FEAR & LOATHING AT CANNES, PART 3: EVERYTHING IS WONDERFUL AND I'M TRIPPING BALLS
It's night. When the fuck did it become night?
I'm naked. Where the fuck did my clothes go?
I'm on the beach. Why the fuck did I leave the film market?
I think this is the Plage de la Balterie, Cannes' infamous nude beach.
Ok, at least I'm not calling attention to myself by being naked since it's supposed to be a nude beach.
But it's also raining, so no one else is nude right now.
I'm sprinting along the beach. I don't know why, but it feels great.
I think I see Anne Hathaway taking a stroll with a dapper gentleman a few yards away. I wave hello towards her and she quickly turns her head the other way.
The moon looks like my breakfast from the other morning and the air smells like bad memories.
Shit, my thoughts aren't making any sense.
But I feel wonderful. There may be a panicked sense of hysteria that's starting to creep in. But even that still seems wonderful.
I see a group of young women. They're all topless and sporting different variations of daisy dukes and ripped up fishnet stockings. Almost all of them are covered in tattoos; some look as though they've been doused in fake blood. They're holding up makeshift signs promoting something or another but I'm too high to read them.
Am I sure I'm not at the Jersey shore right now?
Oh, wait; I see the Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabuki Man.
I guess I might as well be at the Jersey shore, it's the Troma team.
I spot an acquaintance named Matt. Matt used to run one of Philly's hippest film festivals about a decade ago. He's been working for Troma on and off for years. I like Matt, but he's gotten progressively weirder over the years.
Lloyd Kaufmann is a lot like Roger Corman, only cheaper and more ruthless. A lot of filmmakers got their first big break with Troma, and while most of them will speak about their experiences with a certain amount of reserved fondness, Matt is the only member of the Troma alumni I've met whose actually proud to be with the group and has continued to work with Lloyd.
I approach Matt but he doesn't recognize me at first. When I try to explain who I am and how he knows me I see the light bulb flash on in his eyes.
He finally says, "I showed one of your short films at my festival back in what? 2002?"
"What was it called? Love Guts or something like that?"
"That's the one."
And the moment he finally remembers me is the moment that my very visible penis makes him very visibly uncomfortable.
This isn't a matter of prudence or homophobia or being conservative, it's just always awkward to have a conversation with a casual acquaintance that's naked. And I can't be sure if much of what I'm saying is making any sense.
Before I know it, The Toxic Avenger and Sgt. Kabuki Man are striking poses next to me and I see a crowd of strangers holding up their cell phones pointed my at direction.
They're taking pictures. They're recording video. They're documenting the crazy naked man tripping balls on the beach at Cannes with two of Troma's most iconic characters.
I feel like I'm conscious of my surroundings but I can't be certain. I can't be certain that I'm not talking about the beauty of eating Chex mix with hot sauce while watching Japanese porn. I think I might be a hot mess right now, and there are strangers getting it on video.
Goddammit, I'm going to end up being an internet meme tomorrow. I'll probably end up on Tosh.0 next week.
I fucking hate this. Can't someone lose their shit for just one night without having to worry about it ending up online and becoming an international sensation?
You just can't have fun anymore.
And I know I'm freaking out now. I know that I'm seeing things that aren't there, I'm hyper aware and yet totally disconnected from the reality around me.
I blurt out something completely incoherent before I run off.
I leave the circus behind and make my way further down than the beach.
As I put some distance between myself and the Troma crew, I find myself calming down again, and once more, everything is wonderful. The cool night's wind against my nude body feels wonderful.
I've never really experimented with psychedelics before. Uppers, downers, they're all fine by me. But I'm crazy enough as it is. I never felt the need to see or hear things that aren't there, but this is a transcendental experience. I feel one with the universe; the big fucked up universe I've always held such contempt for.
I find my pace slowing down. I'm winded, I'm tired, and I want to lie down.
I think the high is starting to wear off and it's not a moment too soon.
I still have to figure out where my clothes went. I'm going to have to track down my wallet and passport at some point.
I finally come to a stop. I feel the ocean's tide washing up on my feet and find an inner peace I've never felt before.
I close my eyes and try to take it all in.
And then I hear someone calling my name.
"Greg? Is that you? Greg Christie?"
