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.