Saturday, May 19, 2007

My time at the Cannes Film Festival

Cannes Film Festival

There are some things that anyone can do if they know how to do them. One is the Cannes film festival (the other is Ascot, and the Queen’s Garden party, but that is another story). I went, once, and had a glorious time.

This particular trip to France my friend Barbara and I rented a house to share with a couple and a few of their friends. The house, we were told, was a large one, a short distance to Cannes and Nice, in the countryside outside Bridget Bardot’s home town. It had a swimming pool and tickets to the Cannes film festival for one night. We would be able to shop in the markets and cook. It cost a modest sum compared to the Hotel d’ Cap, where I had stayed several years before. The dollar was king, with the franc at an all time low.

The reality was we were given basement rooms, next to a diesel heater that had a terrible odor. May and June in France are rarely sun-bathing times, the weather cooler than the US – certainly cooler than Charleston. We had two sun-bathing days, one at the pool next to the house, which was rimmed with 5 feet high rosemary bushes just outside its gate. The other we drove to Bridget’s home town and froze to death.

Finally the day arrived when the household was to go to the festival. We put on our very best duds – brought over for the occasion – and drove down the winding hills to Cannes.

Our host, the tickets’ holder, directed us to park behind them on the street some distance from the water. We walked fifteen minutes in a drizzle to the restaurant, which was on the main drag a block from the theater, and abuzz with celebrities (like ourselves, perhaps) we didn’t recognize. We ate sumptuously, wonderful seafood.

The maitre d’ was a flirt, as is frequently common in France, and pinched my derriere lightly as I was returning to our table from the ladies room. I was startled. “Ah, Madam,” he said, “some back when you have some flesh on you and we will have a wonderful time.” (I weighed about 125 at the time.)

When it was time to leave, he repeated his invitation. Our host hustled us together. “We need to find a taxi,” he said.

“A taxi?” We were incredulous. We had walked fifteen minutes in a light rain, after all. He looked at us, equally incredulous.

“Do you want to arrive on foot?”

We realized walking was déclassé and ducked our heads in shame. A taxi it was. We caught a taxi and drove a block. The theater’s steps were draped in red carpet. There were stanchions with ropes between them on either side of the aisle. There were crowds standing behind the ropes, and a hundred photographers standing at the foot and sides of the stairs.

Our host, a balding real estate broker from St. Louis, emerged first. The crowd viewed the penguin-like man and cheered loudly. His wife, an equally substantial woman, emerged next. The crowd cheered ever louder. Her zircons dazzled in the glow of the lights. My friend Barbara, slim and lovely, slid out of the taxi and the crowd cheered even more. She had no trouble holding up her bare-backed dress, even though it was freezing and by rights she should have had her shawl on at least. Finally, as dusk became night, I emerged. The lights and my hair were just enough to make me look vaguely like Barbara Streisand. The crowd went berserk.

We dashed to the curb of the theater, and up the stairs, lights and cameras flashing from the dozens and dozens of photographers. We gave waves to the crowd as we went up, and paused at the top so they could get a good shot of each of us.

Once inside, our host said, “Our tickets are downstairs.”

Looking at our quizzical faces, he said, “No one goes to the theater in Cannes without going up the outside stairs.” Right.

And so we went downstairs. It was an Argentine movie about a tragic father-daughter situation with French sub-titles. We didn’t understand a thing except that they kept the local pound and had dozens of curs surrounding the daughter every time she left the house.”

A few minutes before the end, our host said, “We have to leave now.”

It didn’t much matter, because we weren’t truly engaged by the film, but we did want to know why we had to climb the inside stairs again when there was an exit to the street.

Once again, he sighed and explained to us as if we were not-too-bright children, “Because,” he said, “they will want to take our picture when we leave.”

Sure enough, as we walked down the red carpeted stairs to the cheers of the crowds, our eyes were dazzled by flash bulbs of the paparazzi intent on seeing us. US. We beamed and smiled the way down, and then caught a passing taxi.

You, too, can go to the Cannes film festival. Just buy tickets to an Argentine film with French subtitles from a shady looking man selling tickets on the street a few days before the airing of the movie. Our host did.

1 comment:

Charleston Belle said...

Nathalie, thank you for sharing this hilarious story and also your wonderful description of the recent wedding of your husband's great niece in NYC. Reading your candid and witty observations is a delight and reminds me of why I so loved your cooking program on SCETV. You not only taught us how to cook and entertain, you also taught us how to embrace life with intelligence, curiosity and zest. Thank you! So glad you've moved to Charleston!