Daniel Fierman
May 22, 2006 AT 12:00 PM EDT

Having arrived late at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival — due to my best friend’s long-overdue, much-overwrought wedding — I’ve spent much of my first two days on the Croisette scrabbling like a short-legged puppy to catch up. (That and feeling terribly grateful for my brilliant colleagues Greg and Lisa, who covered my butt with good humor and aplomb). And, I have to say, 48 hours into the experience and I’m feeling at home already. I’m exhausted. Hung over. I have brutal, bruised-fruit bags under my eyes. And I’ve seen enough grotesquely fake breasts and teeny-tiny dogs to get me through at least two calendar years.

Yup, it’s Cannes time. This is my fourth fest and I’m starting to wonder if anything ever changes in this shiny little seaside town. The red carpet rolls. The champagne pours. The tourists throng the streets. High meets low and the absurd is pretty much the only thing on the menu. Last night was no exception. I bounced from catching up with  Pedro Almodóvar film Volver (which stars Penélope Cruz, pictured, and is every bit as good as everyone says) to a yacht party for the D.O.A. Richard Kelly movie Southland Tales (a floating wake with fancy seafood). From there I caught the first 20 minutes of Oliver Stone’s new film about the last two rescue workers pulled from the rubble of the Twin Towers. I know. I know exactly what you’re thinking. But trust me when I tell you the movie is beautiful, restrained, and entirely apolitical. That, and fairly upsetting. So one can imagine how odd it was to immediately hightail it to a party first for a movie packed with animated characters (Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge) and then to a movie packed with characters having animated sex (John Cameron Mitchell’s porn-y Short Bus). By the time I made it home at 2 a.m., I wasn’t sure whether to weep or drink some more. So I just passed out.

(A strategy that worked quite nicely, thank you.)

So what can I tell you from a newcomer’s perspective? The criticalpiñata of the festival is unquestionably Southland Tales. Kelley’sDonnie Darko follow-up may have a supporter here or there, but theapocalyptical mish-mash of a movie clocked in at a staggering 2 hoursand 40 minutes and woke up this morning to some of the worst reviewsthe festival has seen this side of Brown Bunny. Today was largelydevoted to interviews and get-to-know-yous as the town gears up for abig X-Men party tonight. (Director Brett Ratner is unavoidable andappears to know everyone.) But the big-ticket movies start up again inearnest tomorrow and film-heads all along the Croisette are gearing upfor its final three big entries of the festival: Babel starring CateBlanchett and Brad Pitt, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, and, ofcourse, the Borat movie.

More as it comes. And, dear readers, please pray for me. And my liver. It needs all the help it can get.

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