Victoria Jelinek

Cannes Film Festival

Cannes…It’s is an amazing party like nothing you’ll see anywhere – not Sundance, Toronto, Berlin, Venice, nowhere. It’s everyone in World Cinema and the European industry combined with everyone in the US industry, combined with super super super stars, combined with international wealth that one doesn’t usually see (arms dealers, for example), with huge yachts on the harbor, sparkling at night along the Croisette, and folks decked out in Chanel, Dior, Gucci for the premieres (black tie only, and its very cool as you walk down the red carpet and it all seems so celebratory! For film!). The main gig is along the Croisette (the main road, bordering the water) with Old Town providing the places for nice, relaxed dinners, and the beaches farther along the harbor for those who want some ‘peace.’ And most of the action that’s not private, happens behind the Grand Hotel. It’s a lot of fun and its gorgeous. I’ve gone there to work and I’ve gone there to bask in my ex husband’s credentials, expense account, passes, etc (where I went to every party, and a premiere every night, and his offices were on the Croisette, costing 40k Euros for rental for two weeks), and I enjoyed it and it was EXHAUSTING. I felt like I had Rose wine streaming through my veins by the time I left ALL times. However, it is IMPOSSIBLE to get into parties, on the beach, in the villas up in the hills, on the boats, anywhere, without invites/being on guest lists, and it’s near impossible to get into most films without a pass, and absolutely impossible to attend a premiere unless you know a distributor who can give you an invite, or you go with an A List star (and even then, hmmm). The villas, the parties on the beach, all heavily guarded/manned, as are the premieres, where even if you DO have a ticket, you may not get in and it’s a real mess (see A List bringing an entourage and over-issuing to insure packed houses). It’s gorgeous, blue sparkling, French Riviera, and its silver-colored sea with the sparkling lights at night. However, even when you ARE working, or ARE with an ‘important’ person, or are beloved by those you’re around, EVERYONE is always looking over your shoulder as they talk to you, and around the room, to see who else is there, etc…but it is exhilarating even as it’s heartbreaking.

Berlin in the Summer

Berlin in the summer is absolutely and completely wonderful – warm, bikes to rent with your cell phone on each corner, then leave on any corner when you’re done, the Tiergarten and zoo next to the Zoo Station, the Potsdammer Platz for wide boulevards of shopping, and if you go west along it all the way, you’ll come to the old expatriate zone (during WWII), AND also, there’s Grunewald Baumgarten, where you can walk/ride a bike, and also visit the great collection of Modern art – small, but fine – called the Brucke Museum (David Bowie’s favorite, as he and Iggy Pop spent a lot of time in Berlin in the 70’s), Prinz Lauer Berg for hipster boutiques, parks, cafes and bars, (including where you pay for your wine after you’ve drunk it on an honor system), and ‘rotating’ dance/club nights – one of which I went to there were Russ Myer films playing on a reel, a Mariachi band playing Doobie Brothers tunes, and a bucking bull with a prize of a tequila with a worm. Also in Prinz Lauer Berg is the best curry wurst stand in all of Berlin. So many cultural events on offer to the public every day it’s hard to keep track of. There are lakes just outside of the city – maybe 20 minutes by car – to swim in, the Brandenburg Gate and Friedrichstrasse, where there is also “Checkpoint Charlie”, a few associated museums around that, there are man made ‘beaches’ all along Museum Isle (where the national, new national museums are and are gorgeous and contrasting architectural types), where you sit on beach chairs in the sand, buy crepes, beer or wine or coffee and sunbathe on the water looking at the Reichstag (for pete’s sake), and there’s the new (ish) Sony Center and Palast theatre, near the Grand Hyatt, which is also the center for the Berlin Film Festival and European Film Market, and the new (ish) Holocaust Museum whose building is as much a part of the exhibition as the exhibition itself (very eerie, really wonderful).

