CHAPTER 4: THE PHILOSOPHY OF ANNA KARINA AND BUTT PLUGS
I'm sitting outside at a small Café that my editor told me to meet him at. I'm a 10 minute walk from the Marche Du Film convention hall and I'm still waiting for my editor to arrive so he take guide me to the film market and be my tour guide for a while.
It's a beautiful day and I'm in a beautiful town, surrounded by beautiful people and although it's only a quarter past two, I'm well onto my way to having a beautiful buzz.
Maybe I could actually enjoy any of this if I hadn't been stuck listening to some stranger drone on and on about all of their ambitions for the last two hours.
Unfortunately, I'm thinking I might be stuck with her for the rest of the day.
She's really quite attractive, and she's certainly dressed to show off her goods at the moment.
She's wearing a blue polka dot vintage dress where the neckline has been lowered paired with a vintage blood orange skirt that's been hemmed higher. She has a magnificent bosom, and magnificent thighs, and magnificent legs. She's wearing black fishnets on a garter belt and cherry red fuck me pumps. Her hair is yellow, not blond, but florescent yellow, like a cartoon character. She's like some painfully hip contemporary mash up between a Roy Lichentenstein illustration and some cheesecake pinup.
She looks like any other trendy woman you might find at any faux divey rock bar in any city in America. But she does wear it fantastically well. Her figure was made for this look and even though there's nothing that unique to her style, she still stands out.
I know that my editor is going to ditch my ass to put all of his attention on her as soon as he can. And she knows it too. She's used to it.
Her birth name is Drahoslava, Czechoslovakian for precious glory. But she goes by a snazzy moniker that looks better on a hash tag. She tells me to call her Daisy Deadgirl. Don't ask me where it comes from, I wouldn't know, and I couldn't care.
She's the ex girlfriend of a mid tier horror director who's well known within the film community, but still pretty damn far being a household name. The guy made a few films that had won over the whole Alamo cult and got a fair share of weightless internet press before fading to obscurity. If I named his films, you'd probably recognize them, but seeing how the director still works at his father's security company in Montana, I'm not sure if it's fair to officially title him as a successful director yet.
Daisy isn't just his ex though. She's made her way through a whole long line of fledgling borderline famous horror filmmakers and supposedly influential film critics.
You know the type. You see her at every film festival, always at the front of the line, waiting for her photo op, always part of the action, yet, still an unknown. She's been in the scene as photogenic arm candy for the last five years.
And she's rearing that awful age of 35, and her days of being the hot young thing attracting all of the hot new filmmakers is nearing its end.
So naturally, she's looking to break into acting and directing. And since my editor was the executive producer of her ex's films, she reached out to him as a contact for the Film Market here and help her meet the right people.
Daisy's cell phone is propped up on a make shift tripod on our table facing her. She's been recording our entire one sided conversation. She's been taping herself talking about herself.
You see, she couldn't afford to just come to Cannes and try to network for two weeks on her own.
She actually had a Kickstarter to fund her trip. For everyone who donated $100 towards her trip to Cannes, they'll get to see a short documentary about her journey with breaking into the business.
Daisy was able to raise eight thousand dollars through that Kickstarter campaign. Eight thousand dollars doesn't buy as much cocaine as it used to. I give her three days until she takes to her twitter feed begging for hand outs.
And I'm sure she'll get it too. She's not just an aspiring actress/director. She's already an established model. And by model, I mean porn star.
Daisy has been emulating the Sasha Gray model for breaking into the business. I don't even have to ask her, but she gives me a whole pseudo post feminist diatribe on the pornography industry, telling me how women like her and Sasha, and Stoya, and Ariel Rebel, and Skin Diamond, and Joanna Angel are taking the business back and making it their own although I never hear her mention Lydia Lunch or Annie Springle, true purveyors of meta transgression.
She tells me all about her repressed Catholic school upbringing, and her search for identity, and the sexual awakening that followed. She quotes her favorite filmmakers like Goddard, Bergman, Kieslowski, and so forth. I can tell that she's been rehearsing all of this.
