Moving Over at the Movies
The 69th edition of the Cannes Film Festival is happening as I write, coming to a close this coming Sunday. I’ve never been fortunate enough to attend the festival, but then again, have no connection with the film industry other than via old Los Angeles friends who do or did.
It took years for me to learn to pronounce “Cannes” correctly with much help from French friends who equate the sound as somewhere between the American pronunciation of “can” and “Kahn” like the German Jewish name. Cannes is a glorified convention town, much like Hollywood is a glorified celebrity town, but in reality Hollywood is an area of Los Angeles with a lot of big ‘hangars’ or sound stages where the studios film on phony sets. American in Paris was filmed at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios in Culver City, California, for example.
Cannes of course, has even more glamour associated with it because it’s on the Riviera (not a bad start) and because of the influx of the rich and famous, the luxury hotels, restaurants and boutiques as well as being host to the G20 organization of industrialized nations. It thrives on the annual film and television festivals.
While I do love, love, love the Riviera, Cannes is not one of my favorite spots for a full-time residence, but am sure that attending the film festival would be the highlight of a lifetime. Woody Allen’s “Cafe Society” opened this year’s festival, his 49th film (amazing!) and the third to kick off Cannes. (“Hollywood Ending” began the festival in 2002 and “Midnight in Paris” launched the 2011 event.)
If you have followed any of the festival, then you might have already heard about the bad joke master of ceremonies Laurent Lafitte made during the opening targeted at Allen: “It’s very nice that you’ve been shooting so many movies in Europe, even if you are not being convicted for rape in the U.S.,” he said. Wish I had been there to hear the gasps from the audience, having taken place just minutes after Allen received a standing ovation. I love Woody Allen films and will happily see any, good or bad. With all the scuttlebutt about Allen and his latest film, I had to see it and did so last night with friends.
Was it one my favorites? No, but that’s okay. There are so many others to love. Ask anyone what’s their favorite Woody Allen film and you’ll get a different answer every time. Everyone seems to have their own special one or two and the answer is always very different. Two that I rank high on my list were absolutely disliked by two of the friends who saw Café Society with me last night. That in itself is fascinating — his films can be so different and yet so similar, like any artist whose style cannot be denied regardless of the different strokes or colors on the various canvases.
The French LOVE Woody Allen, way more than his American compatriots. Blogger of InBedWithTheFrench.com described ten reasons why, citing 1. his intelligence, 2. his cultural and intellectual films that make one think, 3. his ability to laugh at himself, 4. his understanding of many cultures, 5. his inspiration of European literature and cinema, 6. his love of women and awkward relationships with them, 7. his ability to be sad and funny at the same time, 8. his love of jazz, 9. his ability to market his films like postcards and 10. he’s as complicated as the French are!
Americans have gotten hung-up on all of his personal scandals, while the French don’t think or care much about that being much less judgmental. One of his famous quotes is “The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to those things.” I am sure the French can relate!
Movie-going is a popular French past-time and the art of film making is steeped with French history, as long ago as the late 1800s with the Lumière brothers and later with the Pathé company. Going to a film in France is also a very different experience from movie-going the U.S.
The theaters can be very small. Le Brady here in Paris has only 39 seats.
I’ve never seen a cupholder in a French theater and the sale of refreshments, such as popcorn and drinks, isn’t very important — either the French don’t have the habit or the theaters haven’t figured out they could make a lot more money from the sales.
Before the film starts there is 15 to 20 minutes of ads and previews, with the lights on or at half-mast. There is a pause between the previews and the film, normally with the lights at full blast, and then it goes black before the film starts. This plays real havoc with one’s eyes and I’ve never understood the reasoning.
The French are normally very polite in a theater and dare not speak during the film or speak too loudly. However, their idea of personal space is very different from ours and that can lead to some very strange behavior. Monday night I went to see “Mr. Holmes” at the very same theater as Cafe Society — The Majestic Bastille. My friend and I were two of the three people in the theater, having arrived first and taken center seats. When the third person came in, with dozens of seats available to her, where do you think she chose to sit?
But of course, directly in front of us! We just laughed, rolled our eyes and moved over.
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group
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