Cannes diary: the town is so rammed hands grab me from my mailbox

Cannes explodes around midday Thursday. One moment I'm walking along the promenade, idly thinking that this year's festival feels positively serene. The next, it seems, I can't move for tourists and delegates, vendors and buyers. A flotilla of official black cars stand frozen, end to end, amid the human traffic. Wherever the cars are going, they are going to be late.

It's like this every year, so I really should remember. The first day sets the stage and the second promptly fills it. The starting gun is fired and the films come thick and fast. Not 24 hours earlier, the critics camped out in the cinema like half-starved lions on an arid plain, squabbling over the one stray antelope that came their way (Grace of Monaco; skin and bone). But now they are suddenly stampeded, overrun, spun head over heels and desperately snapping their jaws as the prey rushes by. There are always too many antelope; you can never catch them all.

Inside the Lumiere theatre I manage to land Atom Egoyan's Captives, in which Ryan Reynolds' everyday Joe loses his daughter to a paedophile ring. It's a tacky CSI-style crime drama, replete with headstrong cops and a twitchy, opera-singing villain, although Egoyan's elliptical handling gives it a thin veneer of class. Captives is a Palme d'Or contender. Please God, don't let it win.

Next door, in the Debussy, we run down The Blue Room. Mathieu Amalric directs and stars as faithless Julien, a small-town businessman who takes a mistress and winds up on a murder charge. He comes scurrying through the plot like a frightened mouse, the traps snapping at his tail, although the film itself rather loses steam after a teasing, pleasing opening half.

In the meantime the schedule's getting ahead of us. We keep hearing word of the movies we have missed. There is a lot of love for Bande de Filles, Celine Sciamma's banlieue-set coming-of-age tale, which opened the directors' fortnight. But I'm also hearing good things about another film called Girlhood. It takes me a while to twig than Bande de Filles and Girlhood are the exact same picture. Some critics are using the French title and other critics the English, and at some point between the screenings I have become lost in translation. The Blue Room looks good. Maybe I should try to see that one next.

Upstairs at the Palais sits a long wall of press boxes, a stacked set of pigeonholes for the visiting delegates. These pigeonholes open at the rear to the Cannes festival mailroom, where an army of invisible employees sort through the post. Today, when I reach inside for my invites and releases, a hand extends from the darkness and abruptly grabs me by the fingers. It is just a mailroom attendant amusing himself, but for a second I don't know whether to laugh or start screaming. What's going on; what role should I play? Is this the first scene of a French teen romance or the opening shock of an English-language horror flick? Spend too long at the festival and the world feels like a movie.

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