Is this a hallucination? Is this happening?
I open my eyes and find a beautiful woman standing in front of me.
I don't even know how to describe her, partly because the drug that Victoria gave me hasn't quite finished its cycle yet, but also because; she just truly is beautiful beyond words.
She is the embodiment of womanhood.
And I know her.
I ask, "Alexia is that you?"
CHAPTER 7: BEFORE SUNRISE'S SPUTNIK SWEETHEART PLAYS NORWEGIAN WOOD or THE MEXICAN MADAME FROM TOUCH OF AND EVIL AND EVERY HARUKI MURAKAMI NOVEL EVER WRITTEN
However Victoria crafted her mind expanding concoction, it's the perfect high. That is, if your idea of the perfect high is one that puts your consciousness on a completely other base of existence while your body is unfortunately stuck moving along in reality.
I say it's perfect because the effects have now worn off completely in about three hours without any hard crash or lingering drowsiness.
Typically, when you decide to trip with psychedelic mushrooms, or LSD, or Acid, you have to set an entire weekend aside and plan to be high for upwards of 12 hours.
Victoria's drug has been designed to be enjoyed for only a night, like catching a movie or a play. It's the perfect narcotic for those with day jobs and responsibilities.
I've been walking around Le Suquet with Alexia for who knows how many hours. We've been reminiscing over old times, sharing stories, and catching up.
Alexia was my professor at New York Film Academy when I took a four week summer workshop there still in high school back in 1999. She was a recent graduate of TISCH's MFA program. She had already directed a feature for HBO television and was proclaimed one of the 25 new faces of film by Independent Filmmaker magazine and listed as one of the top ten most exciting female directors by Moviemaker magazine.
We had a close teacher/student relationship. I would stay after class and discuss film theory with her for hours.
When I first met her, she asked me if I was Greek.
I found this strange at the time. I have a vaguely ethnic look and people are always trying to guess my cultural heritage, but few ever get it right.
Even stranger, when I told her that I was indeed Greek, she asked me where my family was from.
I explained that I my grandfather was born in Cyprus, my grandmother was Athenian.
With my grandfather being Cypriote, there is the chance that I could have Turkish blood in me. But really, who the hell wants to be Turk? I've always jokingly identified as Greek even if I didn't put too much credence into it.
I'll never forget the conversation that followed; Alexia had asked me for my last name.
I told her, "Christie, just like Jesus but with an I and an E at the tail end. But my Grandfather had changed his name when he came to America illegally to sound more English. My Greek name was Christilulu."
To which she responded, "My father's side is also from Cyprus, I grew up there, I knew the Christilulu family. It's a small island."
To which I answered, "That's more than I can say. What are the Christilulus like?"
To which she answered, "It's a family of madmen, gangsters, and pornographers."
To which I answered, "Well, that sounds about right. Good to know it runs in the family."
After the film workshop had ended, she invited me to take part of a project that she was producing, again, for HBO television. She was working on an anthology film called City Stories. She was searching for talented and driven high school students from NYC to write and direct short films about life in the big apple.
I wasn't from New York, but I was still a city kid, and she wanted me to write and direct a short for the anthology
I was only a junior in high school when I wrote and directed a short 16mm for HBO. The project eventually fell apart and it was never finished. Even my completed short never screened anywhere, and I've never even seen any of the footage I had directed.
But still, I was 17 when I was first commissioned to make a film for HBO and it was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a 17 year old aspiring filmmaker back in the year 2000.
I bought into my own hype. I went into film school overly confident and far too cocksure of myself.
Even with all of the grants and scholarships that I had been offered, I couldn't afford any of the big schools, so I was stuck at Temple University.
I quickly grew disgruntled with their undergrad program. I felt like I was having my time and money wasted sitting in film theory classes watching classics I'd already seen and studied on my own in high school.
Even in my production courses later within the program, the best equipment I could get my hands on were an old VHS camera and a Betamax recorder. The most that I could look forward to was shooting 16mm reversal footage on an ancient and antiquated Bolex for my senior thesis class in 2005, and by then, film was already dead. This was the same rudimentary crank operated film camera I had already learned to operate when I was 16 at NYFA. Then again, it's a useless skill to have now anyway, so it didn't really matter in the long run.
