water and salt that is all the religion you’ll ever need; where the warm sea and the warm air wrap themselves around you like a silk scarf; where children buy baguettes from the boulangerie and eat them straight out of the bag as they walk home from school. I could be happier here, couldn’t I? Yes, I damned well could.
But of course, it doesn’t take long for reality to sink in. Sooner or later it’s time to pack up the dreams and go back to where you belong. I’m an American girl at heart and I miss the comforts of home. Cannes is great and all, but there’s nothing like living in a city where all you have to do is wave around money and people act nicely to you. Or maybe it’s just that we miss our cats. Either way, this will be a delightful diversion but, alas, nothing more than that.
One thing I will miss about being here is just talking to people. On my way in one morning I picked up a Belgian hitchhiker, a food photographer who desperately needed to get into Cannes. Hitchhiking is different here. It’s a fairly common way to get around, where you don’t necessarily end up hacked up and stuffed into a suitcase Mr. Ripley style. We had a long conversation on the drive in about, funnily enough, the Oscars.
He couldn’t understand how "The Hurt Locker" had won. “What was so great about it?” he asked me. He believed, as most probably do, that it won because no woman had ever won. I told him I was fine with that, considering winning an Oscar is supposed to mean something. (It hardly ever means anything except capturing a sentiment in a bottle.) He loved "The King’s Speech," as did probably everyone in France and England and Thailand and Hungary and Brazil.
When we finally rolled into Cannes proper I let him out so that he wouldn’t have to make conversation with me as we sat in the tiny-bumper-to-tiny-bumper traffic. “You’re better off walking,” I said. And he agreed.
I happened to find myself waiting in line with a reporter from Colorado. We ended up chatting for a full hour about Cannes. It occurred to me that a great many conversations have taken place with people waiting in lines to see movies. We don’t really have that kind of waiting in America anymore. In the days of "Jaws" and "Star Wars" we all waited for blocks and blocks. It had to be built into our daily planning -- a whole hour of just standing there, talking to the person standing next to us.
Talking to people here is such a change from being in Los Angeles, where nobody talks to anybody. We stare into our iPhones or we seal ourselves off in cars, or we try really hard to find seats in movies that are as far away from other people as we can get. But here in France, when you’re at the edge of the continent, lulled into serenity by the slow movement of the nearby Mediterranean, there really isn’t anything worth tuning out. You want to keep your head up. You want to look at things and talk to people. You want to be a part of life as it happens in front of you. And you hope you don’t start to think about your own mortality, even if every movie you see here seems to foist the issue in your face.
There are so many different levels of access here at Cannes, which makes it a great microcosm for how the entertainment industry meshes with our culture. At the bottom, in a way, are the fans who line up just for a glimpse of someone famous, sometimes all night. But when the stars take to the red carpet and the cameras start to flash you are in the land of "La Dolce Vita," and you can’t have stars without fans.
We journalists feel above them because we have access to the famous people, sort of. The famous people are above us and the executives and producers are above them and the buyers are above them and on and on it goes. In Cannes, you are measured and judged by the role you play in the circus. But what a circus.
More of Sasha Stone's Cannes coverage can be found at Awards Daily.
(Photos by Sasha Stone)