Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Greetings from the Other Side of the Wardrobe

Two more days.

The rest of this week is just anxious packing and getting ready to go, the town cleared out, classes are all but done, and now we just wait. My shuttle is leaving Saturday morning at 5AM for my 7:30 flight (God help me) but at least I won't be alone. It will be kind of funny coming back to San Francisco with the same people I came with. I imagine it sort of like, oh hey. Sorry, I just blinked for a second and had the craziest dream I was in France for four months and did all this crazy shit and made friends with all these people and took all this French and it was really fun and hard and everything... What a ridiculous dream. I remember it being hot on the day I left. I have no idea if it was or not. That would be especially weird, I think, to come back on what feels like the same day. It reminds me of stories like Narnia or basically any story that involves people getting sucked into a portal to have an adventure for what feels like weeks, and then once they finally fulfill their mission, it's time for them to go home, and they realize they've only been gone an hour and the housekeeper is still looking for them! Yet they'll always have their amazing ridiculous experience in Narnia (or Wonderland/Neverland/Oz), where they can always go back if they need to. Where they have truly established a part of themselves. They can tell their stories to people at home, who may or may not believe them because talking lions! Preposterous! (And then there's like that one adult that winks at them and knows it really happened.) This whole experience was my getting sucked into a wardrobe, and I'll come back ultimately having learned important lessons about loyalty/family/home/duties, sometimes wistful for how sick it was in Narnia, but also happy to be home where we don't have to fight bloody epic life-or-death battles against evil ice witches. The entire Narnia thing is really something important that happens to them personally, individually, catering to their characters, and it's okay if the people in the real world don't understand as much as you might think (or in the way you might think) because the experience really wasn't for them. It was for you.

There is always a point in the story where time is up, and the characters have to go back home. And Aslan, or the Wizard, or whoever, is like, you have to go back! You've done what you needed to do here, established part of who you are here, and that will never go away. You'll always be the kings and queens of Narnia, you'll always have saved Oz. Wardrobe stories have a time limit. When your quest is complete, you have to go back, you're needed in the other world. You've kept the housekeeper waiting!

In all those stories, while they're in the Wardrobe world, the characters miss home and they miss their families and lives, even as they experience the magic and wonder of the magical world they got sucked into. There is a glory about both worlds, one that is always concrete and real, maybe not always as exciting, per say, but very much more real and rewarding in other ways, and the one that is always a ridiculous adventure, concrete in time but strange in retrospect, like a dream. I've won the battle against the White Witch, and all is right in Narnia again, the coronation happens, Glinda appears, Peter Pan takes the pirate ship back to London. I'm old now, but I'm about to fall back through the wardrobe, back where I was, but with this fantastic experience within me. There will be a shock of it, and perhaps wistful longing sometimes when things get boring or hard in the real world, but for the most part, it's going to be really wonderful to fall back out, into my own clothes and my own family and my own friends, back to the real world, where my character, enhanced by my experience in Narnia, is going to continue the adventure.

And truthfully, who knows? You never know when you might fall into a wardrobe again.

Cannes Film Festival: Part 2

One of my bosses, who has been doing the Festival for like 20 years described Cannes to me as "a marathon" and to pace myself. Back in the day, he said, he used to stay out all night for the first 3 nights and then want to kill himself on the 4th day, and that I should take a lesson from this, which I did. Cannes is a marathon, and it is very fun and glamorous but it also goes on for 12 days, which is a really long time.

Around the 3rd or 4th day it started to rain. Like rain hard, all day, all night, which made it very easy to pace myself, because coming home feeling like a wet cat makes it very straightforward to stay inside and keep yourself warm. While this was going on though, I worked. I worked hard all through the Festival and had a really enjoyable time doing it, even though I unfortunately did not get to go to any red carpet screenings. To do that you have to get all dressed up and then wait or try to beg for tickets, and as I usually got off when the red carpet began, that was not possible. Truthfully though I didn't have high hopes for that happening, and I did get to see a free screening of "Dr. No" at Cinema de la Plage one night when it wasn't raining, which is a part of the festival that does free screenings on the beach every night.
Fireworks: Legitimately the only thing that could make James Bond more epic.

