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Ebert has a strict regimen at Cannes

The film critic goes to see four films a day.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Roger Ebert has spent nearly three decades perfecting his Cannes Film Festival regimen: see four films a day, attend the occasional black-tie event and go easy on the beach parties.

“I’m not interested in being one of 2,000 people in a giant tent at midnight,” Ebert said in an interview at a Cannes cafe this week. “I found out many years ago that you cannot go to the midnight parties and to the 8:30 a.m. screenings. I found out by hard experience. You sleep through them.”

Since 1976, America’s most recognizable movie critic has missed Cannes only once, in 2002, when his shoulder was broken. The Pulitzer Prize winner even wrote a book on Cannes, “Two Weeks in the Midday Sun.”

Ebert, 61, has watched Cannes grow from a small, relaxed seaside festival into a whirlwind event with hundreds of screenings, lavish parties and countless paparazzi.

At first, Ebert says, only a few U.S. reviewers made the trip to the Riviera. Perhaps his book helped change that.

“I think some of my colleagues read the book and decided that it sounded like a lot of fun and they wanted to get over here,” he joked.

Healthier, happier criticAt Cannes, the Chicago Sun-Times reviewer and co-host of “Ebert & Roeper and the Movies” tries to see as many movies as possible. (In 1999, he started the Overlooked Film Festival to back movies and genres that he feels have been forgotten or ignored.)

Ebert has kept busy despite surgery and radiation treatment for salivary cancer last summer. A recent scan came back clean, and Ebert says his health seems to be in the clear.

He has also shed 86 pounds, very slowly over 18 months. Following the Pritikin nutrition plan, he eats a lot of steamed vegetables and fish. He wears a pedometer on his belt and makes sure to walk 10,000 steps a day.

Ebert is also preparing a book, a second compilation of reviews of 100 great movies. Since the advent of VCRs and DVDs, he says, people have become overly focused on the movies of the moment. He wants to bring the the classics back to the spotlight.

“I don’t want to sound like an (old-timer) who has been around too long, but when I was in college and when I started as a film critic, young people were very, very intensely curious about film,” he said.

“They went to foreign films all the time. There were revivals of classics. ... You went not because you wanted to see the ‘The Rules of the Game’ by (Jean) Renoir, you went because it was 25 or 50 cents. It was a cheap date on a Saturday night.”

Another project is a Web site that will have all his reviews and other articles going back to 1967, the year he quit a doctoral program in English to become a reviewer.

Ebert says he tries to write about as many movies as possible — one reason why his reviews are popular on the Internet.

“I go out of my way to see subtitled films, documentaries and independent films,” he said. “I’m the only critic who virtually reviews almost everything he can.”