Most of the time she talks, she's looking at her cell phone, talking to an invisible audience instead of me who's sitting at the table next to her.
I periodically look around, making sure the coast is clear before I sneak more whiskey out of my flask and into my iced coffee. I can't get plastered soon enough.
But I continue to nod my head and pretend that I'm interested in everything she has to say. I keep waiting for her tell me that she studied photographed at art school and dabbles in DJing. Every time she takes a pause to catch her breath, I imagine she must be hoping for an applause from me.
Finally, my editor arrives at the table.
He sits down without even looking at me but he's already gushing over Daisy.
"How are you? How was the flight? It's been forever. What's new? What are you working on now? How was it in so and so and yadda yadda yadda?"
And I'm stuck having to listen to the whole same goddamn story all over again.
Before Daisy answers my editor's questions, she re-positions her cell phone for a different angle, this time so she can get my editor in the frame. He's somewhat famous, I'm not.
CHAPTER 5: AT THE END OF THE RAT RACE IS JUST A LONELY LITTLE PEEP SHOW
People are always harping on me about self fulfilling prophecies. They tell me that having a negative outlook on things will only result in a negative outcome of things.
I've never understood this rationale.
I've always thought that it was a person's actions that mattered, not their fucking thoughts.
I only thought that my editor would ditch me in the market in order to be around Daisy. I didn't say anything out loud, nor did I do anything to propagate that.
But sure enough, within 15 minutes of entering the massive, overwhelming convention center, my editor shook my hand and offered me good luck before purposefully heading off in another direction with Daisy.
I have no doubt that she'll land some type of paid gig before the week's end, where as I will return an unpaid blogger making up silly stories.
The halls of the convention center are a modern labyrinth of booths and tables promoting thousands upon thousands of new films that will never been seen.
Whatever idealistic notions I might have held onto in regards to cinema as an art rather than strictly a business are immediately murdered and left for dead like an unwanted child in the dumpster behind an inner city Burger King. Don't ask me why I wrote that, I used to work for a West Philly Burger King.
There is very little to differentiate a film market from a boat show, or gun show, or any other industrial convention. All of these men in suits surrounded by pretty women paid only to look pretty next to them, trying to pitch and sell you a product based on exaggerated market predictions.
I can imagine all of this being really exciting twenty years ago, back when all of these shitty films could have still turned a modest profit on the home video market.
But these guys are all skating uphill today and there's just so much product being made. The supply has surpassed the demand. There are more films on display here that have been
produced in only in the last year than I've probably seen so far in my entire life.
Beyond the tacky suits, business card exchanges, and sleazy European booth babes, it's also a lot like an arts and crafts fair. There's a glorious wealth of eccentrics who've lined up to put the results of their impassioned hobbies for sale. The major difference is just that the stakes are far higher here.
At the arts fair, there's the office worker who sells wooden whistles carved out to look like sheep dogs, the creepy guy who works at Best Buy that airbrushes geishas and dragons, the old widow on disability who paints her cat on porcelain plates, the heavy metal man who paints oil portraits of his favorite horror icons, and the auto mechanic who makes lawn ornaments out of rusty steel rods.
Here, there's the Korean American woman who's made a low fi whimsical romantic comedy with her husband about some mystical fox spirit. There's the lovelorn postal service employee who's spent the last five years making a comedy about a nerdy mailman who falls in love with a hot female uni-bomber. There's the Italian restaurant owner with a film about a restaurant owner who employs the help of magical garden gnomes to keep the struggling family business open. There's the scary Russian guy who made an ultra violent mobster film that stars actual mobsters. There's the flamboyant Chinese man who's touting that he's made the world's first homo erotic wuxia film.
All of this is both inspiring and horridly depressing.
I don't think the guy carving wooden sheep dog whistles in the garage of his rural duplex is going to go bankrupt doing so. The old widow on disability didn't max out her credit cards to make her cat plates. The Best Buy Japanophile doesn't owe a private investor $40,000 with an expectation of an additional 50% return.
My ScreenAnarchy badge is bringing me a lot of attention, more attention than I expected, more attention than I'm comfortable receiving.