Roatan, Honduras
February 23, 2010, 1:19 pm
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I’d sailed over from Guatemala to Roatan, Honduras, and had taken all these – prohibited by the RDA  – anti sea sickness pills (which really worked) and by the time we got to Roatan, my balance was so off, I kept taking spills like crazy (making me look drunker than I was). BUT, there was a lovely restaurant and hotel overlooking the sea where we stayed, and I had a pet lizard in my shower with me the whole time that I grew to quite like (small, cute), AND I met two pilots – private jet for the guy who started a huge amusement park franchise that I’ll not name here and travels around by yacht with his family, two home schooled kids, who are a little weird, and he wanted them to fly wherever they were sailing in case they didn’t want to sail anymore – SOOOO, after spending a few days with them there, taking in the sun, watching the sad packs of dogs, looking at the cool, turquoise blue water, taking kayaking lessons (really just so that the handsome instructor would have to flip me back up and around again so that I could breath!), drinking ‘Monkey Piladas’ and smoking hooch joints from the bartender at the bar I frequented (using paper bags as rolling paper), I flew onto San Pedro Sula in their jet, then the Yucatan in their jet…anyway, I had a good time there  – and met some taxi drivers, too, who had like 26 kids each!

Chamonix, France
January 13, 2010, 1:13 pm
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Clear, crisp air that feels like it’s cleaning your pores. The squeak of your shoes in the snow. Mountains on all sides rising so high against blue skies that they look false. Glacial run-off creating rivers that you can feel the coolness emanating from when you walk near them and can hear in the quiet of the night. Little crosses and chapels dotting the hills. Chalets with snow logs on their roofs to keep the snow from falling on their inhabitants. Red shutters. Copper roofs. Darkened and aged wood on the older homes. Sunshine that tans the face even as you wear several downy layers. Pussy willow trees. Skiing and waffles and chocolat chaud. Beaufort and Tomme cheese made by special cows in the Alps and local farmers, sold at the market each Saturday. Men in thick wool sweaters smoking while driving their snow plows and tractors. Mountain lakes so clear that the colors range from dark blue to aqua. Population explosion in the winter and summer bringing big, fancy 4wd BMW’s, huge tourist buses and queues for the gondolas. Paragliders, climbers, skiers, hikers, bikers, snowboarders. Helicopters overhead. The sound of avalanches and the explosion of dynamite to set off controlled avalanches. The smell of pine and wood burning stoves. Nights so brightened by the moon that you don’t need artificial light and your body casts a shadow. The single light on the mountains indicating the snow machine levelling the pistes. Tartiflette, fondue, and cremeaux in the evening as Haute Savoie fare. Quiet nights. Starry skies. Snow and ice.

New Year in Death Valley, CA
January 3, 2010, 10:28 am
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The Solaris soundtrack, miles of sand, ice like formations of salt, flower beds, craters of different color/strata that looked like the moon, Cubist Joshua trees and cactus, huge camper vans with folks travelling from Nebraska and Wisconsin to Death Valley, the salt sea with just dead bones, rusted, abandoned cars, wooden frames left from houses and hotels of ‘the boom era.’

A little bar, dinner of steak and potato, and then countdown, staying at the one-story motel attached. Rather lacklustre, half-hearted feeling, folks drinking beer quickly. Went out to the road, a dark night with starry skies, headlights on the horizon from miles away, and danced…could still hear the local band’s music.

Zimbabwe – Elephant with an Identity Problem
December 6, 2006, 5:32 pm
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While on safari in Zimbabwe at the Imire Game Reserve in July of 1995, we came across this elephant who has established herself as a female ruler of the Cape Buffalo herd. Anna thinks she is a Cape Buffalo. At least she’s preferred the company of the buffalo to her own kind for twenty years. Anna was brought to the game reserve at the age of eighteen months with one of her siblings. The sibling died shortly thereafter, and Anna did’nt identify with the other elephants. Instead, she attached herself to a Cape Buffalo herd on the reserve. Anna grew large eventually, and the buffalo realized that she was’nt one of them. At this point, the lead bull challenged her, and Anna, realizing instinctively that she outweighed him by at least a ton, literally squashed him.

This killing was the first of many in the years to come. She had established a matriarchy. A decade ago, the game keepers came to the conclusion that something had to be done to save the bulls and increase the herd! Anna was eventually going to make it impossible to mate because of her defeats and deaths to the bulls who challenged her power.The gamekeepers responded to this crisis by removing the bulls from the herd and taking the females to them singly to mate, so as not to arouse Anna’s suspicions. Later, the fledgling bulls would be taken from their mothers so as not to be at risk, and another herd, with a few select cows, would be created.

Within the last decade, nature itself has compensated for the herd’s losses by producing four male to every one female birth. Nature is incredibly self sustaining, and in the case of Anna and her herd of Cape Buffalo, freakish. To my question of why the Cape Buffalo don’t just ostracize her collectively and take the risk for the greater gain, Paul Ritson, game keep, said, “If you had a loaded gun to your head, would you risk escape?”