Don's Diary

May 24, 1996

MONDAY. Although I'm on secondment from the British Film Institute to Oxford University, I work mostly at home in London, where books, films and videos threaten to swamp the house.

Monday, at least, is typical of this term, with the morning spent finalising a programme note for Wednesday's screening Q Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die! at the Phoenix Cinema Q and planning lectures. Then to the Tate Gallery for a snack lunch with David Curtis of the Arts Council, where I chair the Artists' Film and Video Exhibition sub-committee; and on to the offices of Film Education, off Oxford Street, to hear their ideas about interesting young people in European films, which I'm going to discuss in Cannes. Home in time to call on my father, who's in hospital for observation, and for a birthday supper for my son. Then a handout and bibliography to write for tomorrow's lectures, some faxes to Russia in preparation for my trip in early June, and packing for Oxford and Cannes, before bed at 2pm.

TUESDAY. Up at 6am and check my email. Find a welcome message confirming television purchase of a film made for the recent Hayward Gallery Spellbound exhibition. Off to Oxford by bus, underground, bus, reaching Magdalen College just in time to run off the handout before cycling to the English faculty to give the 10am lecture on film theory, part of a pilot English finals option, language, film and the media, planned for 1997. Jean Aitchison, the recent Reith lecturer, is one of the option's convenors. We meet at lunch and agree to trim the pilot syllabus and consider bringing the film screenings and classes forward into Michaelmas term to avoid student overload.

Back across Oxford for film theory 2, followed by answering correspondence and phone calls Q traditional Oxford handwritten notes now co-exist with answerphones and email, which frustratingly I do not yet have in Magdalen. Then by bus to Heathrow en route for Cannes. Sunset provides a blissful interlude. Reach my apartment at midnight and collapse.

WEDNESDAY. This must be my 18th Q and shortest Q Cannes. I am here as vice-president of Europa Cinemas, a European Commission programme that supports cinemas across the Union and now further afield, from Kazakhstan to Cyprus, which show at least 50 per cent European films. This is our third Cannes meeting, combining the AGM with a forum for member-exhibitors. It is impossible to do anything in Cannes without accreditation, so my first call is to see if my badge is waiting Q relief: it is. This year's accompanying bag of goodies includes a miniature radio to allow us to listen to Festival FM radio. Next, to the sprawling encampment of pavilions, like some designer medieval movie set, which cluster around the Palais des Festivals, for a lunch meeting with a French film education activist. I admire her lavishly printed classroom material and glowing account of passionate teachers. Wonder if we have any militants du cinema in schools in England.

Back to the Palais to haggle for a ticket for tomorrow's 8.30am screening, my only chance of seeing a competition film. Success. Back to apartment to speed-read the papers and work on an article. Then to a late dinner with fellow board members and our president, director Claude Miller. At midnight a spectacular Dutch firework display. Wonder how Dutch film makers feel about all that money going up in smoke.

THURSDAY. Up at 7am to join the desperate scramble for transport into Cannes Q a ticket does not guarantee a seat, and with a rumoured 29,000 accreditations the crush is bad. Reach the Palais by squatting on the floor of a minibus and triumphantly bound up the steps at 8.10am. Catch up on gossip with a BFI colleague while waiting for Bertolucci's Stealing Beauty to start.

The Europa Cinemas board meeting is followed by a formal AGM and a working lunch, before we move into the open meeting. I open the meeting in English Q to prove this is not a French plot Q and report on ideas for cinemas working with schools, which we hope to make a major theme of our second phase starting later in the year. Attendance is good, but there is obvious frustration over Brussels's slowness in confirming future plans.

The meeting ends with a cocktail, from which I go to the Edinburgh Film Festival reception, where I run into the critic David Robinson, who tells me about the book he's just finished on The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. As this is on our Oxford modern languages syllabus, I invite him to give a lecture next term. At 11.30pm manage to see an elegant Taiwanese film, A Drifting Life; staying awake with French subtitles is a struggle.

FRIDAY. Having failed to get a ticket for either the Taviani or the Cronenberg films, I pack before heading back into Cannes to give some Russian film lists to Lorenzo Codelli, one of the organisers of the Pordenone silent film festival. Then to the Russian stand to collect information on new films for a retrospective I am organising for the National Film Theatre in October. "Had a good festival?" my neighbour asks on the plane home. "I think so," I wearily reply.

Visiting lecturer in film, Oxford University, and a fellow of Magdalen College.

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