I would hop the Chinatown bus up to New York on the weekends and crew on Alexia's projects. I was 18 when she taught me how to operate an Arri- S 16mm camera. I was 19 when she taught me how to shoot with a 35mm Arriflex BL 1, the same camera used to lens The Shining and Raging Bull. I was 20 when she asked me to DP an independent feature she was producing.
Again, that feature fell apart and lost its funding halfway through production much like her anthology film.
For all of the three years that I knew Alexia after New York Film Academy, every project she
spearheaded went to shit either in production or after she got it in the can in post.
When I was 21, I left for Japan to produce a documentary of my own. Much like Alexia's films, I was never able to finish it. But as the story goes, I got myself lost in the land of the rising sun and returned two years later with a fiancé in tow.
I had lost contact with Alexia and when I finally took the initiative to find her again, she was gone.
She tells me now that she went back to Greece, to aide her ailing father. She was there just in time for the country's financial collapse. She had returned home only to see it go to shit as her dad died of cancer.
She somehow got herself wrapped up with an anarchist guerrilla group responsible for inciting violent riots and terrorist activities.
She's spent the last two years documenting this group and their actions from the inside. She has footage of them preparing bombs that would later be used in some of the nation's more incendiary news stories.
And now she has a feature documentary in need of funding in order to complete.
There's a bittersweet melancholy that permeates our conversation. There's a strangely romantic yet completely non sexual tension between us.
We talk like former lovers who've both returned from war hardened and bitter but not entirely defeated just yet.
I imagine Tana's Theme from Henry Mancini's score in Touch of Evil playing in the background as we walk along the deserted cobblestone alleys in the early twilight hours just before Dawn.
As I hear the sad saloon piano melody playing in my head, I look at Alexia, and I see a striking resemblance to Marlene Dietrich; dark, beautiful, mysterious, and defiant.
If Alexia had told me that she became a tarot card reader and a Madame to a Mexican border brothel, I wouldn't have thought twice about it. It's as if Alexia can read my mind because we both find ourselves reenacting the infamous scene with Marlene and Orson in Touch of Evil.
Only there's a reversal in our roles.
She asks me what I plan on doing with my future.
I tell her, "I haven't got any, I used it all up."
She smiles knowing the reference asking, "Then why don't you go home?"
And I answer, "Only if you'll follow me."
She tells me that she always found me attractive.
I jest that I would have liked to of known that back in 2001, I could've used the boost to my self esteem then before I went to shit and became a jaded asshole.
"And what would you have done about it?"
"I don't know, probably nothing."
"I was 24 and you were 16 at the time. The differences between a 24 year old and a 16 year old are monumental."
"And what about the differences between a 38 year old and a 30 year old?"
"Now that my clock isn't ticking so fast, I don't know. Ask me again after it's stopped in two years."
The sun has just barely to peak its way through the overcast skies as we find ourselves standing in front of Café Gavroche.
I'm staying in a small room with 5 other writers here, but in order to get to that room, I have to enter through the restaurant to get to the staircase that leads up to my room.
But the restaurant is now closed. And that means I can't get to my room.
I wished Alexia had taken me back to her hotel.
There's an awkward silence. This is when I'm supposed to say thank you and goodbye and then I go inside, but I can't.
So I stumble and say, "I feel like I'm supposed to have walked you back to your place."
Alexia gives me the stink eye, but it's playful.
"I don't need your protection, Greg. But from the looks of it, you certainly needed mine."
It hasn't escaped me that I'm wearing two beach towels for clothes at the moment.
I ask, "Do you think you'd want to meet for dinner, give ourselves some more time to play catch up in an environment where I'm actually wearing clothes?"
"Why do we need to get dinner and see each other again?"
I wasn't counting on an answer like that. She does have a point. There isn't much of a point.
But she's also got a mean sarcasm streak in her.
So I tell her, "Because I want to profess my undying love for you when I'm sober. I want to go to Greece to find my crazy family of gangsters and pornographers in Cyprus, and I want to live out the rest of my days with you and your crazy band of torch lighting activists."
She laughs while pulling something out of her purse.
She hands me her business card and says "Avtio" as she walks away.
"Is that a yes then?"