I haven't been here for even half a day and I already have a grocery bag filled with screeners and one sheets. I've already had two dozen strangers ask me to pass their films on to my editor. They're not interested in talking to me. And why should they be? I have no illusions that they can't smell the Jack Daniels on my breath.
But there's still something about the whole networking by association thing that I find grating. I feel like a fucking intern.
I decide to duck out of the convention hall and check out some of the small screening rooms.
There are over 40 full sized theaters spread throughout this circus, and all of them are screening different films 24 hours a day throughout the next two weeks.
There are rooms screening blocks of shorts, others are offering previews of the many features offered for sale at the convention.
These screenings are privately booked and paid for by the directors, producers, and sales agents.
I spend two or three hours hopping from theater to theater and find that most of them are completely deserted.
I recall the time I had a short film play the Cannes Film Festival back in 2005.
SUB CHAPTER: THE SILLY THINGS A FILM MAJOR DOES IMMEDIATELY AFTER
That's right; I am the director of short film that played Cannes.
I had answered a classified ad in my city's alternative paper that was an open call for filmmakers to establish a local collective.
The head of this collective was a kooky middle aged woman named Kitty, or at least, that was the name she gave everyone.
Kitty was a pretty amazing eccentric. She had purchased an abandoned paper mill located in the outskirts of Philly's worst ghetto. She also bought an entire block of dilapidated row homes across the street that once housed the paper mill's workers but now laid home for crack heads and dope fiends.
She established a nonprofit and found funding to gut the mill and turn it into a sound stage for film production. She developed one floor of the deserted factory into a photography studio that she would rent out to freelancers. She built a small stage and theater space that could be utilized as a venue for live performances and parties.
She planned on renovating the one block stretch of homes into free living spaces for in house artists and filmmakers.
Kitty never actually accomplished any of this, but she surprised everyone with how far she got in the first few years of her endeavor.
Kitty was trying to establish the Philadelphia film community on an international level. The more attention Philly artists received the better odds she had of securing more grants and stipends on a national and international level to continue building her vision.
Her first step to establishing Philadelphia as a film town was by renting out a private screening space at the Cannes Film Festival and holding a one day Philly centric short film festival.
Technically, it wasn't the Cannes Film Festival; it was the Cannes Film Market. But most assholes don't know the difference. It's a tactic that a lot of desperate filmmakers with no connections are led to.
When you pay to screen your film at the Cannes Film Market, you're allowed to say that your film played the Cannes Film Market. Most small time investors and producers don't know the difference. They don't know that you paid to play; they just see those festival brackets on the cover of your screener and think you might actually be worth a shit.
When Kitty explained all of this to us, some of us understood the reality of it, others didn't. By no means did I feel like I was being wrangled into a pyramid scam, but it still held an air of bullshit. Others couldn't see that bullshit and were ecstatic at the notion of having their crappy film with no chance of playing any other major film festival being automatically accepted to the biggest and most influential in the world.
The only catch was that renting a screen for a five hour block during the fest would cost $10,000. But if you have 30 filmmakers with five minute short films to split the cost, it's was only $333 a person.
$333 to say that your short film played Cannes.
I'd like to think I knew damn well what I was getting into although I learned shortly thereafter that anyone worth their salt in this business could see through this lie.
When I spoke to a curator at a small horror film fest in Chicago after sending him my screener, he told me that he actually thought my short was pretty solid, so why did I pay to show it?
I took those Cannes Film Market brackets off my opening credits immediately after that.
As far as I know, no one from our little film collective could afford to actually make it out to Cannes to see their film play to an audience.
But now I know there most certainly was no audience for any of our films. We each paid $333 for our shorts to play an empty convention hall.
CHAPTER 5 CONTINUED
Here I am, sitting alone in a darkened theater at one of the busiest media events in the world in the beautiful French Riviera, watching unseen strangers' dreams die a lonely pathetic death.
There are a few gems in the rough, but the majority of the short films I've seen so far have been at the level of a junior enrolled in their Community College's media and communications program.
