Field Notes from a Speculating Teenager

Jetlag can feel like a hangover sometimes, but once I finally landed in Cannes of Southern France, 6 hours ahead, I must’ve consumed a whole bottle of Absinthe intravenously. Peering out of my tiny window in my tiny plane barely gliding over a deep and massive Mediterranean Sea, Cannes, France appeared in the distance like Honolulu with the excessive commercial development. Fleets of gloating yachts owned by corporate sponsors squatted in front of the beached pavilion tents like fat kings. Peering into this dubious oasis didn’t endorse my cynical impressions of Hollywood imperialism; it gave new light to the worldwide fandom of film and also how insane it is to be a reporter in this place.

The 60th Cannes Film Festival kicked off last week and has been generating publicity globally ever since. Several movies like Michael Moore’s Sicko and the Coen Brothers’ (Joel and Ethan) No Country for Old Men have been creating the biggest buzz to be the strongest indie contenders to be released. Since the Festival is crossing into a new decade, the guns had to be blazing with higher security, more expensive tickets, and big pyrotechnics in the evenings. Each country has its own tent for their associated journalists, including the U.S., to which the egoist title: The American Pavilion. Can’t you hear James Earl Jones roaring that for ambiance? Given it’s aging tenure, the Cannes Film Festival is now as big a cultural icon as the Oscars, and everyone covers it—even CNN, covering Jerry Seinfeld’s promotion event for Bee Movie with Jerry in his ridiculous bee outfit, swooping in like Howard Stern as Fart-Man. Every night is red-carpet night during this pop-culture brothel, which means the tourists and locals flock like sheep to stakeout good viewpoints from sidewalks during the day to hopefully later drool over celebrities driving by. Oddly enough, the celebrities seem to embrace the city and gawking fans because their European cars driving them to the Palais center for the big evening screening have transparent windows. There’s no window tinting in France, baby!


                                                               (Jerry Seinfeld, Bee Movie)


After dropping the luggage and absorbing the overwhelming ambiance of Cannes like a Television monitor, I recollected consciousness by sitting-in on a press conference for No Country for Old Men. Supporting Actors Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem with their writers and directors Ethan and Joel Coen represented the film at the conference. No Tommy Lee Jones unfortunately. To summarize first, No Country for Old Men is an adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel which includes an investigation on a finding of dead bodies along with heroin and money, and it is said that the movie itself plays a sensitive theme with the immigration reform going on today in politics. So along the beach with the endless mirage of tents and tourists, the conference took place in a very Andy Warhol-eque restaurant. I only say this because it was obvious the stylist was trying a little hard by hanging paper boulders along with glass spheres from the ceiling; so in turn, the restaurant is perfectly consistent in the vanity of the city.

I landed at a table where six other journalists in their mid-30s were already questioning Josh Brolin. Brolin, a relatively small-time actor on the rise was wearing shades (typical) with dark long hair, hunched over the table as he heralded the movie and played politics. However, the most interesting part of his interview was how he got the role for “Moss.” Apparently, when the film was still casting and Josh Brolin was finishing up his work with Quentin Tarantino in Death Proof, Tarantino helped Brolin rehearse his lines and taped a sound-set scene with Brolin just reading from the script. The Coen brothers received the tape and the deal was set. Even though Brolin spoke of himself in a very modest fashion, he’s clearly building up his confidence by inheriting principles on selecting movies—not doing it just for the money. “I’m tired of doing movies I don’t respect,” Brolin said. This is kind of uplifting since this is coming from a guy who has a history with Blockbuster junk like “Mimic” and “Hollow Man.” Brolin is a very endearing character because of how hard he works, how much he makes his work contribute to family, but also how humble he is. But then again, maybe I’m just buying too much into political language. The quote of the conversation was: “I will make more money on the stock market than I will with acting.”

The Coen Brothers followed Brolin, and it was curious how much I let my imagination depict these guys as Greek Gods because my admiration for some of their work, like The Big Lebowski and Fargo. They sat down looking skinny, and well, geeky, but also ying-yang. Ethan, the more prominent voice of the two, had short hair, and spoke with a very soft voice. In fact because both the brothers had little vocal presence and the chatter of the restaurant was rather dominating, I could hear practically nothing from across the table. Even though I got little out of the dialogue between the other journalists and the Coen brothers, I noticed another superficial anomaly; Joel, co-writer of The Big Lewbowski, had much more raggedy look and spoke very little behind his protective shades, and as he played around with his raw fish—he immediately reminded me of the character he created: The Dude.

Last but certainly not least was Javier Bardem who played “Chigurh” First thing that came to mind when I saw him was that he was someone else—Jeffrey Dean Morgan from Grey’s Anatomy, A.K.A “Denny”. I dumped my hypothesis when I heard Bardem’s Spanish accent. Bardem, for the most part, was probably the most casual and charismatic character at the entire conference. I enjoyed how he was the first to pull out a cigarette and bum a lighter from one of the reporters at my table. As for what he said, I was slightly unenthusiastic about since he used spiritual terms to describe his acting, like for example (not actual quote) “it came from within me.” Aside from the crack-pot hyperboles, Bardem gave full answers and seemed pretty interested in the interview. The quote of this conversation was a comment about the whole movie project from a racial standpoint: “I felt weird about being only foreigner in American movie with American staff in Texas.”

Being a reporter at the Cannes Film Festival isn’t a vacation, and in fact, most of the time you see reporters, they’re either logging away at their laptops in their tents or running to and from screenings and press conferences. Only at the end of the day, can the average Cannes reporter relax by scavenging on finger-food and downing free drinks at parties all around the city. It can seem like mayhem at times, grinding publicists for extra access and scheduling the events. Because of the class-dividing of reporter access based on the color of your press pass, hostility between lower access and higher access reporters brews at times. After eaves-dropping on the journalists at the conference table from the No Country for Old Men junket, a late-comer journalist from Variety squeezed in at our table to listen in on the Coen Brothers. Afterwards, when the Coen Brothers moved on, the Variety reporter decided to comment by saying: “I don’t usually come to these things.” The reporter left and the rest of the journalists gossiped about the condescending tone of the comment only after they noticed he had high-access color on his press pass. All in a day’s work as a teenage reporter peering into static industry of film.

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