"In America, they deal in dollars -- it's impersonal," he said of the theater-going experience. "But in France, we're more sentimental. We count the people."
He continued to wax poetic about the importance of the cinema -- how we live in a world in which social media invite us to create fictions about ourselves, and so in a movie theater we are just "fiction in the face of another fiction." Cinema, he said, is "human warmth," something far more inviting than "eating pizza and watching Netflix."
"Don't go home this evening," he told the audience.
Then a Belgian singer named Angele came out to sing "Sans Toi," a song from Varda's "Cleo de 5 a 7." It was pretty and she was wearing a flowing dress.
Enter the jury! Baer called each member of the panel to the stage as if they were a contestant in a beauty pageant, with each pausing center stage under a spotlight and gesturing to the crowd. The only one to speak was Inarritu, who told the crowd that Cannes had been "very crucial" to his career since his first film, "Amores Perros," premiered here 20 years ago.
"We are going to be doing some exciting, delicious work," he said, gesturing toward his fellow jurors, who were seated on a couch at the side of the stage. "I feel I'm about to taste some delicious fruits."
After a reel previewing some of the "delicious fruits" that will be shown here over the next two weeks, Baer was back and at the piano, singing a song about Jarmusch being a genius with "crazy silver hair." Again: Inexplicable. Very French. Kind of amazing?
Then Charlotte Gainsbourg, who had a role in Inarritu's "21 Grams," and Javier Bardem, who starred in the director's "Biutiful," emerged to officially declare the festival open.
And yet it was still not time for the film to play. First, a production crew had to come and break down the entire set -- meaning the piano, a giant golden Palme d'Or, lights and furniture. This took 26 minutes, during which the crowd sat restlessly, many taking the selfies they weren't allowed to take on the carpet.
Unfortunately for Focus Features, "The Dead Don't Die" seemed to go over about as well as Baer's emcee skills. There were a few laughs, but no one walked out gushing over what they'd just seen. Still, the tuxedoed masses made their way down the Croisette to the JW Marriott, where the film's afterparty was taking place on the roof.
Because the cast had an obligation to attend an official festival dinner, none of the movie's stars arrived at the bash until well after midnight. Not that many seemed to notice, given how many partygoers stopped to pose with the performers donning elaborate zombie makeup in the dark hallway leading to the event.
Inside, tents shielded guests from light rain, and a magician circled the room doing upclose card tricks. A 25-year-old Brit named Maximilian, the magician said he was a regular at Cannes (last year he performed at the late Paul Allen's legendary yacht party). Then he took one of my rings and miraculously made it appear, linked on his keychain. Too bad he couldn't work his magic earlier in the evening.
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