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Cannes 2009

The Red Shoes restoration

15 May 2009

I'm home - and it's raining :)

St Pancras, London, Eurostar platform

Not much though and it'd take more than a bit of rain to wash away the memories of a fabulous few days in Cannes and on the Cote d'Azure.

I left early on Thursday May 14th to get the Eurostar from St. Pancras in London to go under the channel to France. The one I got took us to Lille, right up at the top end of France so then we had another journey down the full length of France on their TGV train. Very nice and comfortable and a good way to see the French countryside. TGV stands for Train Grande Vitesse although it wasn't all that "Vitesse". It took about 7 hours from Lille to Nice. It would have been faster, and cheaper, to fly to Nice but I had never been through the channel tunnel and I always like new experiences.

I got into Nice on Thursday evening only to find the small hotel I'd booked a room at had no water or electricity! But they'd booked me in to another place just around the corner and that was fine. I contacted Andy Moor who was already in Nice and we met up to have a look around the place and had a nice meal in the old flower market (Cours Saleya).

Lille from the station

Nice at night

Andy & I met up again on the Friday morning, planning to take a train into Cannes itself. That was delayed a bit due to a strike which stopped some of the local trains. But we got into Cannes by about 2ish and met up with the lovely Natacha who had come down from Paris that afternoon. Natacha had found a friend who had a small apartment in Cannes itself, not too far from the main festival site. It turned out to be a lovely little place, looking out over the beach at the west end of the town.

Looking into the apartment from the patio

The apartment looked out over the beach

The usual and expected amount of chaos and confusion as we organised meeting up with Thelma and the rest of the gang. There had been a faint chance that Thelma might be able to blag a place on the red carpet walk for Natacha and myself - but in the end, it didn't happen. We only just managed to get Thelma herself there! But we did have the "fun" of being photographed by just about everyone along the main Boulevard. They (almost certainly) didn't know who we were, they just saw a group of people dressed up smartly, walking along to the main festival area - so they all snapped away. Great fun when it only happens occasionally, but it must be hell to have that happen every day.

Ready to go:
Steve, Kathleen Byron's daughter Harriet, the lovely
Natacha, Patsy Nightingale, Kathleen's granddaughter,
Thelma Schoonmaker, Ian Christie, Andrew Moor
and Columba Powell

Thelma & Columba

Chatting and laughing as we go. Note Natacha's red shoes!

It's a paradox. Or a pair of Docs
What a happy handsome couple

Ian, Natacha & Steve

It's those 3 again

Beautiful lady
Natacha's "Vogue cover girl" shot

Beautiful lady
"I'm ready for my close up"

OK, so back to the story. We just about managed to get Thelma to the red carpet in time and the rest of us made our way up to The Suquet Terrace on the 4th floor of the Palais de Festival where there was the champagne reception. Or that was the theory. The security people at the main doors took a lot of convincing that we should be allowed through and when we did get there, they kept running out of the fizzy stuff. But everything was sorted out eventually. All will be well in the best of all possible worlds.

A few more old friends to meet and greet once we got going up there. Prudence Goring, widow of Marius had made it, as had Christian Routh, Hein Heckroth's grandson and Jack Cardiff's widow Niki and son Mason. I'd met Niki & Prudence at various P&P events before and although I'd emailed with Christian I'd never actually met him, so that was good. Also there was Craig McCall, in full Highland costume, well done Craig. Then the red carpet party arrived and that of course included the great man himself, Martin Scorsese. Thelma introduced us and we had a quick chat, he's a very nice man.

But tempus keeps on fugiting and before long it was time to make our way down to the Theatre to see the film - after all, that was one of the main reasons for being there. They had put us in the main Brunuel Theatre rather than the Theatre Debussy where it had planned to be, probably because there were just so many people that wanted to see it. As well as all the invited guests there were also TV cameras & people from the press all around the edges. It's a large theatre, seating over a thousand people. Very nice and comfortable with good views for all. We were seated in the centre block, about 5 rows back, so had a great view of everything.

Natacha, Andy & I had been handing out PaPAS badges and cards whenever we could and some people were even queuing up asking for them. It all helps to spread the word. There was one young lady sitting a few rows behind us and as soon as she saw them she called over to me to ask for some. I gladly passed a few back to Tilda Swinton. She was already on the Famous Fans list on this site and that will be getting an update soon because of the work she's done showing IKWIG in Nairn and in China - with Mandarin subtitles.