Alexia doesn't turn around and again says, "Avtio."
There's a moment of silence before she follows that up with, "αντίο μέχρι την επόμενη φορά."
"You know I can't speak Greek right?"
She's nearly turned the corner and left my sight as I hear her again say, "αντίο μέχρι την επόμενη φορά."
I'm hoping that's a yes. Either way, I have her phone number and I'm going to call her as soon as I'm done sleeping for the next five days.
I sit down in front of the restaurant looking at her business card and wait 3 hours for the Cafe to open so I can go to sleep somewhere that's not on a street.
CHAPTER 8: EVERYWHERE I GO, INSANITY FOLLOWS.
I'm having a late brunch at Café Gavroche with my editor.
Although, I guess it's kind of hard to call it brunch when it's already 5pm.
Then again, I've only been awake for twenty minutes.
Me editor seems displeased with me. He has an iPad out on the table. My second article has gone live and he has brought it up on the screen of his fancy Apple device.
I'm sipping my latte as he scolds me.
"You just had to go after, DD didn't you?"
I need the caffeine to kick in. My mind is in a million other places but it's not here at the café with my editor.
Memories of my naked adventure last night keep flashing before my eyes. I cringe with regret and embarrassment every time. That is, until I think about my run in with Alexia.
Alexia, that's Greek for defender. She's a radiant goddess.
My editor is waiting for a response from me. So I return his question with another.
"Who the hell is DD?"
"Daisy Dead Girl."
"She's very sensitive."
"I figured doing 5 guy DP gangbangs wouldn't fucked that out of her."
I only shrug my shoulders.
My editor continues, "And now I have to deal with this whole Mike Dugal debacle."
"Mike Dugal, your rockabilly asshole bully you shit all over in the first article."
"He's landed some huge deals the past two days. He's just signed on to direct the Evil Dead 2 remake."
I nearly spit out my latte on the iPad that my editor keeps pointing at for reference.
"He's also just signed on for a three picture deal with Platinum Dunes and sold off his entire catalogue of his previous features to Dark Sky."
This time I do spit out the latte but I miss the IPad and accidentally hit my editor.
"Damn it, Greg. Are you drunk already?"
"I've always supported you, gave you a forum to do whatever this crazy stuff is that you do. And now I'm up to my knees in cease and desist letters and hate mail from just about everyone in the business."
"You have deniability."
"You're damn straight I do. I've had to explain to everyone that I have an absolutely crazy man writing for me. I had to plead with Daisy and explain to her that you're certifiable."
"That's not so far off from the truth."
"It's a good thing that enough others think you're funny and wacky enough to be considered harmless."
"Just cool it a little will ya?"
"And do I have to guess who this hairy naked man was that had a major drug induced freak out on the beach last night that I keep hearing about?"
"You're not guessing if you already know."
"Just ad an I and an E after the T and you're halfway there."
My editor shakes his head as he asks, "Can I expect even one review from you this week?"
"You got in to see it?"
"No, but I hear it's good. That's my review."
"Just what are you even rebelling against at this point?"
My editor sighs and tells me he has a lead for a story for me to follow.
"It seems like everywhere you go, Greg, a shit storm follows."
"I've got my talents."
"Four dead bodies were found today. They were carved up, dismembered, and horribly disfigured. There was a young woman wandering the coastline like a zombie with a sashimi knife sticking out of her stomach. People are saying that she committed seppuku right there on the sidewalk. A bell hop at one of the hotels knocked out all of his own teeth out with a hammer and then bled to death in the ambulance to the hospital. Another man was found hopping along the beach on one foot. He was carrying the other in his hand."
"Whoa. And how is this a lead for me?"
"I don't know yet. But people are talking about a serial killer being out on the loose here at the festival. Others are already talking about a zombie apocalypse. Some people are saying that there are terrorists using some type of chemical air borne weapon that's making some go mad like 28 Days Later. Others are saying it has to do with all of the rats and dog shit in the streets."
"And I don't know, I just have a suspicion if I send you out looking for trouble, it'll come to you. I just think that somehow, you'll find your way to discovering the cause of all of this. And that means more hits for my site, and that means maybe one day, you'll get paid for this shit."
I drink more of my Latte while I wait for the caffeine to kick in.