Filming location for spaghetti westerns in Almería, Spain

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© 1987-2016
Scott Larson

Building façade in Cannes, France

No Cannes do

It’s that time again. Time again for me to starting whining and whinging about not being on the French Riviera. That’s right. The Festival de Cannes started yesterday, and it continues until the 24th.

As faithful readers know all too well, this little exercise in whining and whinging is an annual rite of mine. And it is one worth continuing and nurturing. After all, a major source of new visitors to this web site continues to be people doing searches on how to pronounce Cannes. (Again, for the record, it is close enough to the English word “can.”)

Already life and the media are conspiring to turn my thoughts Cannes-ward. A former colleague recently returned from France and linked to a batch of lovely photos he took there, many from along the French and Italian Riviera, including some evocative ones of Cannes. The New York Times Sunday magazine had a spread on the Festival de Cannes, although it turned out to be more of a pretext for an extended fashion shoot than to illuminate anyone about cinema. Once the festival actually starts, I will have to see if I can find that satellite TV channel again that does all the nice photo montages of each day’s events.

I will have even less time for my usual vicarious (let alone a literal) visit to Cannes this year—since it overlaps with the Munchkin’s First Holy Communion. Let’s see. On one hand, I have one of the most spiritually significant days in my daughter’s entire life and, on the other, there are lots of new cool movies to see. Hard choice. Except that it’s hard to get into Cannes anyway. I mean, it’s hard to get into the official events, since you pretty much have to be in the industry or the established press to get in. But wouldn’t it be cool to be there, to take in all the buzz and all the events surrounding the main festival? Well, I won’t find out this year.

Except that maybe I could have. Out of the blue, I got an email from a manager I had ages ago in another life. She had received this email from her credit card company and forwarded it on to me, writing, “I saw this offer from Platinum amex and thought of you!":

Attend the American Pavilion and the Cannes International Film Festival

Experience the prestigious Cannes International Film Festival with American Express. Enjoy access to the American Pavilion, four coveted premiere screenings and attend cocktail receptions and private dinners. The American Pavilion is the hub of American activity at the festival, providing direct access to industry professionals as well as filmmakers. Walk the red carpet alongside the celebrities prior to premiere screenings and enjoy all that this festival and the French Riviera has to offer!

May 14 – 18
Cannes, France
$5,100 per person or 637,500 Membership Rewards points

Wow! All I would have to do is quickly get my American Express card upgraded to Platinum from whatever category it is now (I think it’s called We’ll Let You Have This Credit Card Because Even Though It Has American Express Printed On It It Really Isn’t a Real American Express Card But We Need The Extra Business) and then go charge up enough purchases to accumulate 637,500 points (which probably works out to two-thirds of the last TARP bill) or just fork out $5,100, and then I could go to the Festival de Cannes!

Now you do not know me at all if you don’t immediately know that I actually spent a few seconds thinking about it. After all, there must be a few things out there that I need and should buy on credit. Indeed, it is my patriotic duty, given all the trouble banks have been having. Things have gotten so bad that the poor banks are having to resort to sending their best customers to France to film festivals, just to keep their heads above water. Come to think of it, pre-booking and pre-paying a hotel in Cannes should take care of accumulating the necessary membership rewards points quite nicely. If, of course, a hotel room were actually to be had anywhere within hundreds of miles of Cannes during the middle of May. Anyway, back to reality.

I find the best way to cope with Cannes denial is to play the sour grapes card. You know, keep telling yourself things like, if I were there, I would be seeing movies like Disney’s Up, which I would probably be seeing soon after at my local multiplex anyway, or the latest (probably) overrated Quentin Tarantino flick Inglourious Basterds. (Hey, Quentin! Ever hear of spell check?) Or another self-indulgent project by Francis Ford Coppola, like Tetro. The problem with that approach is that there are too many movies that I actually think I might want to see, like Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock or Jane Campion’s Bright Star (about English poet John Keats, played by Ben Wishaw) or Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric or Park (Oldboy) Chan-wook’s vampire flick Thirst or Johnnie To’s Vengeance (with French star Johnny Hallyday tearing up Hong Kong). Even Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces (with the eminently watchable Penélope Cruz) and Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg and some goings-on in a cabin) sound intriguing. And, of course, the most obvious reason to want to go to Cannes is the world premiere of Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, featuring Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law and the final screen appearance of Heath Ledger. And there’s the midnight screening of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell. Quick! Where’s that application for an American Express upgrade!

While we are talking about things French, when the renowned composer Maurice Jarre died in March, some of his published obituaries (but not, ahem, my own little tribute) included this quote from him: “When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head.” Not the most inspiring or enlightening few words to come out of the mouth of a cinematic titan, but they turn out to be notable for another reason. Jarre never said them. The quote was made up and submitted and published on Wikipedia as a bit of mischief or an experiment by a university student in (and this does not surprise me at all) Ireland. When Jarre died, University College Dublin student (in sociology and economics) Shane Fitzgerald posted the quote to see how far it would spread. According to Reuters, he said he had expected blogs and perhaps small newspapers to use the quotes but did not believe major publications would rely on Wikipedia without further checking. “I was wrong,” he wrote last week in The Irish Times. “Quality newspapers in England, India, America and as far away as Australia had my words in their reports of Jarre’s death.” (But not this web site!)

As my old journalism professor used to say, if your mother says she loves you, check it out. And then check it again.

-S.L., 14 May 2009

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