Unfortunately though they did confiscate our bottle of wine, which we may have been brandishing proudly after removing the cork with a room key and therefore may have been partly to blame. There aren't open container laws in France, but they're "concerned about litter" on the beach (which probably means the Cinema de la Plage ushers are going to have a giant rager later with all their stolen booze). As an act of retribution, Karnig stole one of the fleece blankets they give you, which probably were ours to take anyway.

Haters gonna hate.

My internship was fantastic, I genuinely really enjoyed working with my bosses, who were sweet and funny and down to earth. They taught me a lot, and by the end I legitimately felt as though I was part of the company. The goal of the internship if you're a Film Production student (which focuses almost entirely on the creative and not the practical aspects of filmmaking) is to teach you how distribution companies work, how the market works, and what happens to your movie after you make it. What I learned primarily was regarding making films that have a universal message so that it will appeal to foreign markets (which was my company's focus), for example, teenagers in Italy don't get the "slacker movie" thing that was so big in the 90's because they weren't facing the same kind of apathy and issues. This is why horror movies sell so well overseas--sexy teenagers getting brutally killed one by one by a serial killer is scary everywhere. On the other side of that, action-adventures like The Avengers do well too, because no matter where you live or what language you speak, really attractive people kicking ass and saving the world is enjoyable. Samuel L. Jackson with an eyepatch and a bazooka is a universal symbol everyone understands, like bathroom signs or shaking your head yes or no.

Working at the Carlton was absolutely amazing. Being there just sort of makes you feel like a big deal, even if what you're doing there is being a secretary and making yourself coffee drinks all day and listening in on meetings and giving people their 3D glasses for our one 3D trailer on the 3D TV (which we showed to people who didn't even want the movie because we were just proud of that). The ambiance of the Festival is truly invigorating and electrifying, and even when it was raining or I was tired, it was really exciting to be in Cannes. I think I read an article once describing the festival as "The world turns its eyes to Cannes for 12 days in the spring..."And it really feels like that. After the first few nights, we got used to the whole red carpet thing too, which was funny. Eventually you're like, ugh whatever, Kristen Stewart, that's cool, I'm sure your movie sucks, GOD can you people move I'M TRYING TO GET TO THE BUS. Which isn't to say it still isn't exciting, it just because amusingly normal, like oh yeah, doesn't the Croisette get blocked off every day with like a thousand people trying to catch a glimpse of celebrities? It's amazing, and it was all I could have hoped for it to be and more.

 I also received a visitor the last weekend of the Festival, as my internship ended last Thursday, who perhaps you might be familiar with, by the name of Evan Revak. Being done with his finals he decided to come to Cannes for the weekend about three days prior (this is generally the method by which Evan and I decide to undertake relatively large travel endeavors--about a week in advance).

The exploration of Ile St. Marguerite continues. We're buying a timeshare and a boat.

 His visit was incredibly fun, and it was blessedly warm and sunny so we did Ile St. Marguerite, St. Paul-de-Vence (that was actually straight up rain but we made it for a good long while!) which is a medieval village that my Art History class visited on a field trip that I couldn't go on because I was too sick. It was terribly picturesque, and we had fun walking around and exploring and taking pictures of hallways.

St. Paul de Vence
Evan left yesterday, but before that we went to the beach and undertook more exploration of Cannes and got very sunburned and it was lovely. The rest of this week is just anxious packing and getting ready to go, the town cleared out, classes are all but done, and now we just wait! Ahhhh...
Greetings from St. Paul-de-Vence!

Read my next post for my musings upon the end of our time here...I started to write it out in this entry but it got too long and irrelevant, so read on for further thoughts!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cannes Film Festival: Part 1


Today marked the opening of the 65th Festival de Cannes. And shit. Got. Real.

