Cannes 2010: Day 1

By Robert Koehler

(Click on the thumbnails for larger pictures.)

When traveling to Cannes for the festival, I enjoy taking the train straight from Paris De Gaulle (where The Volcano wasn’t interrupting flights, unlike several other Euro hubs) direct to Cannes. Via the French SNCF bullet train aka TGV, which gets you from point to point in a little over five hours. It lets me catch some zzzzz’s (nine time zones can mess you up), and read my favorite French magazine, Les Inrockuptibles. Even better, with Jean-Luc Godard on the cover. (Here’s the magazine, lying on my seat’s desk tray.)

Inside is a frank and expansive interview with J-L G, who argues vociferously against the notion of artists’ rights and property, against the Swiss government (he being a citizen, after all) for failing to protect Roman Polanski from extradition to Los Angeles and for the notion that a film can embrace both Husserl and Patti Smith. Such as his own, Film Socialisme, which remains certainly the most anticipated film here at Cannes.

The film is a triptych, which starts on a ship touring the Mediterranean–shades of A Talking Picture, by 101-year-old Manoel de Oliveira, whose The Strange Case of Angelica is the festival’s first unqualified triumph, and certainly one of the master’s greatest films over his past, extraordinarily active decade. My Variety review pretty much says it all, but if you can’t past the paywall, let’s just say that it is cinema storytelling at the level of pure grace, quietly capturing cinema’s always-unresolved debate between the realist and the fantastic, the matter of whether what we see is altered by the photographic image, or whether our eyes determine the text of the image.

Oliveira has transformed that debate into a chamber tragedy, both ridiculous and charming. (The scene with a bird in a cage, an obedient cat and an off-screen dog is already on it’s way to become the stuff of legend.) Meanwhile, as the Les Inrock photo shows, Godard is still plenty healthy enough to chomp on his cigars….Good luck getting into HIS press conference….

Godard, facing down the Les Inrock interviewers with cigar fully at command….

View out of the TGV window, at very high speed indeed (note the optical effect of speed bending the objects in the image). This is what we Californians have to look forward to….

Passengers ready to board the TGV (note the bullet design of a train in the background) in Provence…

Godard, on his feet, photographed for Les Inrock walking around the town of Rolle, Switzerland, where he has lived and worked for years.

Variety has a big pavilion and party hq on the garden terrace of the Grand Hotel. On the first day, no one’s around; by the night of Day 2, the place is jammed. Rumors of Variety‘s death are greatly exaggerated….

The mob descends on Cannes, here on the Croisette just in front the red stairs of the Palais, where Robin Hood blew into town as the opening night film. Later that night, the rains came, and my Cineaste magazine colleague Richard Porton and I were stuck in another mob blocked by gendarmes as the movie’s contingent passed in front of us, including Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett. Director Ridley Scott was absent due to knee surgery….

Cannes’ poster gal, Juliette Binoche, in the festival’s official image on the marquee of the Palais. Binoche stars in Kiarostami’s competition film, his first feature to be entirely shot in Europe. For all intents and purposes, Kiarostami has become a European filmmaker….

Waiting in line for the first film, Mathieu Almaric’s Tournee, made under the sway of both Cassavetes’ The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Renoir’s French Can-Can, about a haphazard tour of French port o’ call towns by an American ensemble of “New Burlesque” performers, I have my first sight of an iPad in action…

Hallway of the top floor of the Grand Hotel at midnight. I ended up here unexpectedly for my first night. Slept well….

View of everyone’s favorite block party spot in Cannes, the nightly crowd at and outside of Le Petit Majestic, as seen from the balcony of my 11th floor room at the Grand Hotel….

End of Day 1. Not a whole lotta press get to ever view the interior of a Grand Hotel room, so here it is. More or less like any other 5-star room, except you’re thinking about watching Oliveira the next morning….

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