I'm sure there's a lot of heart that went into all of these but none of them is the work of the next Scorsese or Soderberg. The next Scorsese isn't going to spend $333 plus inflation to have his five minute short screened to nobody.
That's why I'm blogging now isn't it?
I must have nodded off at one point or another as I find myself being abruptly awakened as the house lights snap back on.
I don't know how long I was asleep. I take my vintage French porno pocket watch out to find that it's already 8pm.
Fuck, I was asleep for well over 3 hours. Jet lag will do that to you.
I bring myself back to my feet and find that I'm no longer alone in the small screening space.
There's another young man sitting next to a female who I assume is his girlfriend.
I assume one of them are here as a filmmaker, the other as a supportive partner. Judging by the shirt vest and the overly stylish glasses that the male is wearing, my guess is that he's the director. More so than that, I register the look of defeat on his face. His girlfriend is rubbing his arm and forcing a smile.
She's trying to tell him that he should be happy to be here, that he should be happy that he played Cannes, that he should still be proud of his film, that this wasn't a huge waste of time and money that he probably didn't have to begin with.
The couple stands up and leaves the screening room, and for whatever reason, I decide to follow them. I make a conscious effort to make sure that they don't notice me.
I don't know why I'm doing this. But then again, I honestly don't know why I'm at Cannes. I don't know why I'm writing this article. I don't know why I do most of the things that I do. I just do.
The woman holds her boyfriend's hand for most of the walk. I notice that his head is starting to slump downwards and forward like a child brooding before a crying fit. I also notice that the female lets go of his hand and instead wraps her arm around his and rests her head on his shoulder as they walk.
I feel sparks of envy lighting up and shooting across the neurons in my brain. This causes a chain reaction that leads to sense of warmth in my blood that then leads to a tightness in my muscles, that then leads to an urge to do something self destructive.
If only I had that kind of support, if only I knew that kind love, if only I wasn't the crazy man desperately failing at trying to drink the craziness away alone, maybe then I could handle life's disappointments better.
The male trudges forward bearing no mind to his partner's attempts to console him. I don't like him for this. I haven't even shared two words with this stranger, but I've already formed the opinion that I don't like him.
A few minutes later and I'm outside on an observatory deck that also serves as a smoking area.
I decide to approach the couple that is now silently chain smoking what look like Virginia slims.
I extend my hand and introduce myself.
It's the woman who first reaches out and tells me her name.
"Hello, I'm Victoria."
The male nods his head and barely mutters his name, "Yonnie."
Victoria shoots him a quick glance that says that she's both embarrassed and personally offended by his anti social behavior.
Ugh, fucking directors, of course he has a name like Yonnie.
Not surprisingly, it's Victoria who tries to keep the conversation going as Yonnie sulks over his failed film screening.
Victoria is an oddly attractive Asian woman. I think there's some unwritten rule that every dorky white male film director has to have or at least has had an Asian girlfriend at some point in their life.
Victoria looks like she may be South Eastern Asian of some type. She's definitely not Chinese, or Korean, or Japanese.
She has a darker complexion that could be Pilipino. But her eyes and prominent cheek bone structure make me think she's something else.
And I feel like such an asshole that I have to sit here guessing what her Asian background as if it's some type of game.
She has a natural beauty and carries a confidence that's infectious. And yet, I see the lingering effects of deeply traumatic scaring in her face.
She's had a lot of surgery in the past, and she wears her makeup like an expert to mask it without calling too much attention to the fact that she's covering it up.
But still, I see that something horrible has happened to her at some point or another. But she brandishes such a striking smile that I never feel as though my eyes are wandering towards those scars enough that I need to pay attention as to whether I'm being inconsiderate or rude.
And she has the strangest accent I've ever heard. English is definitely a second language for her, and the way she speaks is off, but it's not off in that stereotypical manner one would expect. The way she pronounces her words, it's as if there are multiple dialects fighting for dominance. Not just one or two, but three or four.
Victoria lights a cigarette with the elegance of a golden era screen starlet. The way she pulls the smoke in with almost an air of theatrics before nonchalantly exhaling through her nose is just so cool. Everything about her is cool.
