The first few days of an international film festival can be an awfully jarring affair; frantically working out what place has what, and which thing goes down where, as thousands of like-minded people attempt to do just the same. It’s the sort of hectic stressful atmosphere that makes you generally lose your grip on things and blurt out poorly written reviews (like this). And so it seems in this respect, as it apparently does in so many others, that Cannes operates in a far superior league.
Perhaps it's something to do with the great ironies of the place, or rather the great divides. Many of us sat watching Nicole Kidman don a host of extravagant outfits in one of the world's most glamorous locations while in the very same building, in the film market just two floors down, deals were frantically being hatched for some of the movie world's most decrepit fare.
The gulf is everywhere to see. Across the road from the Palais' hallowed red carpet entrance, a 30 foot poster for something called Legend of the Rabbit: The Martial of One hangs. The Thailin North Film group apparently "proudly present" it but you get the feeling Marcello disapproves...
Moving on promptly from that opening screening, I patiently loitered around the conference room, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Grace of Monaco star, when a lady approached me. She asked me who I wrote for, if I had a card and that sort of thing before earnestly requesting whether I would attend her screening the next day. For what film asks I? She explains that hers is a feature which will help to expose the greedy agendas which led to the disappearance of Malaysian airlines flight 370.
I was about to take down the address, more out of politeness than anything, when Ms. Kidman appeared from the conference room to my right. So there I stood, on my increasingly unsure footing; an underdog conspiracy theorist on one side and one of the world’s most famous woman on the other.
The brain was tangling up like a loose set of headphones but then a sense of clarity came swooping in. With all the rushing about and complementary Nespresso you could easily forget there was a festival going on, so we forgot all the nonsense- for a moment at least- and duly tucked in.
Last night Abderrahmane Sissako's Timbuktu provided a meaty, heartfelt meditation on the leanings of Jihad Islam, which switches between clumsy light comedy and the darkest aspects with ease.
The Un Certain Regard opener Party Girl then followed today. It focuses on Angélique Litzenburger, an aging exotic dancer, played wonderfully by the women herself, who takes a shot at settling down when a long time regular asks her to wed. A warm piece of film making from three first time directors which has some decent questions to ask about family and compromise.
Mike Leigh entered the festival on a very fine run but his portrait of J.M.W. Turner, for this writer at least, failed to connect. An expertly crafted period piece, which does manage to give you a sense of the man, but for some reason lacks all that warmth and humanity we've come to expect from Leigh. The applause was scattered but loud so expect some warmer reception after the premier tonight.
But no time to waste, the festival kicks up yet another gear tomorrow as Cannes favourite Nuri Bilge Ceylan arrives. His 196 minute piece of formalist Turkish film screens at 3pm; about an hour after How to Train Your Dragon 2 ends.
There's no escaping those great divides but hey, at least the sky had cleared, and sure wasn't it a stunner...
Stay tuned tomorrow for a first look How to Train Your Dragon 2 review.