The good thing about being on a film festival jury -- in my case, the FIPRESCI (Fédération Internationale de Presse Cinématographique) jury -- is the small perks. A pass lets you jump queues at a single bound. A card gets you into Club Unifrance on top of the Palais, where the free coffee is better than the free coffee in the press room.
On the other hand, being a juror removes about 85 per cent of your decision-making responsibilities. There's a bunch of movies you have to view, many of which you'd never have chosen to see. Though at first I couldn't decide whether this was a good or a bad thing, I now appreciate the benefits.
"Well," I can say, "that was a horrifically bad movie, but at least I didn't choose to see it. It was required." Like that course in 19th-century romantic poetry that fulfilled my English degree requirements.
Still, when the wheels come off the schedule, it's pretty ugly. The Director's Fortnight screenings have been suffering from unaccounted-for delays, which eventually leads to a "cascade failure" -- once one picture starts half an hour late, everything else gets later and later.
Truly vile I run out of a truly vile Quebec art movie in the Fortnight to make an 8 pm Critics' Week screening of a "hip French rap movie" set in Marseille. And let me tell you, "hip French rap movie" is not a phrase I really want to think about.
But it's been bumped to 8:30, and there are about 500 screaming French teenage girls lined up to see it. If I stand around for an hour to watch the film, I'll end up blowing a 9:30 dinner date, and if there's one thing I've learned in my years at the Cannes festival, it's that friends and the spaghetti ligurien at La Piazza are more deserving of one's time than many of the films.
Speaking of worthy nights out, I must report that they've closed the Blue Bar on the Croisette to open a Ferragamo shop. For some reason, this bothers me more than the slow death of the old Ambassades eight-plex on the Rue d'Antibes, which for the past three years had been shuttered through the year except for the annual market screenings.
I'd become accustomed to the vaguely mildewy smell and the occasional pitter-patter of little feet that were probably mice. It's now a big FNAC shop, FNAC being the French equivalent of HMV. It's not that I'd rather see a good CD shop in Cannes than a shoe store. No one with a North American option will buy CDs in Europe, not at these prices.
Usefulness outlived The truth is, the Ambassades finally outlived its usefulness when they threw up the Riviera building behind the Palais, which has a couple of screening rooms inside.
For an event that occupies two weeks of the annual schedule, the Cannes Film Festival swings a lot of weight in this town. Imagine the Toronto International Film Festival trying to get city council to approve and pay for additions to the Toronto Convention Centre. OK, now imagine it after Mel Lastman stops laughing.