So to give you a little bit of an update, I'm interning for a company called Imagination Worldwide, which is a distributor of terrible horror films and depressing Lifetime movies. Their library boasts an array of such well-known titles as "Stripped Naked" (tagline: CASSIE'S DONE STRIPPING, AND NOW SHE HAS A GUN) and "Punishment" (review on the poster: "FINALLY! SOMETHING DONE WITH A HAMMER I'VE ALWAYS WANTED TO SEE!") and of course, how could I forget the classic, "Wake Up and Die" (The plotline of that one, I believe, is that a girl gets murdered and dies every night but then wakes up in the morning and gets murdered again in a different way. And she's naked the entire time.)

My place of business for the next two weeks.
I work out of the famous and world-reknowned Carlton Hotel, which is probably the most classy thing in Cannes. Rooms there cost 1000E a night or more, and the spires are said to be modeled after some actress' boobs (I read that in an actual newspaper) so I guess that's like a fantastic honor...The other companies that work out of the Carlton are like, Paramount and Warner Brothers and they have these big giant suites with living rooms, but ours is just two regular connecting hotel rooms with the furniture taken out and temporary walls for the gory posters that hang in my "office."

The facade of the Carlton has apparently been bought by Sacha Baron Cohen and his people, and today, while I was cooped up working, he, as "The Dictator"did a press conference outside, in character, and then proceeded to ride a camel (I'm dead serious) down the Croisette, stop traffic, amass a huge crowd, and then FALL OFF THE CAMEL, and then retreated back into the hotel. I don't know what happened to the camel, and unfortunately I didn't actually see any of it (but my friends did and I read about it/saw pictures online) but HOW. LEGIT. IS THAT. Apparently one of my roommates physically crashed into him, and I am so unbelievably jealous. Like I would really be okay for celebrity sightings in Cannes if I physically touched Sacha Baron Cohen, and in character at that. I probably would have fallen at his feet and been like, "Take me with you back to wherever magical land of talent you come from and teach me your ways and let me work on your movies, whisk me away on your camel and I shall forever be your servant..." and it would have been BEAUTIFUL. I hope I do get to see him, because after that I could probably die happy. I saw online later that he spent the rest of the day on a yacht with some supermodel where the "paparazzi" was taking pictures of them, and they organized a stunt where they were frolicking and then he "killed" her and dumped her body bag in the ocean.

Sacha Baron Cohen, you are a perfect human being.
While I wasn't staring out the window fantasizing about meeting famous character actors, I spent today at my desk being a secretary and taking business cards and playing trailers and drinking coffee and doodling and writing poetry. Tomorrow I need to bring my computer. After work I got to go walk down the Croisette and join the madness outside the Palais des Festivals (the main theater) while the red carpet started for Moonrise Kingdom, the Wes Anderson film that's opening the festival this year.

That's Ewan McGregor on the JumboTron. I died.
What this basically involved was standing on my tiptoes jumping up and down to see the JumboTron, because of course I was standing behind The World's Two Tallest Men and Tourist Lady in a Giant Hat Standing on the Fence, BUT I got to see Chris Pine and the jury (including EWAN MCGREGOR BE STILL MY HEART) and Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray and Wes Anderson...mostly just on the screen but if I craned my neck enough I could see them very tiny and from the back on the steps.

Once everyone one the crowd died down and I returned to the College. Some people are going back into to town to try and brave the later showings, but tonight I need to just go back and two weeks to brave the madness! An exciting day and an epic start, and I have to say, Cannes is a truly magnificent creature during the Festival. This is glorious, and can't wait to tell you more soon!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ile St. Marguerite and the Gorges de Verdon

This weekend, we went on two adventure excursions, epic outings, if you will, to wrap up our set of trips with AIFS. Aude frankly outdid herself, and on Friday we went to Ile St. Marguerite, which is a little island off the coast of Cannes. This was one of the places I’d been before when I was here 5 years ago, and surprisingly once we got there I remembered it the most vividly of all. It was blissfully sweltering hot Friday, and we took the boat to the island and walked around to the museum, which is basically a set of 3 jails cells, on of which housed the Man in the Iron Mask (theoretically). In my French class we discussed how there are so many questions about that, such as: Did that even happen? and Was the mask actually made of iron? Because that seems like really unnecessary...
Alas, we wandered around and took pictures in the courtyard, because THAT SHIT WAS PICTURESQUE, and then wandered the trails in an attempt to find the famously clear blue water on the other side of the island. So beautiful. We think a lot of summer camps stay on the island, because it’s really just a perfect place to be when it’s hot and lovely like that. Okay, so eventually, because we are masters of orienteering and only got lost like twice, we found the water.

