Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
On the Neuropsychodynamics of Festival Life Forms, Part VII

by Dr. R. Flickheimer, PhD.

May 14, 1996

The Riviera gleamed today (well, I can vouch at least for the part that transpired after 13:00) with that sparkle worthy of file footage, which apparently means that TV stations covering this Event can finally transmit fresh video clips, rather than those from prior years. Perhaps it was getting a full seven hours of sleep, or perhaps it was the influence of yesterday's business revival, incorporated osmotically like a mind parasite (speaking of which, why isn't Colin Wilson here for a film deal?), but at some junctures today, I felt I had a real job to do.

I donned some Armani pants, a white linen shirt, and, for the first time, packed my Official 49eme Festival International du Film black nylon zippered attache (for which a local shop vendor had already offered some significant sum of francs) with the Programme de la Selection Officielle, the handy-dandy laminated imitation-metallic credit-card-size collapsible guide (courtesy of Renault), the red denim pocket-size Agenda Officiel (courtesy of Kodak), and a camera - before descending to the Croisette.

I had made it no farther than the Palais when I realized that my blood caffeine levels were inadequate to sustain a business attitude, no matter how well equipped, so I marched into the American Pavilion, grabbed a cup of coffee (at only 10 FF, or $2 US, this may be the best bargain in Cannes), found a table where I could spread the LA Times (amazingly enough, these are offered for free), and lit a Camel. I stared at the headlines - just like a typical morning at home. Well, to be honest, the LA version of the 'Times' is a bit disorienting: do real newspapers carry funnies and the astrologic predictions?. But despite minor distractions, I locked into the routine - coffee and cigarettes - the breakfast of champions! After a half hour of this therapeutic treatment, I could sense that a few neural networks were starting to resonate again, alleviating a gnawing fear that I had already lost all cognitive functions after only four days, or was that nights?.

Vague though my mission was, I aimed East along the Croisette, my mind now churning with options and important tasks to be accomplished. Obtaining appropriate invitations was the first order of business, and a primary objective was to obtain The Official Pass to what was rumored to be the *Major Party du Jour*, which to protect the innocent, I will call the MPdJ. Shuffling the now bulging deck of business cards collected over prior evenings, I alphabetized by studio, production, and distribution company, then indexed by hotel, and sequentially assaulted the corridors of power, which tend to be on the mezzanine and lower floors of the Majestic, Carlton, and Martinez.

It did not take long before I realized that obtaining these passes makes finding The Covenant of the Lost Ark look like a childhood fortune hunt. My nearest and dearest friends from previous nights, suddenly turned stony, silent, evasive - when I whispered the 'MPdJ' word. I became suspicious, increasingly confident that the Passes were held only by members of a select Cabala. I was on the verge of finding the nearest Rosicrucian Temple, when I literally bumped into S.P.V. (a "buyer", whatever that means?), outside the Martinez, and told him of my anxieties. He pulled on a cord that dangled from his open attache, and low and behold, attached was a Sacred Pass, which he thrust into my hands, indicating that he had "other plans." Too overwhelmed to ask what those plans might be, I promised him my first born child, two glasses of Armagnac, and a copy of "Foucalt's [CK SPELLING!] Pendulum" in exchange for his generosity.

Granted this dispensation, and mildly euphoric, I felt little could go wrong. I even began to have charitable thoughts about the film industry. Strolling back past the Carlton, my attention was drawn to a pair of new MG-F convertibles, and wandering closer to take a look, I was quickly sandwiched between two women (let's call them MG-A and MG-B, even though those models are no longer manufactured), with physical attributes not dissimilar to those observed yesterday in re the Tropicana Girls, and with outfits apparently designed to match these demo models' interior upholstery (although the dresses were too short to include much in the way of lumbar support).

On an impulse, I suggested a test-drive. "No problem!" Seconds later I was throttling the F up the Boulevard Carnot, testing the handling over the unique Cannes Pedestrian Slalom, and then to the Autoroute to see whether MG had finally developed a car with acceleration. Yes! MG-A (or was that B?) developed white knuckles, but she maintained the cheerful sales-grin, and pointed out the dual air-bags as we made the winding descent back to the Croisette. Passing the Palais, I had an impulse to test the suspension on the marble steps leading up to the screening rooms for the Competition, but I controlled myself just in time, realizing that such Hunter Thompsonesque antics might be better left for a day on which I would like to be deported.

Still optimistic, and in a business mood, I found a table on the Carlton Terrace and reviewed the festival selections for neuropsychodynamic content, while bolstering my resolve with more caffeine. Previously preoccupied solely with the human element, I was now ready to take on the films themselves. A quick tally of the competition revealed that 52% of the films had obvious neuropsychological premises. Severe psychopathology, including multiple personality disorders, delusional and hallucinatory states, and homicidal ideation were most frequently represented, although significant attention was also paid to substance abuse/addiction, amnestic syndromes, and dementia. The most astonishing example is the first listing in the Competition, a short subject, forebodingly titled "Runaway Brain", and featuring Mickey Mouse, who apparently suffers from an acute amnestic syndrome, sustaining a memory disorder so severe that he forgets his anniversary with Minnie. I was inspired, and felt that I could now make a genuine contribution to the difficult work of the festival, by evaluating the authenticity of scientific presentations, providing advice, and recommendations for editing, perhaps sequels. Or Mickey himself may require a thorough neurodiagnostic examination to document residual deficits, and for continuing treatment recommendations.

There was little time for immediate attention to these pressing professional issues, however, because there were two parties and dinner to be processed before the MPdJ affair. The earlier parties - to which I gained admission through the generosity of my friend J and her colleagues, were uniquely warm, friendly, and comfortable, with genial, intelligent conversations covering a broad range of topics including philosophy, science, and sex. Artful canapes, quality champagne, and most important - free booze - rounded out the perfect start to the evening. Dinner was a delight; the Gaston Gastounette offered succulent Soupe de Poisson, perfect to float crisp croutons layered with garlicky roux, and Magret de Canard arranged over a delicate cream sauce . . . I began to consider changing citizenship.

But then the long awaited, much lauded MPdJ Event was ready to begin. Even with our Precious Passes, the line to enter was reminiscent of one aiming for a hot New York club on opening night, and after the intimidating credential review, the scene on the "inside" more resembled a junior high school disco party (remember how anxious we were then?), except the boys and girls did not stand on opposite sides of the room. Desperation would seem to be the byword, as the lowly attempted to capture a few seconds' attention of the Powers-That-Be. Clusters of plotting schemers lurked, planning their assault strategies, scanning the crowd with paranoid side-glances. Not recognizing anyone, famous or otherwise (although I assure you the lack of star-sightings has more to do with my ignorance than their absence - I'm sure you can read a most impressive roster in tomorrow's Hollywood Reporter), I recoiled to the Croisette, back to Farfalla for a last glass of Glen Morangie to clear the attitude overexposure from my brain, wishing I had indeed asked S.P.V. what his other plans comprised, and home to jot these notes.

Your ever-diligent,

Dr. Reichard Flickheimer

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