Lust Life: Cannes Not, Mon Amour


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“Cannes is not a place for couples,” she overheard someone say on a cell phone as she was wading through the endless stream of festival-goers to meet me. A vague fear eclipsed my invitation. Will she feel left out? Will I feel disconnected? I ignored the negative possibilities, leaving the decision to she who had never been outside of the States. After all, an invitation is an invitation; one has the right to refuse.


I told her I was going for business, that I would be attending film events most days, that I couldn’t devote all my energy to her, but we would have some time together. I had two accreditations, but it didn’t make sense for her to take the other one: She wasn’t involved with my film; she doesn’t work in the industry; she’s not even a film aficionado. So, why did I invite her?

It will be a vacation for you, I said. An opportunity to go to France, experience another culture. While I’m doing film stuff, you can go to the beach, explore the city, rent a bike, go to museums…don’t worry about the language; most people speak English. There are plenty of things to do. You won’t get bored. We’ll get together for meals and go out at night. Maybe we can get you into some screenings. You’re independent, but you’ve never traveled abroad before, so I don’t know…I just want to be clear that I’m going to promote my film. I’m not going to be 100 percent available.

Maybe it’s better if your first time in a foreign country is in a different context, but I’m offering you the invitation, so if you think you can handle it and you’ll enjoy yourself, I think it could be great.

I gave my lover 24 hours to mull it over. “So, did you think about it?” I asked the next time we spoke. “I’ll go,” she said.

“Are you sure?” Pregnant pause. Yes.
***
And the Palme d’Or goes to Stephanie Sellars, for the reality-driven, emotionally charged tour-de-force, “Cannes Not, Mon Amour,” a brilliant montage of personal dramas that unfold while attending the greatest film festival in the world.

The opening scene shows us the jostling crowd of festival badges, swaying in slow motion as the faceless foule moves along the Croisette. The sun glistening off the plastic sheaths translates into hundreds of flashes on shimmering blue, the silk dress that she bought for the red carpet without any certainty that her silver-strapped feet would be gracing the star-trodden path. She’s trying on the dress in a Greenwich Village boutique then she turns around and she’s smiling into the lenses as a sonorous French male voice booms over the speakers, “Et voila la vedette Americaine, Katharine Keller. Where’s my badge?”

What’s this? The voice has changed with the language into an irritated female tone, which brings us to a small French studio apartment, where we meet American filmmaker Katharine, her assistant Sarah and girlfriend Joanne, who is clearly just along for the ride, as she repeats, “Where’s my badge?” like a child who didn’t get her piece of candy, even though she didn’t want it in the first place.

From this point the narrative takes us on a journey of these three women and how the film festival tears them apart and brings them together through the daily madness of screenings, workshops, networking and parties. There are some funny moments, like when they end up at a celebrity-magnet hotel where, upon noticing a famous producer across the room, Katharine breathlessly commands Joanne to “surreptitiously take a photo of that large man with the beard and half-bald head,” while Sarah gushes over a star, leading Joanne to believe that Jake Gyllenhaal is Harvey Weinstein. These hilarious, almost over-the-top moments kept me from closing my eyes during the fight scenes between Katharine and Joanne. Sellars rises above the typical catfight in order to show how women can become vicious beasts to each other when intimacy turns sour.

“Cannes Not, Mon Amour” asks the question of itself and the audience: Is it ever a good idea for a filmmaker to bring a lover to a film festival, most of all, Cannes? As Katharine and Joanne are strangers at the end, the answer appears to be no. Sellars doesn’t stop there, however. I keep recalling the scene when Katharine crawls into bed at three in the morning after a premiere with Sarah (Joanne is excluded for the simple reason that she’s badgeless), and the mismatched couple reveal themselves in the darkness. Katharine says, “We’re just too different.” Despite the sad unraveling of their relationship, the beautiful truth is that they needed to be together in Cannes to discover, if ever so painfully, that they were hardly together from the start.%u2008


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