Now here is where the story gets interesting. 

The shoreline of the island was made up of a substance not unlike wood shavings, and we have absolutely no idea what it was, except maybe a weird foreign invading kind of seaweed that dies all at once and dries washed ashore. To get to the sandbar, where the water is as clear as a pool and you can see fish around your feet, you have to climb through the wood-shaving stuff, which is probably about 4 feet deep, and underwater, so it’s kind of like quicksand. Karnig, A’brielle and I did not bring swimsuits, because we were both imagining this being like a beach beach where there’s sand you can sit on or just go in up to your legs. It became immediately evident that the only solution to this problem was to go in in our clothes.

It was totally worth it, even if walking through the muck was probably the grossest thing I’ve ever done in my life. We played around in the water with everyone for a while and then struggled our way back to shore, and I just have to tell you it was a really special experience, the kind of thing where you know that it could only happen here, on this island off the south of France, playing in clear blue water while old leathery people on their anchored small yachts stare and laugh at you. Also, importantly, on the way back I Kylie and I got ice cream, and I had a Magnum bar for the first time, which is an important European experience. I just need to say, America and Dove bars, get your shit together. In Europe they have caramel between the chocolate and the ice cream, and you need to figure that out. It was a life-changing experience.

That night I went to a Japanese restaurant with Jenn, Kylie, Hailie, and their roommate Ali, which was bound to be interesting. We make valiant efforts at these Asian or “Tex-Mex” restaurants in France that are just so close to being actually good but are also obscenely overpriced, because you know, tacos are a rare delicacy. I just want to go to Sumos on State Street and get like an uncomfortable amount of food for 12 bucks. We were the only people at this restaurant, and at some point during the meal, two of the chefs got into a fight, which we could see, and it was a serious fight, with punches and throwing bowls and screaming and the other waiters/other chefs trying to pull them apart.. Awkward. This went on for the majority of our meal, which sadly we still had to pay full price for. One of the girls I was with posted a status later that said, “had a real authentic Japanese meal in France, complete with a samurai fight!” So that’s definitely one way to put it.

The next day we left the College early on another beautifully hot and sunny day for a long bus ride to the Gorges de Verdon, also known as the French Grand Canyon.  It’s truly a stunning thing to see, and almost vertigo-inducing. After driving around the top of it, we went down to this huge man-made lake at the edge of the canyon, where the water was an unbelievable turquoise. We rented kayaks, and what follows is very high up there with the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Karnig and I decided to go into the Gorge, down the stream there, and like...imagine this, with two huge cliffs on either side and greenery and small waterfalls..we didn’t have a camera, but I’m determined to find someone who did so I can show you this. It felt like we were straight up in Jurassic Park, and that any moment a pterodactyl would swoop across. To quote Karnig, “A friendly pterodactyl, like one you could ride.” It was an adventure, in the truest sense of the word, like we were Indiana Jones or just something, anything to express how absolutely cool this was.

Also, I discovered that I am a lot better at kayaking than originally thought, which is great, because kayaking/rowing/windsurfing/sailing small craft are necessary skills in my family, and I have been taught from a young age how to do it. When you’re on your own sometimes you realize that you were a lot more competent than you thought you were. You rise the occasion and all your latent knowledge and strength that you never have to use comes into play, and it’s very empowering. We were going against the wind, hard, on the way back and made it out alive without crashing into the rocks, and on time. HOLLA.

 We all sat around in the sun for a long time, and then Aude managed to herd all of us back to the bus and we visited our last, but not least, medieval village, which was also unbelievably pretty, settled between the cliffs, with waterfalls, and a star hanging above the town. If you ever find yourself in the south of France, go to the Gorges de Verdon. It’s probably one of the most amazing things you can do here, and was a perfect wrap up of our AIFS excursions.

