Film Scouts Diaries

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

by Dr. R. Flickheimer, PhD.

May 18, 1996

I have now settled into a ritualized life-style as naturalist observing the life forms of the Festival, even as the Event itself is perceptibly winding to its close. The daily routine begins . . . well, it's difficult to say precisely when the day begins, but consciousness is usually achieved by noon, then the morning ablutions: one pot of coffee while bathing, four Camels, a brief jack into the Net, and tender palpation of my liver margins to determine collateral damage from the night before. Then to the American Pavilion, where the reveille continues through another cup, and a stare at the LA Times, the Hollywood Reporter. I am concerned that these are starting to feel like sources of information.

At around this point, someone I have met, under circumstances now mysterious to both of us, will drop in -lighting briefly or lingering depending on the intensity of their putative schedule, and their psychodynamic status.

Following the trenchant analysis of Q's case, which she has advertised to many of her colleagues, the demand for on-the-spot consultation has increased. Particularly in vogue are requests for the 3-minute test for "finger agnosia." There are predictions that by Cannes '97, Gerstmann's syndrome may merit a short subject, perhaps an Elizabeth Taylor benefit luncheon.

Speaking of Q, whose case has not received attention since Part VI of these chronicles, but about whom I have continued to take detailed notes, there has been a subtle progression of symptoms. She speaks now of firing staff, hiring others, in a pseudorandom stream, sometimes firing and hiring the same individual within a sentence. She is obsessed now with acquisitions of telecommunications concerns - cable networks, satellites - I became anxious when she dictated a memo to her secretary to obtain a trademark, following my suggestion that she might use the title "Thought Broadcasting Network", failing to detect that this was simply an inside joke among psychopathologists (no one ever claimed these jokes were funny). The causes of this exacerbation remain unclear. Testosterone fluctuations following the making, and breaking, of deals comprise one source of variation in symptoms; other sources of pathologic variation may comprise nutritional factors, dehydration, caffeine intoxication, sleep deprivation. Then again, eight days of Festival exposure alone could account for this. I will plan to follow-up in NY or LA, to determine whether these symptoms are reversible.

But I have strayed from describing the diurnal cycle to which I have maladapted here. Following the morning consultations, I consider briefly attending a film, then plan fresh ways to leave town, and return in time for some evening dinner, party, and the night beyond. I have learned that film-avoidance is not unique to me, and that others, even those with considerable experience and more impressive credentials, are daunted by the mystification of the process for obtaining tickets, locating screening rooms, and accessing these venues.

Obviously trained by the Festi-Cabal, guards enforce the arcane directives of their invisible superiors, changing locations, redirecting lines, establishing new rules on an hourly basis. Leaving town becomes a most attractive option, unfortunately less feasible for the poor journalists who feel responsible for actually seeing the films before writing their critiques.

Today the plan was to head West - I hummed to myself "Do you know the way to St. Tropez" - and wound the Peugeot through the beauties of the Old Cannes village, past the Tour de Mont Chevalier, beyond Mandelieu and the Golfe de la Napoule to the Corniche de l'Esterel. Hugging the coast, stopping for sights at Miramar, Pointe du Cap Roux, Cap du Dramont, poking into caves, then a Tartare du Chef at the sleepy port of St. Raphael.

For the first time, I realized that I had identified a control group. The inhabitants seemed utterly unaware of the Festival. They spoke of fish, wind, and weather. No cellular phones, no fluttering Filofaxes, jeans and gray sweatshirts replaced the black (more common) or nauseatingly patterned pink and chartreuse (too common) body stockings, and the heaving decolletage. Some subjects did not even wear sunglasses!

This Westward exploration stood in stark contrast to that Eastward, where the obvious mark of Cannes '96 was apparent at least as far as Monaco. I entertained two hypotheses for this directional difference in vulnerability: (1) prevailing Westerly winds carry an air-borne virus selectively Eastward, and up the Cote d'Azur; (2) the risk is maximal in those territories where the Rosicrucians have established firmest footing. I made notes to gather the relevant data on weather patterns, and a topographic map of religious penetration, to perform the relevant correlational analyses immediately on my return to NY.

Verifying that the Festivirus was still below trace levels as far as St. Maxime, and the sun hiding behind the Alpes Maritimes, I returned for the nocturnal activities. Tonight, the MTV party at Palm Beach on the Pointe de Croisette. Access was easier, perhaps too easy, although a crowd of several hundred gathered outside the gates and red carpet, peering past the dual security check-points leading to the interior halls. I had heard that Party Invitations may bring an easy 400 FF to scalpers, and considered this as an option to recover the costs of the Casino pilot study, before deciding that further investigation of the species inside was central to my mandated mission.

The subjects here appeared to comprise a representative sample, assorted to some extent by musical tastes, the live blues-rock fusion and casino setup attracted more of the cynics and journalists, the interior technostrobe drew more livid costumes and the younger NY mosh-pit crowd, while outside, the halogen beams, laser logos, and dance-rock funk offered safer haven for the LA breeds.

The mood of the participants was elevated by Tequila, flowing into luminescent shot-glasses with neck-cords to assure, I imagine, adequate dose titration, even after total loss of visual-motor control. Observation alone revealed few novel species, and more detailed interviews were difficult to conduct, given the ambient decibel levels. I did assist a pair of Swedish independent film makers obtain footage of the live music, by serving as a human tripod, lofting the camera-girl on my shoulders to obtain a better angle, but this pair was unremarkable, and distinguished from the comparable species that habituated LA only by the absence of dark roots in their blonde coiffures.

I sighted one remarkable specimen, somewhat aloof from the crowd, and isolated in an area where noise was minimal (let's say, about 8 dB less than the IRT platform at Times Square). A brief interview revealed that V is a 21 year old, living in Monaco, and incidentally a model for Marlboro, sponsor of the Grand Prix. After learning that V's boyfriend, a 46 year old 'businessman', with very possessive personality traits, a penchant for violence, and a fondness for firearms, was expected by helicopter at any minute, I decided this interview might be safely abbreviated, and with the sound of breaking glasses beginning to outstrip even the loudspeaker systems, I crunched may way out of these halls, and back to deliver these notes to you.

Your peripatetic correspondent,

Dr. Reichard Flickheimer

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