Whatever story she has to tell, I know it'll be more interesting than some self entitled suburban girl who's working at being an actress. Whatever it is that Victoria does, I'm sure I'll be legitimately intimidated by it. She's not some Suicide Girl expecting the world's the attention.
She asks me if I was at the screening in Hall 34B.
I admit that I was while secretly hoping she doesn't suspect that I stalked the two of them back out here.
She asks me if I was also one of the filmmakers.
Yonnie is looking at the Press badge around my neck when he finally joins the conversations.
"Oh, fucking shit, you're with ScreenAnarchy?"
"What's your handle?"
"We're not AICN, we don't have handles."
"What's your name again?"
I tell him.
"Oh, fuck, you're the guy who writes those crazy articles that just make fun of everything and everyone aren't you?"
"Honestly, I'm flattered that you know."
"Are you going to make fun of my fucking film? Are you here to shit on the festival? And now you're going to shit on the short filmmaker who flew to France from Minneapolis to watch his film alone in a fucking empty theater?"
"You forgot to add that the part about paying out of his own his own pocket to watch his film alone in an empty theater."
"Are you fucking kidding me? Is this going to be on fucking ScreenAnarchy?"
I try to lighten the mood the only way I know how, by making fun of myself.
I share a story about a time that I had been accepted to a small but well attended genre festival. That this was during a time when festivals preferred to screen DV tape masters instead of poorly compressed QuickTime encoded DVDs. I had been accepted into the festival with a DVD screener but brought a DV tape with myself for the actual screening. Only, I goofed and brought the wrong DV tape and instead of having a short film that I was actually proud of, we were all unexpectedly stuck watching some turd that I made as a homework assignment in college where I had a Chinese friend dressed up as samurai running around Chinatown with a sword killing meter maids all scored by dated Ska bands that I wouldn't be caught dead listening to now.
I think my intent was to help him feel less embarrassed but it doesn't work.
He looks at me like I'm on hard drugs, and for once, I'm not.
Victoria finds the story funny and laughs. I like her.
Victoria is the one to explain Yonnie's uphill battle in establishing himself in the film festival scene.
She tells me that they were invited to play a film festival in Amsterdam six months ago. They wanted to screen Yonnie's first feature film, a mumble core type comedy about a group of college graduates coming to terms with young adulthood after their studies.
When they flew out to attend the festival, they found that it took place at a YMCA type establishment where the movies were projected on the wall of an empty gym. Like today, there was no audience there to see the film. Halfway through the screening, employees of the hostel like rec center were setting up cots for travelers, homeless men, and drunks to sleep on.
Victoria giggles as she further illustrates the details of the venue and the actual screening.
Yonnie finds no humor in any of it. With just how serious and morose Yonnie is acting, I'm surprised that he isn't wearing a scarf around his neck to really show the world just how serious of a filmmaker he is.
I have to ask Victoria, "What is it that you do? And just how did you two here meet?"
She pauses before answering, "That's a loaded question and a long story."
I stub my cigarette out on the ground with my shoe and pull another out of the pack in my breast pocket.
Before lighting it, I tell her, "I'm not going anywhere."
"We met in Vietnam. Yonnie here was working as an educational recruitment agent. It's big business over there. The Vietnamese want an American education and the American universities want Vietnamese students. Vietnam is a growing economy, a growing cash economy. American students are too poor to afford school, and the banks aren't offering loans anymore. Also, American students are rather stupid. The Vietnamese aren't rich, but they save, and their savings are in cash. Also, their test scores are much higher than Americans. It's a win win for American Universities. But the process of applying to a university in America is pretty daunting. So many Vietnamese hire recruitment agents to help them with that."
I'm not interested in Yonnie 's story so I ask again. "And what was it that you were doing in Vietnam. I can't quite place your accent, but you don't sound like you were raised there?"
"No one can place my accent. It's the bastard child of a weird life."
"I like weird."
