Cannes is a crazy place for a first-timer. There's the dicey wi-fi to contend with. The 7 AM queues of pushy cinephiles waiting outside the Grand Theatre. The possibility of not getting into a screening because you don't have the clout. The nagging urge to nod off during a film at the behest of jet-lag. And, of course, there's the secondhand smoke, which seems to take the place of oxygen. But I'm loving all of it.
Just a few days ago, I graduated from Berkeley and jumped on a red-eye mere hours later. Three days in, and I already feel like I belong in Cannes, that I've always been here, that perhaps Cannes, too, has always wanted me to be here. Thanks to the San Francisco Film Society — in my hometown of the Bay Area — the French Consulate in SF, the French American Cultural Society and Semaine de la Critique, I was sent to the festival as a jury member and critic. And thanks to all of them, I've had no time to let the existential malaise of the post-undergrad sink in.
Since my arrival, I've managed to catch five films. I've seen three of the entries in Semaine de la Critique, for which I am a juror, and two from the main competition. My night on the 16th kicked off with Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom." I went in expecting to hate it, because I've never been much of an Anderson nut, and I suppose I did for the first hour. I slogged through it: the mannered milieu of Anderson's kitschy fantasia, the stilted dialogue and characters flatter than paper. But then, Anderson knocked it out of the park. I was astonished by the final sequence, certainly the director's biggest set piece yet, when a wild storm — as playfully augured by Bob Balaban's narration — brings all the characters together and doles out their fates. It might have been my contact lenses, dry from hours of sleeping on the plane, but I left the theater teary-eyed. I'm ready to say that, in spite of my initial reservations, this is his best film since "The Royal Tenenbaums."
The next day I crawled out of my jet-lag stupor for the 8:30 AM screening of Jacques Autiard's "Rust and Bone." Again, not a film I loved at first. It smacks of a bad compilation of Darren Aronofsky (the visceral, almost body-horrific obsession with the human form) and Alejandro González Iñárritu (the contrived, incident-packed melodrama and navel-gazing broad strokes about "human connection") at their worst. But I haven't stopped thinking about the film since. Marion Cotillard is a wonder, and never have I loved Katy Perry's pop song "Firework" so much.