Archive for May, 2015

May 31st 2015

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

A fellow passenger…

Taking the bus from the airport back to town, he climbed into the cramped van-turned mini-bus.

The seats next to him were soon filled with a young German couple.

An intense-looking woman joined the group, and settled in the space next to his.

“Sir, how long does it take to get to Central London?” she asked the driver, in what he thought was an East Coast accent.

“About one hour and a quarter,” the driver replied, adding his Spanish accent to the mix.

Finding her intensity infectious, he thought of defusing the hidden finger tapping that he sensed she was occupied with; he attempted small talk.

“Where are you flying in from?”

“Cannes!”

The phantom finger continued to tap the seat in front with even more ferocity.

“Were you there for the festival?”

“The market; we just don’t get the time to experience the festival.”

Well, the second part of the response wasn’t as angry, he thought.

And so, the conversation continued in its one-sided direction – him asking, and she responding, though the replies got longer and longer, on the slow progress to Baker Street.

As they alighted, she wore what he thought her first smile of the day.

“Thank you; you made the way bearable.”

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

May 24th 2015

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Cannes 2015 Part II

Having arrived early for his meeting, he loitered at the bottom of a marble staircase on the ground floor of one of the elegant hotels dotting the Croisette.

A tall and effortlessly chic French woman sat on a blue velvet upholstered beige wood chair and balanced a notebook at the edge of her short skirt.

“Ok, 4:30 at the suite. But, please, don’t wear any makeup or cream or oil, on your face or hair,” she said firmly on her phone.

Then, ticking off items with an expensive pen, she added, “ Just the dress and the black high heels.”

After the disconcertingly short chat upstairs, he descended the stairs and headed to the lobby. Rather than the usual sprinkling of middle-aged men with expensive watches, he stumbled into what looked like a fashion show. Women resplendent with elaborate and clearly exorbitantly priced dinner dresses were queuing at the entrance to a ballroom.

“Hello, we are ready for you,” the French fashion adviser of earlier said to a Japanese young woman dressed in an exquisitely layered pink number.

“You have lipstick on your teeth,” she whispered as she walked her to the red carpet where   cameras and lights seemed to be forever blinking.

In the queue for Songs My Brothers Taught me (Dir. Chloe Zhao, USA 2015), at the Directors’ Fortnight, he stood next to a father and daughter. They talked about cinema, politics and Cannes.

During the screening, there was an intimate scene involving passionate kissing and, oddly, a Tampon.

In the dark, the father and daughter quietly made their way to the exit.

The two separate parties that he asked for the rating they gave the film agreed on a nine out of ten.

Looking for the apartment where his next appointment was meant to be with a production company, he came upon a pitch in progress, in the landing of the floor below his destination.

“And when she comes upon this sight, she capitulates to the tears that she’d been holding back for so long. She cries for a lost youth – her’s and her child’s,” the young woman was clearly relating a narrative close to her heart.

Her listener was a young man himself, perhaps an intern sent out from the apartment behind them to shoo away yet another indie filmmaker attempting to sell the company something, when the outfit has come all they way to the South of France looking for buyers – so seems to be state of mind of the overwhelming majority of firms at the Marché.

As he walked past the pitcher and pitchee, he hoped for them to hit it off on a personal level at least, for they both seemed so young and full of good energy.

En route to the afternoon screening of the official competition film Dheepan (Dir. Jacques Audiard, France 2015), he noticed a gentleman in a Panama hat and a dark blazer gingerly approaching a group of festival-badge-carriers seated outside an ice cream parlour.

“Excuse me, sorry to bother you; are you interested in buying scripts?” he asked them, with his right hand hovering by the inside pocket of his jacket.

“No!” was the predictable answer from the seated ones.

“Thank you,” he responded, and walked away with as much dignity as one could muster in such a situation.

“It’s my first Cannes, and I am just trying my luck,” he explained to him.

“I have tried to talk to producers in cafes – the rich ones smoking cigars,” he added.

“Here; you’re welcome to my story outline,” and he took out a neatly folded A4 from his jacket pocket.

Though thoroughly absorbing, Audiard’s latest outing didn’t better his previous work, most notably A Prophet (2009) and The Beat That My Heart Skipped (2005).

Walking to the bus stop, he overheard a chap with a Middle Eastern accent like his own ask a fellow festival goer for advice: “How expensive is it to stay in Cannes? At the moment, I am renting in a nearby town.”

“I have no idea; my paper is paying. But during the festival, Cannes is one of the most expensive places on earth!” he said in immaculate English with a slight Spanish accent.

On the plane back, a tall and bearded thirty-something producer bemoaned the lack of interest in low budget features at market.

“A financier told me, ‘it’s easier to get a £2m budget together than one for £300k,’” he said incredulously.

As the pilot instructed the crew over the PA to prepare for landing, he watched on his mind’s screen the many eye-opening and insightful events that he’d experienced at this year’s festival.

