Updated: Jan 29, 2021
It was a bright afternoon in Paris, maybe too luminous for my spirits, when I left the small screening room after watching La Strada, by Fellini. To better cope with the impact the film had on me, I decided to walk back home. A long but delightful promenade. Spring was already pushing throughout the city, coloring corners of once lifeless streets. The sun was warm enough for me to enjoy it at the Jardin de Luxembourg. I let myself sink in an uncomfortable iron chair, amazed by how much joy both a great movie and the sun warmth can bring into someone’s existence.
Inspired by life and lightness, as I walked back home, I glanced at a poster announcing the 44th Festival International du Film, in Cannes, South of France. The artwork extended a red carpet, inviting me to heaven. Film heaven. Cannes, the Disneyland of films. The place to be if you really love movies.
Instead of going back home, I stopped at a travel agency called Nouvelle Frontière. It was crammed, so I took a number and sat down to stare at the advertisements on the wall. Greece, Spain, London – all so close to me! As soon as they called me, I got excited and agitated. I felt a rush that I had experienced many times in the past: the travel rush.
“I want a ticket to go to the Cannes Film Festival,” I said. “And a hotel room, please.”
The woman laughed at me. “For which year, chérie?”
“Well, for this year!”
“Are you aware that the film festival starts in four days?”
“Yes, I read it on a poster, and I hope four days are more than enough to get me there. Actually, I still have school, so I was thinking about going there on Friday after my classes end.”
She gave a big fat laugh that the whole store could hear.
“What is so funny?”
“Oh, dear, people book air tickets and hotels one year ahead to go to Cannes. There is no walking there days before and getting lucky with tickets.”
“You are saying you don’t have any availability – air or train – to and from Cannes in the upcoming days?”
“Unlikely?” she said, twisting her messy braid.
The woman was really annoying, but I was a big fat bubble of joy. I approached her desk, almost in an intimidating way. “I understand, but look, I have been through a lot in the past six months. If I had not insisted, I would most likely be in a prostitute house right now, maybe shooting heroin. Maybe I would have been deported to my home country, very depressed. Maybe I would have been admitted to a psychiatric ward, gone crazy. Maybe I would be dead - who knows? But I insisted and here I am, in Paris, living alone and figuring out my shit. Please, just get me a ticket to Cannes. It’s just me, one person, I am sure you can do it!” My speech was very much exaggerated - I had been through a lot in the past months since I had landed in France. But I had always been safe - ish. Fact being that I needed to get my ticket to Cannes, and my acting classes finally kicked in. I was playing the perfect character.
The woman, for the first time, looked at me with respect. I mean, I was respecting myself, how could she not? Plus, my French was impeccable, so she fully understood me. As a result of my perkiness, she started to consult her Minitel, a precursor to the internet in France, right away.
“I may have one airplane ticket for May 17th, not this Friday but the following one. One way only,” she finally said, smiling at me.
“It’s mine, book it.”
“It will cost you $3,358 francs…”
“Do you take checks? Debit card? You need cash?”
“Anything will do it.”
“How about the inbound ticket?”
“No airplanes available. It’s the end of the film festival, people are leaving…”
“Give me a second, looking it up!”
Enough to say that I walked out of Nouvelle Frontière with both tickets purchased. I still had to figure out a place to stay, but since I was extremely determined, I wasn’t worried. From that day until my departure date, all I did was research about Cannes and learn what I could actually do there. It would be tough to get a pass to enter the Palais des Festivals, where the main action takes place. To buy a pass was out of my league, very expensive. Also, tickets for the screenings were hard to purchase. But, listen, hard was a sweet word to me. I wanted it hard, I wanted it worth it. And I was 100% sure I would get what I wanted. After all, I was 17, living in Paris, and kicking ass!
*to be continued next post, keep tuned!