Note: Film critic Tim Grierson is attending the Cannes Film Festival for the first time. For Backstage, he’ll be filing occasional diary entries about his thoughts and impressions of the granddaddy of all film festivals.
Wednesday, May 22, 12:16am
Most press screenings for the Official Competition films take place at 8:30 a.m. That probably sounds insane to a lot of folks. Audiences are cool with going to midnight movies, and some will catch the early matinees at, say, 10 a.m. But 8:30 can seem ungodly early. Most people are barely functioning at that time of day. Seeing a movie then doesn’t seem ideal.
During my time here in Cannes, I have to say I’ve really come to enjoy the early-hours routine. Then again, I confess to being a morning person. There’s something about the start of the day: It holds such optimism for where the next several hours could lead. And when you wake up at that time of the morning here at the festival, you can walk past all the empty chairs left over from the night before by photographers from all over the world who were busy taking shots of stars as they walked the Cannes red carpet. In the morning, the stars are asleep and so is all the hoopla surrounding them. At that time of day, it’s just people wanting to see (hopefully) good movies.
I’m a man who enjoys his routines, and I’ve already developed them here at Cannes. I wake up each day at seven. Quick check of email, quick look at my fantasy baseball team, quick glimpse at how my St. Louis Cardinals did. Then it’s a shower, a last-minute check of my movie itinerary for the day, and then out the door I go. Some might find that tedious. I find it fun. It’s not my regular life, but for two weeks I’m just this film-processing machine, watching movies and then writing about them.
In the morning, the walk from my studio apartment to the main theaters is a quick one. Most of the restaurants are closed—or, if they’re opening, just starting to get ready for business, employees taking chairs off of the tops of tables. There’s not so much traffic. A little bazaar nearby my place is slowly buzzing with activity. Sometimes vendors are selling fruits and vegetables. Other days, it’s furniture and hardware. Most people are not up and about. The festival feels like it’s mine in a way that it doesn’t later in the day when it’s just awash in humanity. I get to the theater, climb the steps, show security my press badge and sit in the same row in the balcony as I have every other day of the festival. I never see the same people in my section. I guess others like to mix things up a little.
I have some friends who enjoy exercising first thing in the morning. It helps get their day going on the right foot. I wonder if that’s what these early Cannes screenings have been like for me. It’s a great way to orient oneself for a full day of movie-watching. And besides, I’m in France. I can sleep when I get home.
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