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13/05/2012

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DAY TWO: THE FESTIVAL OPENS

When there is a single cab left outside a desolate airport
after midnight, one’s bargaining position is invariably a
little compromised. So we paid €100 for our taxi ride to
Cannes – a heart-stopping total that was apparently due to a
lethal combination of our luggage and the “night tariff”. It
seems the Cote d’ Azur mission to extricate our cash, by
whatever means necessary, had officially begun.
Although the fifteen minute ride to our rented apartment did
little to ease wallet cramp (given the reality of €7 per 60
seconds) we were looking forward to hitting the sack promptly,
and hopefully catching six hours of sleep – so we could be at
the Palais early. Unfortunately, these plans were thwarted
somewhat by the sweet, but English-deficient teenage girl who
had been entrusted with our keys and kept us waiting until her
and a boyfriend arrived en route from a party. C’est la vie.
The reason we were intent on an early start was that we hoped
to beat the rampaging hordes who would be arriving to collect
the spoils of their pre-Cannes campaigns: plastic access cards
on branded lanyards. You see, to acquire these, one is
required to wait in a line outside the Palais du Festival,
where all accreditations are processed. But in an industry
populated by people who are either short on patience or refuse
to take no for an answer, we were privileged to witness a
truly global diversity of line-jumping techniques.
On the timid extreme, was the “sidle”, where the offending
party gradually approaches the line at an acute angle while
moving with the flow. The secret to mastering the incursion,
however, lies in the curious craning movement of the neck as
one melts into the throng – either alluding to the existence
of a colleague some way ahead, or an item of interest that
will hopefully distract those already in the queue, so their
defenses can be breached with the minimum of fuss.
On the brazen side was a method seemingly favoured by those of
Latin descent: the “NBF”, or New Best Friend. Here, rather
than alluding to the existence of a friend already in the
line, one simply makes a friend – one who’s most obvious
virtue is quite clearly their proximity to the entrance. Yet
judging from the responses of stunned acceptance that met each
unabashed assault of friendship, the sheer nerve required to
pull this off disarmed any opposition. A contributing factor,
of course, may have been the entirely rationale fear of ending
up across the negotiating table from a guy whose collar you
yanked outside the Palais. But there is also that indefinable
Canned Conviviality…a certain jai ne sais quandary…where
no one really wants to make a scene. Unless you’re on the red
carpet, or trying to drum up publicity for your film, or
attracting the attention of someone you’d like to do business
with, or mooching a free ticket off a tuxedo-clad invitee…
In the latter case, as we headed over to the 23h00 screening
of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, it was difficult not to be
overwhelmed by the hundreds of people that we encountered on
our journey who were standing rooted to the spot with iPadsized
whiteboards and forlorn expressions. Although the
pleading eyes and furtive gestures are nothing new to someone
from South Africa, what made each vignette particularly
striking was the shared need that had either been desperately
scrawled or lovingly sketched in the space between their
tightly-clenched knuckles: ONE INVITATION MOONRISE KINGDOM. To
think that in South Africa these usually read FOOD…
Reality check.