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Cannes Film Festival 2008: The Pre-Game Journal

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Cannes Film Festival 2008: The Pre-Game Journal

07.00: I wake up. As a college student used to starting class no earlier than eleven in the morning, this is quite hard. The only thing keeping me from going back to sleep is the knowledge that, unlike all my college friends, I’m not getting up early to go to a service-industry job, or to start an internship to prepare me for a career I’m probably going to hate. No, I’m up early because I need to get to the airport and board a flight for France. I’m going to the Cannes Film Festival. All my college friends can suck it.

According to the business cards in my wallet, I’m a marketing assistant for Luxor Films, an independent DVD production company based out of Athens, Georgia. In reality, I’m an undergraduate studying film and journalism at the University of Georgia, and I’m going to the festival as part of a study abroad program.

The business cards are to help make connections and schmooze my way into screenings without revealing that I’m not exactly an upper-class citizen in the Cannes cache system. The UGA students have all been given “Cinephile” badges for the festival, and from my understanding, the chain of power at Cannes goes something like this: Celebrities, buyers, industry personnel, Roger Ebert (absent this year, unfortunately), other critics, pigeons, and then us.

As it is, we can get into the Un Certain Regard and Director’s Fortnight screenings, as well as Competition screenings in the market. We can also get into big premieres if we have tickets, which we get by standing by the red carpet and begging for them. Since my goal is to see every Competition film, I’ll be doing a lot of this over the next ten days.

19.00: I’ve been on the flight to Nice for a couple of hours now. There is a mother and her infant daughter sitting in my row, and I am surprised that the child has yet to become an annoyance. Of course, just as I think this, she starts to cry, and I begin to wonder what laws are different now that we’re over international waters. I think I can order those single-serving alcohol bottles. Am I allowed to murder an infant? I guess I should ask the stewardess.

19.05: Turns out I’m not. Shit. I think I’ll get some of those little bottles, then.

We will be living in an apartment complex in Juan-les-Pins, a small town about fifteen minutes away from Cannes, and taking the train into town each morning of the festival. Fortunately, most of France seems to operate on the honor system, so there doesn’t appear to be anyone checking tickets on the train. While honorable, this trusting attitude could prove problematic when dealing with poor American college students. If I can get away with it, I have no intention of ever buying a train ticket.

The festival starts tomorrow and I will be doing my damndest to get into the premiere screening of Fernando Meirelles’s Blindness. Although not much of a fan of either of Meirelles’s previous films, I am still excited for the film, partially due to its source material and cast, and partially because I’m going to see it at its worldwide debut at the motherfucking Cannes Film Festival. Unlike many veteran critics, who seem to treat the festival as a chance to bemoan the state of international cinema (it seems like every recent year but 2007 has been the Worst Cannes Ever), this wide-eyed amateur is overwhelmed enough by the experience to be excited for every film at the festival, including Steven Soderbergh’s four-hour biopic about every annoying college kid’s favorite terrorist. Hell, I even want to see the Asian film about the alcoholic magician who has to learn how to be a father. This might change once I’m actually in front of the screen, but for now, I’m stoked.

22.00: I start to wonder whether this self-aware, meta-journal writing style is getting annoying. I realize that it probably is and pledge to never do it again—or at least not until the next time I’m in desperate need of a lazy literary gimmick.

In closing, I want to emphasize how excited I am to be reporting on the festival for the House and extend my thanks to Keith and Matt for allowing me this opportunity. I’ve spent two years reading and commenting on this blog, and I look forward to being on the receiving end of those comments. Now matter what happens, it should be fun reporting on and sharing this experience with you guys. I’m only gonna get to do this once; let’s make it count.

Matt Noller lives and studies film and journalism in Athens, Georgia. You can also read him at Uh, movies.