He awarded this edition nine out of ten.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

May 17th 2015

Monday, May 18th, 2015

Cannes Film Festival

Sprinting with a laptop under his arm, while his hand was steadying the jacket pocket as it swung with the weight of the charger and mouse, he couldn’t help smiling at what a passer-by might think, “a thief… Or a writer running home after completing a manuscript!”
A thief seemed more plausible.
Having made it to the last train, he calmed his breathless state with the thought of his plane taking off in less than six hours.
In his apartment, he hauled the shirts with the film postcards and the incomplete list of contacts into the small carry-on suitcase; no time for picking and choosing clothes or business cards.
The aircraft cut through the early morning chill, climbing to nestle above the clouds and nearer to the sun’s warmth.
At Nice airport, he missed the early coach for the little town with the charming studio.
Waiting, his attention was drawn away from trying to disable all the internet connections on his mobile, for the World Wide Web comes at a hefty price abroad, when a spectacled gentleman rolled by with his trolly and an assistant in tow. It was Toni Servillo, star of Oscar-winning LA Grande Bellezza /The Great Beauty (Dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) and many Italian productions.
His ride arrived ten minutes late. The thirty-something driver promptly stamped his ticket and pressed the button shutting the door closed.
He had the whole 30 seater to himself.
“Music is ok for you?” She asked him, testing his level of French.
“Oui, ok.”
Her driving felt more mellow, despite dividing her time between reading and tapping massages on her phone, answering a couple of calls and waving to other drivers ferrying passengers to the airport.
He felt good for her apparent contentment.
Not ten minutes into his arrival at Cannes, he was fully badged and furnished with the festival bag, loaded with the glossy catalogue and the all-important screening schedule.
He braved the overflowing pavements on La Croisette, with filmmakers, fans and tourists at times spilling out onto the main road, to the chagrin of motorists and the police alike.
His first meeting was at a swanky cafe off the main road, where the smell of cigars mingled with other aromas of wealth.
Later, he climbed the stairs to the second floor apartment of a major indie studio. The laid-back crowd was enjoying the free bar and the rather nice buffet.
“Hello, what do you do?” He’d learned over the years that at Cannes one needs to be direct.
“I am an actress.”
Her film was in the process of being acquired by the studio. They both watched the trailer on her phone, before she had to make her way to the next reception.
At one of the five-star hotels lining the corniche, he wandered into the bar, seeking a soft drink and a place to rest.
In the lobby, a familiar face; a major Middle Eastern director.
They chatted briefly, before the maestro needed to head to a dinner party.
Ahead of a screening, he grabbed a free cup of coffee at the Nespresso bar. Standing next to him was a French lady who turned out to be the translator and subtitles editor of a film taking part in the Directors’ Fortnight.
She lamented the disinterest of a number of directors in her work, leaving the process to the distributor.
“But the subtitles are how foreign audiences learn the story; no?” She asked.
He headed home, with bated breath for more encounters and screenings over the next week.
Peace and love,
Ja‘far

May 10th 2015

Monday, May 11th, 2015

“I’ve told my wife!”

“Mate, mate, can I ask you something?” said the middle-aged man in a dark suit and a white shirt that had lost the starch and ironing smoothness since that morning.

“Yes, sure!” was the response from his sober interlocutor, with a hint of caution.

“I mean, I’ve thought about this before, and I even told Sally, you know, my wife,” he took a swig from what seemed not to be his first, second, or even fifth pint of beer.

“I mean, you’re an interesting guy…”

His soft-drinks only friend was beginning to get worried here. He diverted his gaze away from the slightly shorter man, attempting to have eye contact with anyone else to rescue him from this rapidly descending into the awkward conversation.

“Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with it, not really…”

The taller chap nervously took a sip from the now flat fizzy drink.

“But why is someone like you still on dating sites?” he said, with what he meant to be sincerity and concern, but came across as prying and an emphasis on a failure of sorts.

“Well, I find it hard to meet …” his response was drowned by the alcohol-fuelled candid chatter around him.

His inebriated companion wasn’t convinced.

“You can do better, mate!” was his final word on the matter, as a group joined them, to the relief of his subject for analysis.

Peace and love,

Ja‘far

May 3rd 2015

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Hope and usher…

He stood between the two rows of small-sofa-like seats in the carriage, holding a book in one hand and steadying himself by the overhead bar with the other.
At the next stop, the elderly gentleman managed to struggle to his feet and shuffle slowly away from the seat nearest to the book reader. So engrossed was he in the autobiography of a Hollywood producer that he didn’t notice the now vacant place.
He only looked down when he sensed her discreetly applied perfume. Looking down from the red carpet and the Oscars ceremony in the top paragraph, he found her face partially obscured by her dark blonde hair locks. She looked Nordic, but then again she may have been from South America.
He tried to get back to the photographers and their total disregard for the writer, for she was walking a few paces behind a man of the moment, and none of his stardust was clinging to her modest evening dress.
Leafing over to the next page, a postcard-sizes white piece of paper slipped from the back of the book and gently glided to land in her lap.
A moment of hesitation followed, before she looked up.
“I am sorry; it’s my book marker.”
“It’s OK,” she said, smiling.
Placing the paper back into the book, he couldn’t return to the conversation between an usher and Bob Hope, in whose lap the star had sat.
“It would’ve been great if the card had a note for you!” He intimated to her in a low voice, avoiding the now perked ears of the other three passengers seated next to and opposite her.
“But I am not that clever,” he added quickly.
“Well, you can try that next time!” She said, with a smile that made him wish to be Mr Hope and she the usher.
Peace and love,
Ja‘far