I was sure I wasn't going to make the 7:30 PM Palais screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. I had about an hour to walk all the way from the Sofitel on the point to the Variety office behind the Grand to get my ticket and rush to my apartment behind the Carlton, put on my black tie duds and makeup and hustle down the crowded Croisette on high heels to the Lumiere. But I really wanted to see this film and wasn't going to give up. Luckily I had an orchestra ticket, which gives you more breathing room and lets you walk up the red steps. I scooted behind Sharon Stone as she posed for photogs and found my place and tried to cool off as we all watched the big-screen monitor showing the last arrivals--they string the cast in one long line as they make their way up the steps.
It was a good night for bear-like Julian Schnabel, surrounded by gorgeous French actresses. The movie is achingly sad. Max Von Sydow as the father of Jean-Dominique Bauby, the French editor of Elle whose mind is trapped inside his paralyzed body, is heartbreaking. So is Mathieu Amalric as Bauby, who is astonishingly expressive. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. I want to read the book that Bauby painstakingly spelled out, one blink at a time.
Ronald Harwood, Schnabel and Janusz Kaminski's cinematic adaptation is elegantly imaginative and quite beautiful. Afterwards the applause went on for a good twenty minutes (not unusual). Schnabel looked embarrassed as he took his shades on and off. He tripped and saved himself as he brought Before Night Falls star Javier Bardem over to stand with the cast. (At a roundtable today Schnabel admitted he was so nervous, he popped half a xanax.)
I applaud the filmmakers for not taking the Hollywood route that was originally contemplated (with DreamWorks and Johnny Depp) and instead making the film in its native setting and language. Producer Jon Kilik felt strongly about this. The end result is quite accessible. Some distribs are put off by its "smallness." This is not a film whose language should be a barrier (except on DVD, where arty foreign language movies don't usually sell, with the occasional exception of such genre films as Pan's Labyrinth and House of Flying Daggers.)
The great thing about small dinner parties like Paramount Vantage and Miramax's evening by the beach for No Country for Old Men is that everyone is accessible. You're all in the same swim. When you go to a jumbo-sized cluster-fuck, basically, the trick is to get into the VIP room where many of the principal players are. On my way out of last night's Deathproof party at the Palm Beach Casino, the site of many massive events in the past, I noticed producer-partners Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy hovering by the entrance door, as Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell made their way through the red carpet press.
The two couples greeted each other enthusiastically and made a bee line for the VIP room. I followed in their wake, my date in tow, and talked to Kennedy about her two films here, Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and SPC's animated Persepolis. "You're becoming an indie filmmaker!" I said.
When we got to the VIP section on a white balcony overlooking the dark water, we talked our way in on her coattails. The two couples sat on a white sofa for the entire night, enjoying each other and sending the signal, don't approach us. Harvey Weinstein made his way over, and introduced Wong Kar Wai, wearing his trademark shades, but as of 2 AM, no Quentin Tarantino. "He's tired," one Weinstein Co. staffer said.
Robert Rodriguez and Rose McGowan were bearing down on the VIP velvet rope as we left. (Word is the fest, which adored Tarantino's 114-minute Death Proof, would have nothing to do with Planet Terror. It wasn't for them. His recut version with trailers will go to Venice instead.)
At the packed and noisy Screen International party, also by the beach, they screened a mind-numbing 12-minute music-video plea for peace, Nassiri, featuring a lip-synching guru with a fake blissed-out smile surrounded by a chorus of fresh-faced children. The horror.
Cannes always offers fleeting moments to remember: Today at the American Pavilion, Faye Dunaway sat alone on the deck facing the water, booking a flight on her cell phone on Iberia.
Yesterday at the Majestic Hotel, Peter Bart, Tim Gray and I waited for an elevator with the very tall Mischa Barton, wearing form-fitting rust-colored silk.
The other night as I walked back from the Palais along the Croisette, the open air cinema on the beach was screening The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. An impossibly young Catherine Deneuve was singing.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]