We all settled down and there was an introduction from the festival director, Thierry Frémaux and then he introduced Martin Scorsese to thunderous applause. Marty gave an introductory speech saying why it had been necessary to set up The Film Foundation and why in particular The Red Shoes was so important to him. He dedicated the screening to the memory of Jack Cardiff who had died just last month. Marty called Thelma up onto the stage to more applause and she pointed out various people in the audience who then got their own round of applause. People connected with the film or with The Archers in general like Columba, Prudence Goring, Moira Shearer's daughter Rachel Hall, and her daughter, Eleanor, Niki & Mason Cardiff, Christian Routh, Kathleen Byron's daughter Harriet and her daughter, Andrew Macdonald (Emeric's grandson). Then there were a few other people who were more famous in their own right but are also known fans of The Archers like Tilda Swinton, Mark Cousins, Ang Lee, James Gray, Rosanna Arquette, Harvey Weinstein and others. Did anyone count the number of Oscar winners (or representatives thereof) in that room?

There were also quite a few people from the organisations that had funded the restoration and who will be helping to distribute this new print. Like ITV's Director of Operations and Servicing Fiona Maxwell, Karen Stetler from Criterion, Bob Gitt from UCLA who restored the film and lots of other great people.

Marty and Thelma took their seats, to even more applause and the film started. And what a film, what a restoration, very sharp and clear, very clean and bright. But I loved that they deliberately didn't try to "improve" any of the mistakes or things where the original film was limited by the technology of the time. Like the cut as Vicky runs down the spiral staircase or the "smudges" on the masking when she starts to float through the air in the ballet. It would have been so easy to tidy those up with modern technology, but I'm so glad that they didn't. There are a few bits that need to be checked in more detail where I and others commented that they saw something that they didn't notice before. But we'll do that when we go to see it at Edinburgh and on the Blu-Ray edition.

Now I've seen The Red Shoes many times with some very interesting people in the audience, but this is one for the record books. I've also never known an audience to applaud at the end of the ballet - but this audience did. Lermontov won his bet, they applauded before the end.

But there aren't enough adjectives to do it justice. Go and see it. I've seen the nitrate print from the Academy archive, and this one is better. Subtly different, but better. It's to be released on Blu-Ray and DVD and will do the tour of festivals and cinemas so as soon as you hear that it's on a continent near you, go and see it.

But eventually it came to the end of the film. Tears were shed, a standing ovation from a thousand people. What a beautiful response. Marty and all the people involved in the restoration, those that funded it and those that did the work, they must be so pleased. Many of them were there and we told them that they'd done a superb job.

Natacha adds: After the screening, I saw James Gray for the second time (the first time was before, which touched me because he is one of the members of the jury at Cannes festival this year, for the main competition, which means he has seen a lot of films already) and asked him if he had enjoyed the film. He said yes, of course: he adores the film and saw it many times. He asked me if I had seen Le Narcisse noir (Black Narcissus), which he also likes very much. I said I had! Then I gave him the badge: he was pleased. ;)

We gradually made our way out of the Palais de Festival and to a lovely restaurant up on the 7th floor in a 4 star hotel near the old port. More drinks and nibbles, more chatting and meeting people. Then we sat down to eat.


Friday, 15 May 2009


Crab and Avocado served in a glass
With quinoa caviar and tomato jelly

Large langoustine rolled in a filet of Sole
Glazed with Tio Pépé
And half-salted swiss chard stalks and leaves

Exotic fruit carpaccio

We wish you a pleasant moment with us

It's a tough life but we managed to struggle through it all - in fact it was delicious, especially that exotic fruit carpaccio of thinly sliced pineapple with mango and passion fruit topped with ice cream. It's a good job the cummerbund was adjustable.

Then a lot more mingling and chatting to people. I had a nice chat with Mr Scorsese just before he left and then I had a much longer chat with Tilda & Thelma. Tilda is definitely a P&P enthusiast. She had already shown IKWIG at the festival she and Mark Cousins (her partner and a well known face to film fans in the UK) had shown in north Scotland (Nairn). They then took it with them when they went to China and they got subtitles done in Mandarin so that they could show it there as well - and it was very well received. She loved hearing about some of the things we'd done like San Sebastian (43 Powell films in 10 days), A Canterbury Tale in Canterbury cathedral, AMOLAD in the courtyard of Somerset House, Gone to Earth in the Shropshire village where it was made. And she loved the sound of our annual location trips to Canterbury and our big trip to Mull for IKWIG. Especially when I explained how we do re-enactments there by getting people to read out a few lines from the scene that was filmed there. I expect we'll be hearing from that young lady again.

And so the evening gradually drew to a close, by about 2am. We saw Thelma, Ian and the others into a taxi and then Andy, Natacha and I walked back to the apartment. Well, maybe not so much "walked" as floated on air. Tired, but oh so happy, we tumbled into bed. Andy used the couch for a few hours and then went back to Nice to get his plane home. It's tough work being an academic.

So what did we do next? Read Part 2

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