Friends: As I sat on a couch in the lower level of the Palais, diligently annotating the 200-page schedule of the films playing here, a young man sat down beside me and said, "You look like you've been here before, can I ask you a few questions?" He was Lebanese and was shopping a screenplay.
It was his first time at the festival, and he was worried at how well organized the festival would be. There was still lots of construction and setting up of booths going on. To an uninformed eye, it might not seem possible that everything would be ready to go by tomorrow. I assured him that this was as well run a festival as there is in the world and that everything was under control. He acknowledged that no one seemed harried or concerned.
Still, he had made a sizable investment in time, money and effort to be here and he wanted to make sure he could make as many contacts as possible. He already had three appointments lined up with production companies, but he was hoping to be able to shop his conspiracy script about the Congo involving the "New York Times" to many more. He wasn't concerned in the least about seeing movies, and had no idea what was even on the schedule.
Many of the 35,000 people attending the festival are similar to him, so it makes it easy for those of us who want to see movies to see them. Most of the Competition films play two or three times in the 2,300 seat Palais and have a next day screening in a 400-seat theatre. They also show a couple times for the press and once again on the final day of the festival. Not even 10,000 of us will have the opportunity to see the high profile films, yet I am invariably successful in seeing them all. Taratino's film will be a challenge. I may well wait until the last day for that one. Same with Gaspar Noe's film.
But I have plenty else to be excited about. There is a glut of bicycle films, the most ever in my six years here--a phenomenal four of them. They are all in the market in screening rooms of less than 100 seats, though I am confident I will see them all. The best of the lot could be a Bulgarian film about a guy who goes off on a tandem in search of his real self, "The World Is a Big Place and Salvation Lurks Around the Corner." Another with equally great promise is an Albanian/Italian co-production by an Albanian director, Gjergi Xhuvani, who had a highly acclaimed film here in Un Certain Regard a couple years ago, "Slogans," that also played at Sundance. His film "East West East--The Final Sprint" is about an amateur cycling team from Albania that goes to France for a race, but on the way a revolution breaks out back home. I hope that doesn't mean that they don't get to race. I'll have to wait to find out until Saturday at the first of its two screenings.
Also on Saturday is "On Your Bike" from Belgium. Unfortunately, there is no description of the film in the program. The fourth cycling film is "Phantom Pain" from Germany. I'm not sure how much cycling there will be as it is the story of a passionate cyclist who loses his leg.
I noticed one film with a cyclist in the photo accompanying the description of the film--"Victoria Day." Its a Canadian film that takes place on the Victoria Day weekend in 1988 when Wayne Gretzy is playing in the Stanley Cup finals and Bob Dylan is in town for a concert. A 16-year old attending the concert witnesses a drug deal and it changes his life. Not sure if I'll be able to fit that film into my schedule. There is a usual bounty of enticing films, some wacky ("Hitler Goes Kaput" and "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell") and others topical, (a documentary from Belgium on the history of plastic and a US documentary on eco cars racing coast-to-coast across the US). .
I still have 30 pages and about 300 more films of the program to peruse. The films start at 9:30 tomorrow morning. Still not sure which it will be. Stephen Soderbergh has something in the market tomorrow called "The Girl Friend Experience." It is one of many films featuring prostitutes. There is the usual glut of films on serial killers and Nazis and heists and hitmen. A new category this year is films on obesity, including "Fatso," a huge box office hit in Norway.