Forget all those bikini shots of Brigitte Bardot in Cannes. The weather is insane. When it's not freezing, it's rainy. And when the rain stops, the wind starts. Then there's 30 minutes of sun, just enough to trick you into changing into lighter clothes you'll immediately regret. At lunch on the waterfront, the breeze blew over empty wine glasses — an incentive to keep them filled — and swooped up an entire slice of salami. The meat landed in the middle of the Croisette, the long sidewalk that curves along the sea, and, by dessert, it began to melt in a mini heat wave.
The seven new crop tops I planned to wear with pedal pushers and Keds are stuck in the closet. Instead, I've spent every day huddled in a fur scarf and heavy black Blundstone boots. Salut from the south of France! At least the local weather update breaks the bad news gently. "A thunderstorm in the area," it whispers over a confusing cartoon of sun, fog, and rain. "A.M. showers, and then a shower."
Tonight, the forecast cautioned, "A passing shower or two." Perfect timing for an outdoor beach screening of, appropriately, Prince's Purple Rain. I grabbed a caramel-pistachio ice cream and strolled over, but as soon as I got in line, a man on a microphone announced that the movie was canceled. I couldn't understand why — the only French I made out was a sincere "désolé" — but it could have had something to do with the waves nearly swamping the screen. Or perhaps it's karma. Purple Rain might be Prince's best film, but it's not his most French. That's his gigolo comedy Under the Cherry Moon, which Prince directed himself just 30 minutes away in Nice. Even from the grave, the Purple One controls the world.
So it was off to the Magnum Ice Cream party, the kind of soirée you attend when you're alone and adrift in a foreign city. Kendall Jenner was there, practicing her skills as a dessert spokeswoman. (She's excellent at dipping vanilla popsicles in chocolate.) But my eyes were drawn to three 5-foot-tall rhinestone popsicles, each coated in enough bling to justify their own reality show, Keeping Up With the Kreamery.
Today is Friday the 13th, so it makes sense that I woke up early for an 8:30 a.m. movie I loathed. The French seaside murder-comedy Ma Loute started well enough, with the entrance of a walrus-shaped police captain who, trying to get close to a clue, flopped onto the sand like his fins refused to support his weight. He's hunting for corpses, but he won't find any. They've all been eaten by a broke fisherman's family, who are literally devouring the rich, a pack of fools who saunter around town, arms swinging, like they're about to break into the Charleston. Director Bruno Dumont despises his characters. The cops are morons; the poor are pimpled, sun-weathered thugs; and the wealthy are shrieking snobs. Everyone's always falling on their ass. Halfway into the film, Juliette Binoche, France's No. 1 screen queen, appears as a posh aunt and immediately starts mugging and screaming. A couple of people in the room laughed, and, at the director's comic prodding, kept laughing at her even when her character admits she was was raped by her father, and, later, is beaten senseless and left for dead. I tried to force myself to fall asleep, but no luck. So instead, I enjoyed the shiver of not just disliking a film but actively hating it.
Luckily, 30 minutes later I was watching something better: the Russian high school drama Uchenik, a.k.a. The Student. In it, a single mom is furious when her teen son Veniamin (the frighteningly skull-faced Petr Skvortsov) replaces his estranged father with a new one: God. Overnight, he becomes a religious zealot who bullies the principal into obeying his commandments, like forcing the girls in his swim class to wear modest tank-suits instead of bikinis. Only his biology teacher, Elena, is willing to combat him by boning up on Scripture to battle him quote for quote. (Director Kirill Serebrennikov annotates every chapter and verse to prove Veniamin has biblical backup when Veniamin interrupts class to yelp, "I permit no woman to have authority over a man!")
Yet Serebrennikov's real target isn't Christianity. He's interested in how Russians continue to surrender to powerful-sounding men, nearly a century after Stalin's rise. And when Elena mentions that Veniamin's anti-Semitism sure sounds like the Nazis, the principal yells that she's the problem, as though the country's painful history is both too fresh and too distant. At least costar Aleksandr Gorchilin, playing Veniamin's timid blond disciple, lightened the mood after the screening. When he took the stage in saggy pants and a long black coat Tolstoy would have loved, he grinned crazily at the flashbulbs and stuck out his tongue.