Cannes Diary V: Blog blog blog

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When my mother first visited Paris, as a teenager in 1927, she was heartsick that no hamburgers were available. Those inconsiderate French, she thought — they served their own food, not ours. Today, much to the chagrin of the protectors of French cuisine, there are McDonald's franchises everywhere, but my mother's spirit seems to have been channeled into some of the American journalists writing blogs at Cannes. They may think they're Henry James, writing with knowing eloquence of European mores, but they're in danger of sounding like Daisy Miller, James' most famous American innocent abroad, finding fault with everything that's not familiar.

The diaries that Mary Corliss and I have sent home have been been mostly about the movies — this is, after all, the Cannes Film Festival, not the International Whining Bee — but reading a few of the more "personal" American blogs convinces me that we may be taking the wrong tack. It's a challenge to get into their mindset, because we love Cannes — love what's different about a French festival, which has become familiar and endearing to us after 32 annual visits. But here is the impression I get, of the innocent, or ugly, American journalist abroad:

"At the breakfast table, browsed through Le Monde. Can't believe the newspapers here are still in French. Why don't they understand that American, I mean English, is the only thing to speak? There was a language war, people in case you didn't notice, and we won. Get with the program. Learn to say Bling and Ba-da-bing.

"Paranoid bureaucracy isn't unique to the Bush administration. It's everywhere here. On our way into screenings we have to pass through check points, which delays our finding seats by another tedious 30 seconds. The security guards are movie-star cute and astonishingly incompetent as they try to run their electronic batons over our purses. Why can't we frisk them? It's all they're good for.

"It's said that the French have the efficiency of the Italians and the manners of the Germans. Cannes really should take lessons in festival efficiency and courtesy from the only people who know how to do it: the ones in Toronto.

"For two days running, I couldn't get my WiFi hookup. The French are hopeless with anything computer-related. Europe is soooo analog. When you think about it, all the top technological innovations have come from either America or Asia. I mean, the French haven't invented anything useful since the late 19th century: movies. Unless you count Robert Bresson's invention, 50 years later, of reeeeeally slooooow movies.

"Another lunch at the four-star Eden Roc in Cap d'Antibes. We were restricted to the buffet; are we not worthy to order off the menu? Had to get there by van, when a helicopter would have saved so much time. We hate going to these dinner parties, but not to do so would break the journalists first rule at Cannes: never pay for your own meal.

"These meet-and-greets are a bore beyond boring. You stand there with a glass of Mouton Rothschild and your fois-gras canape asking movie stars questions that are supposed to sound like congratulations. Then the stars leave and you have to talk to your fellow journalists. Of course, all they want to talk about is how rotten it is to be at Cannes. Which is boring too. Don't you just hate complainers?"

But enough of the blah-blah-blog. We'll be back later with a real diary, covering the Star Wars screening and a heartfelt new Italian film from the director of The Best of Youth.