This article, originally printed in NIGHT Magazine, was written shortly after 9/11. Being a downtown New Yorker, I experienced the horror up front and center. What excited me most about attending that year's Cannes Film Festival was the opportunity to see many folks whom I cared for, all in one glorious spot. So it only seemed fitting. And...
...it is through friendship that this article came to be. It is a story told to Robert Henry Rubin about my South of France adventures. He had come to visit me upon my return to hear all about it and to catch up in general. The next morning I received an email that he would like me to tell the tale to readers of NIGHT Magazine for which he, along with Anton Perich, is the editor. I'd have a few days and 1500 words to do it in! "Just tell it like last night". Robert and Anton have diligently put out this magazine since 1978.
Hardcopies can be purchased at Rizzoli Bookstore,Tower Records/Books uptown & downtown and at over 100 newstands in NYC.
Here is the web version, in color, of the article with additional photos. All photos were taken by Stephanie Parker. Of course the picture she is in I shot.
I had been to the Cannes Film Festival three times before. It never disappointed me in the fun and adventure it offered. But I stopped going because it seemed to turn into a "been there, done that" type of thing. If one is going to take a chunk of time, its best to find new places to explore. Yet when the opportunity once again presented itself this May, I found myself hopping on the plane so quickly you would have gotten whiplash watching me.
Well, not exactly quickly. My traveling buddy was photographer and dear friend Stephanie Parker. Some girls have all the luck. With Stephanie close by I'd have a visual diary of our Côte D'Azur journey for my website www.lisagaye.com. We gave ourselves plenty of time to get to the airport for an international flight. Stephanie wanted to repack and so she did, letting it all hang out on the floor at check-in (which, by the way, she later repeated at the Nice airport on our return trip home). We went through the different levels of security, got to the gate to board the plane and Stephanie's ticket was missing. The metal and explosive detection screener had separated her from her ticket and it disappeared never to be seen by anyone again. The airline was removing our bags from the plane and taking off without us! But as things have a tendency of doing, it all worked out for the best. There was another, more direct plane leaving in an hour and a half. It stopped in Amsterdam where Stephanie and I would go into the center for "coffee" and shopping before continuing onto The Cannes Film Festival.
I was excited to see my friends. Many were attending the festival. After their lovely emails and phone calls in the weeks following 9/11, I needed to feel them. Having stuck by my city in the months that followed that horrible September day, waking up in breathtaking South of France was a powerfully seductive thought. The economic recession, the terrorist factor, and a strong buzz going around not to patrons anti-American, anti-Semitic France would surely put a different spin on the Festival. The turning of a century shifts things around. Deep in my gut I knew it would be different, knew I would go beyond the red carpet, knew I would get off the Croisette.
Celebrity fests are fantastic. I spent less money to live in France those three weeks than if I were home in New York City. There are lunches, dinners, events and parties each and every night and day of The Cannes Film Festival. The champagne never stops and the food is sooooo scrumptious. There was the usual wannabes, the use-to-bes, the could-bes, the almost-bes, the
should-bes, the shouldn't-bes, the will-bes and the ares - and everything in between! There are the regular attractions, like the leopard lady and her daughter who never miss a festival, and the people who cherish them.
Even when working, I was playing. With Troma there, I did my share of publicity too, acting the cult movie queen. But attending a party on a yacht, beach, etc. and hamming it up for E-Entertainment, German MTV, etc. is hardly a day at the office. Sometimes there are so many microphones shoved in your face and so many cameras recording, it is hard to keep track of whom you are speaking with and where is it going. No matter, it was merely a moment in life amongst many.
Mind you, I am not that big a film person. My life is too diversified to be big about any one thing. But as I was reading the daily free trades; Hollywood Reporter, Variety, etc., I noticed that all the amusing articles were about Robert DeNiro's first annual Tribeca Film Festival back home in my beloved NYC. Still, to wake up everyday with that beautiful Mediterranean sky and that gorgeous ocean laced in blue, green and turquoise was a blessing beyond belief.
I'm not going to get into the celebrity of it all for it has been packaged, repackaged, and repeated over and over again by the mainstream press. Yet I'm compelled to mention Michael Moore and his latest project "Bowling For Columbine". It is a rare occurrence a documentary is in competition! His film, centered on the high school massacre while exploring the pathology of American Violence, won Prix du 55ème anniversaire du Festival International du Film (2002). I've been a regular reader of www.michaelmoore.com and meeting him was a thrill. To see important work get an award at the most famous venue was encouraging.
Security was up at the festival. After living so close to the World Trade Center it now is a natural way of being. The Cannes police force is a great group. They often attend parties in the Villas and Chateaus surrounding the festival. It is a brilliant way to keep things comfortable for all. The officers are so sexy in their fancy French uniforms. I struck up a conversation with one at a party that Stuart Alson of NY International Independent Film And Video Festival was throwing. It was his opinion that the French do not hate Americans. That any young French person would love to go to the USA. They merely hate American films that are just guns and car crashes. Whereas the French produce films of substance. He has a point and his darling nature further showed itself when he spoke of his children. No television in their home. Time is filled playing games, reading, creating things together as a family. You never hear about Frenchmen like him. Wherever you go there are all kinds. France is no different.
Confession time. I did go to see one movie and fell asleep immediately. It is really embarrassing but reasonable. So much is happening that sleeping is not. Sit down in a dark comfortable place and the body takes it as an opportunity to do what comes naturally. Being outside in that exquisite environment is what I craved. Not sitting in a theatre, which can be done at anytime anywhere anyway. Only the desire to see the George Sluizer movie "Stoneraft" gave me the courage to get past the fear of nodding out and enter a theatre. George had a screening at the Tribeca Grand in NYC a few months earlier. It is a picture that echoes and each time it is watched another wave ripples. I adore George's films. I adore George.
The day Jean however, whose family has lived in Cannes for many generations, entered the picture things started changing. Sweet, jolly Jean with his flamboyant self and his zest for life swooped Stephanie and me up into his world. Full of personality, his life story was more interesting than most of the movies being shown. Many years ago Jean had been walking down the street when acid spilled on him from above. While recuperating, his wife and children stayed in a family room at the hospital. Unbeknownst to Jean, his youngest son of thirteen, who had been a genius up to that point, walked in on a scene where his mother was having intimate relations with the Jean's doctor. They threatened the boy if he spoke of what he saw they would give him an injection. He stopped speaking, regressed, and has been helpless ever since. It wasn't until seven years after the fact that Jean's son told him what had happened. Perhaps they did give him an injection. This young man still spoke many languages as he learned them before the "shock". Acid spilling is odd but when Jean told of how his car breaks were once cut it seemed someone might prefer him dead. It is hard to imagine because Jean with his big heart and kind soul is such a joy to be around.
He sweetened Stephanie and my story with day trips along the Riviera. We went to Monaco the weekend of the Grand Prix, ventured into the casino, and had dinner at charming Ms. Kelly's "Le Texan". We explored breathtaking Eze and had champagne soaking up the view during sunset. We met up with close friend and Nice artist Elishiva Coplin and dined in Villefranche Sur Mer. We took a boat to Ile Saint-Horat and savored the quiet nature at the monk sanctuary. We even got around Cannes more, attending local artist Arthur Beatty’s exhibition of jazz paintings. Held in a garden with the smooth sounds of saxophone player Benny Ross and his quartet. Even managed to dine in the home of other locals where the real Cannes culture showed itself.