"I was born in Vietnam. My mother made shoes. Back in the very early 80's, lacquered sandals were very popular. My mother could not afford the supplies to make them. But she later found out that the components of Napalm could be distilled into a material that look and felt just like those lacquered sandals. There were still bombs lying around everywhere. Even today, you have to be careful of landmines leftover from the war. My mother would dismantle these napalm bombs and separate the petroleum from the actual napalm to make rubber. She had an accident once doing this when I was only 2 or 3 years old."
Victoria points to her face where the faint burn marks still linger.
"When I was in the hospital, my mother met a foreign doctor doing humanitarian work for a mission organization. For whatever reason, they hit off. He eventually had to return to the U.S., so he brought us with him. He was a Native American who worked as a resident physician on an Indian reservation in Texas. I learned to speak Vietnamese, but I also developed a bit of a southern drawl. I also took to the Sioux culture and adapted to their dialect as well."
I like Victoria, I like Victoria a lot.
She continues, "I went to college in London, fell in love for the first time there and stayed a few years after. Spend 6 years in the UK, and that'll start to rub off on you as well. I was really into the rave scene over there and found myself with with a deep fascination with psychedelic drugs. I minored in Psychology, majored in botany, and then got my masters in chemistry. I was practically groomed to make hallucinogenics, so that's what I did. My goal was to make a natural and safe form of LSD that could be sold legally in the US and potentially pass FDA regulations, or at least go unnoticed long enough that I could make a few bucks. I remembered hearing stories from my mother about the Mong Mong plant from Vietnam. It was called the dream plant and the way that she explained it to me, it sounded a lot like Peyote. With just a little research, I found that the plant was a real thing and had many similar attributes to the spores of certain species of psychedelic mushrooms. So I went back to Vietnam to further research and study these plants and potentially developed a recreational mind expanding drug."
I fucking love Victoria, I want to fucking snatch her away from Yonnie right now.
"I met Yonnie at a bar in Ho Chi Minh city. I was impressed by his passion for film and art."
"How long have you guys been together?"
I see Yonnie giving me that cold, hard look of a man who doesn't like having others flirt with his girlfriend. I almost expect him to gnash his teeth like a dog protecting his food bowl.
"I guess that was about 2 years ago, right honey?"
Yonnie only nods his head.
I know this relationship won't last. Victoria is brilliant, and interesting, and exciting. Yonnie looks like the type who wears sweater vests, reads David Eggers, and spends his many free unemployed days off hanging out at some trendy coffee shop compulsively clicking on all of the big trending online articles. He's boring and she'll eventually get bored of him.
But I continue with the 20 questions. "Are you guys still based in Vietnam?"
Victoria's face changes and for the first time in our conversation, she looks displeased.
"No. We moved back to the States about a year ago. I finished my research and I can continue the development of my drug pretty much anywhere in the world. Yonnie was only working on a two year contract with his recruitment agency, when that ended; so I followed him back to his home."
Victoria sighs as she says, "Portland."
"Doesn't sound like you enjoy it there."
"Oh, it's a great city to be unemployed in."
She turns to give Yonnie a look that's both affectionate in its mockery and cruel in its accusation.
Yeah, Yonnie is the broke ass director hanging out at the coffee shop.
Victoria turns back to face me when she asks, "So, are you into broadening your mind?"
Yonnie speaks up again, "If anything this guy writes about is true, it seems like all he does is get fucking high and be a fucking critic."
Victoria cuts him off. " You'll have to excuse Yonnie. He's really not that bad. He just has aspergers."
I shrug my shoulders and say, "So do I."
Victoria pulls what looks like a condom wrapper out of her purse and says, "I should get him back to his room so he can finish his little tantrum, or maybe I'm going to have to fuck it out of him, but obviously, he's just going to continue to be spoil sport here."
She hands me the wrapper as she continues talking. "So, I guess this is adieu."
She takes Yonnie by the arm again to lead him away back to wherever they're staying.
With the strange wrapper that I've just been given still in my hand, I call out to Victoria asking, "What is this?"
She yells back to me, "You asked me what it is that I do? That's it right there. Enjoy."
I open the wrapper and find 3 small purple tablets.