COMING SOON...the Cannes Film Festival!

Prague and Adventures

Two Tuesdays ago I saw the Avengers, in at the English cinema in Cannes. Jenn and I were basically on the edge of our seats the entire time, cheering and gasping, and when it ended we were the only ones clapping and whistling, and Jenn yelled “AMERICAAA!!” Occasionally you are allowed to have some moments as an obnoxious American when you’re in Europe, and seeing the Avengers is a really appropriate time to holler in a movie theater about how badass and obnoxious you are and proud to have Chris Evans and his fine self kicking ass dressed like a flag. America is an obnoxious country. But sometimes it’s in a really awesome way. And if you’re gonna be in France and spend all your time trying to fit in and repress your innate obnoxious American-ness, you may as well scream “AMERICAAAA!!!” at the end of a fucking kick-ass movie.

Later that afternoon, Mel arrived in Cannes, and I took her back and showed her around the magnificent splendor that is the College. Over the next few days I took her around Cannes, including to Morrison’s, which is the local pub (which truthfully I’ve probably been to all of one time prior to this), because Stephen and Nick were playing at open mic and we all made a grand field trip to go see them perform. The irony of this of course is that Mel came all the way to France to hear two kids from Chapman sing Irish folk songs in a British pub. So it goes.

On Friday we left Cannes to go to Prague for the weekend, which was really beautiful. Prague is an interesting city, because the city center is very “old world Europe” and picturesque, but the rest of it is like, straight-up Soviet block and really ugly. There is very little Czech culture that you can tell of just visiting, and it’s incredibly touristy, but, like I said, it’s very very beautiful.

A weekend was probably enough time to be there, but we walked around and saw the city and all of it’s stunning old buildings, and SYNAGOGUES! This was probably one of the coolest things about Prague for me. Everywhere you travel in Europe you find these beautiful beautiful cathedrals, and you walk around and them and you’re impressed and stunned, but you also think, wow...this would be even more amazing if I were a part of this. Prague has old synagogues. At least two that are old and special enough to merit visiting, which as a very interesting experience for me. The fact that Prague has any Jewish culture at all is really cool and different from almost everywhere else I’ve been, and there were quite a few groups of old Orthodox Jews getting tours. All of a sudden my culture and history was relevant to what I was seeing, and like I said, it was a very interesting experience. I would love to visit more places in Europe with more Jewish history.

The only thing that rained on our parade in Prague was quite literally the rain, which started at the beginning of each evening only to descend into heavy thunderstorms throughout the night, so Prague was mostly a daytime thing for us. It was a really lovely, laidback time and I ate very well (including one evening in our hotel where we wandered into a huge buffet dinner for an Italian tour group, which the maitre-d assumed we were a part of and we accidentally had dinner for free.) All in all a very pretty city and a lovely and chill experience, and ALSO, perhaps most importantly for you to know, we flew Swiss Air and they give you chocolate. So now you know THAT, and it’s crazy to think that the next time I’m going to be on a plane, it will be the first leg of my trip home. Nice to London Heathrow, London Heathrow to San Francisco. How insane! Further entries and updates to come soon on this past weekend’s excursions--to nature!!

Monday, May 7, 2012


So, something pretty exciting happened in France yesterday. Francois Hollande was voted to be the next President of France! He's the first Socialist (Liberal) President in 17 years. We've been following the election in my classes, so I actually knew what was going on, and it was terribly exciting. I lost a lot of bets. This is really really awesome though.

I was in Prague during the actual announcement, but I watched the news on the French channel during his acceptance speech and the mob crazy parties in the Bastille. What an amazing thing to be a part of and to understand and appreciate. I made sure to get newspapers today so one day I can show my children, who won't care at all, that I was there when this was happening! Hooray for progressive social reforms and liberal leadership!! VIVA LA FRANCE!

Les Baux de Provence

photo by Jennifer Ayo-Akinyemi