On Cannes this year

Unknown Romanian wins best picture in Cannes with an ultra low-budget movie. Julian Schnabel gets best director for a movie about a guy trapped in bed from a beautiful, beautiful (French) book. Persepolis will be marketed big-time in the USA, and give the best glimpse into the thinking of Iranian women. And a genius named Reygadas makes a movie about Mennonites in Mexico which will show that Mexican cinema is much more than blood and guts. Japanese movie finishes second. Gus van Sant gets an achievement award.

Where's Hollywood? They spent a ton of money on the ads and posters and parties and got a bunch of raspberries for their trouble.

I got as far as Monte Carlo a week before the festival and was determined to take my modest production into Cannes to film a glamour model walking around the contruction and the pre-festival bustle, but made the mistake of stopping in San Remo instead. Crazy little town, famous for a second-rate music festival, a kissing cousin to Atlantic City with a shabby casino in the shadows of Monaco's bluffs, and the weird hotel I scouted for a shoot was something straight out of 1950's Brooklyn, kitsch and rubbishy art, and the night manager pulls me aside after the first day of shooting and says:

"Look, this is me seven years ago, when I was younger than you, and I was tall and confident and in charge of a music business, and this is her."

He shows me a dozen pristine photographs of a striking young woman, beautiful and confident.

"She gets killed and leaves me with a son who can play the piano and in-laws who somehow blame me, perhaps for marrying above my head, and I carry these pictures around in that briefcase because without them I am dead, and then who is there for her son? Maybe I shrink into the small man holding these photographs, opening the hotel doors after midnight for the drunk guests who stumble in from the casino, and maybe I can't be bothered to read or write even a postcard or listen to any music. I don't have the machine, I have no discs, and I hear no melody when I am out on the street; just horns and tires and the police calling me to kill me with news about the end of this woman's smile. But I have enough left in me to tell her son to keep playing. Play, I beg him. He is not very good. But he plays. She is tone deaf, so it wouldn't matter to her."

We both look at the photographs. I tellhim I was born and raised in Cannes, and I want to take the model in room 223 who looks remarkably like his wife to Cannes to have her walk around in the preparation for the festival, but that my wings are programmed always to fly toward beauty, and this stinking hotel with its crumpled nightwatchman holding onto his photos for dear life is better than anything I can find in Cannes, to which he says:

"I am not beautiful and neither is the crap in Cannes, so perhaps you are wasting your time and you should go back to somebody who smiles at you when you smile at them."

We don't go to Cannes. Sushi at the harbor in Monte Carlo is as close as we get before we drive back to Ostia. The nightwatchman gives me nothing to film, adds nothing to the set or the piece I am shooting except for the fact that he is watching me. And stories always feel secure with an audience like this, so a story creeps out of me in San Remo and flickers into being in front of the cameras.

When we leave early in the morning the nightwatchman brings me to a table and tells me to move a chair. I can't. Tha chairs are attached to the table, and the table is attached to the floor, and atop the table a reclining stone Buddha takes up all the space. Nobody would sit here, and couldn't if they wanted to. The nightwatchman treads the floor around the table legs. There is a spot, he says, and if you stand on it you will break through the flooring and fall into the city sewer. We smile at each other and he shrugs the classic slow shrug of his fatigued neighborhood.

"My son plays out of tune for my dead lover, and I watch my step so I am not washed out to sea with the tourists' merde. I am sorry you see me like this, because seven years ago I would have made you some music and we could have gone to laugh at the fools in Cannes, and we could have walked to the Californie with my wife like a swan among sparrows, and you could have told her your story of throwing the pots and pans from the third-floor balcony, and she would have smiled every second of it, because to her every sparrow was also a swan. And I dont know how much you know about swans, but they don't usually think that way."

On the road to Ostia I remember that a week before I was in Beirut, shooting a scuba diver and the oil spill, and before that filming a waitress in Rome who sings like Frank Sinatra, and before that a woman in her sixties who brought Arabic dance to RAI and the Italians who dances for four hours and exclaims "Why do you stop!" when I collapse, exhausted. Why am I going back to Hollywood? Because of the lynx who lives with me on top of the hill above the city? For the coyotes? The hummingbirds and red-tailed hawks? To meet with producers on the deck and try to fool somebody into financing my plans?

What beautiful thing has come from Hollywood? What shattering idea? What sublime nuance, which charming tale? Is the place so putrid and shallow that I don't notice the dead wives and tables screwed in above the trapdoors to the sewage? Cannes thumbs its nose at Santa Monica. So what? Cannes is full of shallow fools chasing power and money.

Where is the eject button?