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Cannes Diary: Navigating the Streets and Officials

A quest for a credential upgrade ends happily at this year’s festival

The weather is sunny this year in Cannes, which means that if you’re hurrying to a screening with your heavy computer bag, your badge flapping up and down on your chest and your feet long since blistered by your shoes, you’re bound to be sweatier than usual. Even those who never sweat turn up sweaty at screenings.

But to wait a full hour in line and be turned away at a screening can cause even the coolest among us to despair. This was why I decided to squirrel up my courage and talk to the press office about my yellow badge. I’d been told that if you make a good enough case they’ll “look at your file,” which means they’re reconsider your application. In my case, I’ve gotten a bump by doing reporting and reviews for TheWrap, which did change my application status. After a long, heated debate with a very pretty, poker-faced woman wherein I invoked the French Revolution, I was informed that they would have a decision for me in the morning.

Since I’ve been driving back and forth from Juan-Les-Pins to Cannes, I’ve come to know the backstreets quite well. I’ve learned, for instance, that the French people here, except in Cannes, shut their doors, turn out their lights and head to bed around 9:30pm. If you’re in need of dinner your choices are going to be fairly limited.

Cannes heelsBut the advantage to staying out of town is that one can find a quiet night of sleep in a lazy, unpopulated beach town, far away from the chatter of the crowds here. When you walk the Croisette at night after a screening, you are confronted with masses of attendees all trying to get tickets to the night’s big gala. You never really get used to the women who dress up to just stand there, hoping to get noticed. Cannes is, to many, a place where dreams can come true.

Wednesday’s screening brought Woody Allen and his cast of "Midnight in Paris" to the Palais for a photo call and press screening. Rachel McAdams, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Woody would all be back that night for the gala screening. Attendees always need at least two outfits for these photo opportunities.

Allen wasn’t as funny this time around as he had been last year. But any chance to see him speak in public is a privilege not to be squandered, which was why the paparazzi swarmed the wi-fi room to catch them on their way back from the photo call to the press conference in the Palais du Festival.

Also read: Cannes Opens with Woody Allen's Parisian Valentine

The photographers sat down quickly and started processing their photos for publication. The faster they upload them the faster they get online, the more money they make. This is occasionally a great way to see photos way before anyone else.

Allen’s film has been well-received here, which has led to speculation that this year will be much better for films overall than it was last year. It isn’t just that the French love Woody Allen – it's that he’s finally made a movie worthy of celebrating. The other Wednesday movie was "Sleeping Beauty," which was met with mixed-to-negative reactions.

Also read: Cannes: 'Sleeping Beauty' Has Sex, Nudity — And It's Boring

Owen Wilson and Adrien BrodyI got lost once again on the drive back to Juan-Les-Pins. I keep waiting for the day when I really know how to drive the streets of Cannes. Here, you can’t hesitate when you drive. The little cars and motorcycles zoom down the street much faster than they do in LA. You have to learn to hit the gas and steer – it reminds me of the Autotopia ride at Disneyland.

So I pretend I’m a local driver, honking rudely and hitting the gas, just as I pretend I’m an actual journalist with my press badge, my laptop, my notepad and my attitude. I was hoping that attitude will lead to a badge upgrade. But I still wouldn’t know until the next morning.

After a fitful sleep, I woke up as early as possible in order to get in the car by 7:30 a.m. at the latest. My daughter was still asleep as I hurried out the door. Once out of the hotel, which was still locked up, I panicked that I’d forgotten my money. I dug through my bags as the clock ticked down. I couldn’t get back in the hotel because I’d forgotten my security code. The door was locked. I couldn’t call my daughter because her phone would be off. I ran to the side of the hotel where her balcony was and screamed up at her, Romeo-style. By the time I was finally off, it was a whole half-hour later than I'd wanted.

Hitting the A8 on the way into Cannes at eight a.m. was a traffic nightmare. I knew that I had to be at the Lumiere theater early enough to get a good seat, 8:15 at the latest. The movie I’d most wanted to see here, Lynne Ramsay’s "We Need to Talk About Kevin," was playing. I would never make it. Another missed screening, and this time entirely my own stupid fault.

I hit the gas and zipped my way in and out of traffic trying to get through to the parking garage. By the time I finally did, it was already 8:25. With a 10-minute walk to the Lumiere, I was never going to make it. On my way down the streets markets were opening. The French buy things separately. They’re not so into the one-big-supermarket idea. The fish store was showing off the day’s catch, the meat store had beef slabs laid out, the chicken store had its selection hanging up. The flower store and open market were calling my name. Oh, to have the morning to just wander up and down that street! But alas, I had to see that movie … and I was never going to make it.

Sweat was now pouring down my forehead and back, the velcro from my laptop bag was pulling tiny threads off of my pants so that it looked like someone taped a piece of cat fur to my thigh, and I was now breaking out in a full run. On the plus side, I kept thinking, this is a great workout.

Eventually I got to the gate. “Sorry,” the man told me, “but the screening is closed.” I turned away from him and felt a wave of sobbing hysteria almost come over me. But I swallowed it back: I wasn’t going to be the dumb girl who cries at disappointment. I went back to him and begged. PLEASE, I said, it’s MY JOB. PLEASE! No, no, sorry, I can’t let you in, no. It was a wall of no. But I persisted because I had no other option. I finally said, “I’ll cry.” And that sort of seemed to work a tiny bit. Another journalist next to me was also trying to get in and he had a pink badge. “Let me see your badge,” said the guard. “Oh, it’s yellow. No, you can’t get in.”

That he even questioned it made me think I had a shot if I didn’t give up. Now, a sweaty, soggy, teary, frantic wreck, I realized that the Cannes film fest was making me act in a way I would never ordinarily inflict upon others. What was happening to me? We Need to Talk About Cannes. “Okay,” he said. And finally waved me in.

I ran up the stairs, handed over my bag and slipped inside just as the credits were rolling.

When I came out of the screening, I was informed by the press office that my badge had been upgraded to blue. Okay, so it’s still not pink or white or pink with a white dot, but it’s better than what I had before. And that would do.

Maybe dreams do come true in Cannes after all.

More of Sasha Stone's Cannes coverage is available at Awards Daily.

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