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On May 16, after figuring out the complicated process of wangling an invitation to the red carpet evening screenings, I make my way to the theatre where the opening film Moonrise Kingdom by Wes Anderson is due to be screened. The queue snakes its way around several barricades, and ends up about hundred metres as the crow flies, and five hundred as the queuer shuffles, from where it begins.
I’ve resigned myself to missing the film when someone comes up to me and says, “Excuse me, but you have a better colour of badge than me, so you can go to the shorter queue.” I’m astonished at the kindness of a gentleman in whose place I’d likely be resentful; I’m even more surprised when I find that there’s virtually no queue in my colour.
One of the film professionals attending the Cannes Film Festival would tell me ruefully, the next day, that the best thing to be at Cannes is a journalist. You have access to special press screenings of the best films. Depending on the colour and type of badge you wear, you may have to start lining up for queues either minutes or hours before a scheduled screening.
Moonrise Kingdom, which I walk into blind, turns out to be the charmingly-told, quirky, stylised tale of two troubled pre-teens. The cast includes Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, aside from the child stars Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward.
Thankfully, the card fascism is in place for the press conference as well. The sight of all these big names sitting at the same table will become a regular one; I am scheduled to attend one that will have Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, Martin Short, Jessica Chastain, and Jada Pinkett-Smith at the same table too.
That’s followed by an interaction with the Jury for the 65th Cannes Film Festival, helmed by Nanni Moretti, the Italian director-actor whose latest offering Habemus Papam was touted to make it to the Oscars. The other members are actor Ewan McGregor, actresses Hiam Abbass, Emmanuelle Devos, and Diane Kruger, designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, and directors Alexander Payne, Andrea Arnold and Raoul Peck. They will pick award-winners in various categories from 22 films.
The most interesting part of the press conference is the number of languages spoken. There are two different English accents, German, French, and Italian. We scribes scurry around for earphones, on which simultaneous translations will be available. There’s some hilarity when Diane Kruger, who speaks three languages, is requested to answer one question in German. She translates what she says into French, which is then rendered by the French-English translator into English. A similar procedure is put in place for Nanni Moretti, who speaks Italian.
The multiple levels of translation will feature quite widely in the following days. I will hear Kazakh translated into Russian, and then French, and then English. Chinese and Arabic will follow the two-step process too.
Between screenings of films, those of us with barely-limited access decide to get a sneak peek at the opening ceremony. That’s not really necessary, because ‘Festival TV’, a live transmission setup, beams images all over the media centre anyway. But we go anyway, because we can.
Aishwarya Rai doesn’t make her appearance on that day, and so I find myself bereft of snarky remarks till Freida Pinto floats on to the red carpet in a toga-marries-scarabs outfit. The skirt, a flouncy pink creation that is at once puffed up and slit, ends in a silver waistband that Princess Leia may have desired, had she had to resort to an austerity drive. The strapless top is a shiny multicoloured graveyard-of-beetles-in-
butterfly-pattern that wouldn’t have looked amiss on Manisha Koirala or Karisma Kapoor in their item number heydays. Her clutch bag matches both her top and the red carpet. Or, it may simply reflect the red carpet.
It’s 1:00 am when I stumble out of the Palais, high on several films I’m among the first in the world to see. Looking down the steps, one could be forgiven for thinking it was 8:00 pm. Crowds throng the roads, and some people have decided to camp out with placards pleading for tickets to the morning’s screening. The streetlights are on, cafés are open, and even little supermarkets are working through the night to cash in on the festival fever. I feel completely safe going back to my hotel, a twenty minute walk from the Palais.
The next morning, I’ll walk into the Grand Theatre Lumiére for the screening of De Rouille et D’Os (Rust and Bone), a French production starring Marion Cotillard, and directed by Jacques Audiard.