Film Scouts Diaries

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

by Dr. R. Flickheimer, PhD.

May 17, 1996

Partially refreshed by yesterday's escape, cheered by brilliant sunshine, and energized by a cool breeze, the day began auspiciously enough with luncheon aboard an elegant motor yacht owned by the family of an extremely pleasant young man, who may represent a new Festival species (a filmmaker who is *not* riddled with either narcissistic psychopathology or grandiose delusions). Resonating to the well oiled teak and polished mahogany, Myer's on the rocks, with lime to prevent scurvy, seemed an appropriate eye-opener. After a few hairs of that dog, I was prepared to be launched back on the mission, and glided gently out of the slip, tacking gracefully down the Croisette once more.
Making a note that rum appears to be more effective than single malt whisky in the control of paranoia, I was suddenly flooded with a memory about amnesia - not that which Mickey Mouse experienced in "Runaway Brain", which animated amusement opened this cinefest as I earlier detailed, but "Amnesia", the feature film, by Dream Entertainment, Inc. I had stashed their public relations flier into my bag during an earlier assault on the Corridors of Power (looking for the Pass to the Major Party du Jour, an event which by now was blissfully forgotten), and found myself deftly retracing some earlier steps to the Dream Entertainment suite in the Majestic...or was that the Carlton? Oh, well. . .

Having previously published some scientific papers on this topic, I thought it would be worthwhile to visit with colleagues who obviously shared similar interests in memory disorders. I was primed to appreciate the clinical sensitivity of the producers, since the press release includes the bold subtext "What you don't know CAN hurt you." Indeed, this seemed an appropriate public health message, akin to the Surgeon General's warning on cigarette packs, now advising the populace that amnesia is not a good thing, which I believe might come as startling news to many of the Festival attendees, given their drinking habits.

I was disappointed when I sat down for a collegial conference with one of the Producers, and the V.P. for Sales & Acquisition, to discover that they were not very familiar with the details of the clinical history, even their command of the scientific literature on memory disorders seemed limited. While it was clear that the protagonist suffering traumatic brain injury did so by hitting his head while falling from a boat, they could not provide critical details about the locus of impact, the duration of lost consciousness, and the relative degrees of impairment or preservation of different cognitive faculties. From the scant information at hand, this poor patient, who was completely disoriented to both time and place, suffered loss of all sense of his own identity, and could remember nothing of his own personal history. Nevertheless he had completely intact abilities to acquire new information, and no loss of language, spatial skills, or any other functions. Such a case is, literally, unprecedented in the annals of medicine, and while it is possible that this unique syndrome can be partially explained by the fact that the patient was engaged in a post-traumatic rehabilitation program that centered on sexually arousing stimuli, I nevertheless believe this may be worthy of a case report in Nature, or at least the Archives of Neurology. The V.P. offered to send me a copy of the completed work for more detailed analysis.

Having found my scientific sea legs here on the Cote d'Azur, I was gratified when MLR offered a trip to the countryside (at this point any excuse to leave the cacophony of Cannes was welcome) to visit Dr. H, world wide web expert sans pareil, at his research facility in Sofia-Antipolis. Comforting as it was to leave the crowds on the Croisette, it was still more reassuring to enter the research park: At every turn, modern laboratory buildings sprung forth from the landscape, nestled in the rolling hills like Easter eggs of scientific ferment, and labeled with arcane acronyms of 5 or 6 letters that promised high-level integration of particle physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering. We found Dr. H., and happily launched into a chat about presentation of visual stimuli over the internet, stabilization of moving images for consumption by the human retina, even magnocellular and parvocellular systems in the human brain! MLR noted that I seemed to be having a good time. "Yes, it's very refreshing to meet someone who's interested in talking about something other than . . .", I groped for the correct word. "Themselves," MLR instantly completed my sentence. We enjoyed a Provencal dinner in historic Biot, and further indulged in conversation about allocentric phenomena.

Following this interlude, a return to Cannes Centre offered little in the way of novel sightings, the same nocturnal species already documented were predominant once more. The same patterns of feeding and drinking, the same mating rituals, even the faces of the specimens appeared all vaguely familiar, merging now into a single concept, one unified ego.

I chatted with (excuse me, listened to) a Producer/Director/Writer/Actor/Distributor (it would appear that there are few specialists in this industry), whom I had met at an earlier party, and was regaled again with auto-testimonials to the importance, the magnitude, and especially the cost of his work. I admired his linen suit, a beautiful sea-green that draped well, while his eyes darted through the crowds, scanning for a more receptive, and valuable, target. He asked, again: "Why are you here?"

I explained, again: "To document the insanity. . . "

Quizzically, he furrowed his brow and said, "I don't know what you mean".

I hadn't thought so.

Your tireless,

Dr. Reichard Flickheimer

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