Jacques Tati would have been perfectly at home in Hollywood. No place allows the unassuming more freedom than Los Angeles. One can almost see Tati's gangly Mr. Hulot on every street corner, a misplaced pedestrian leaning ever so slightly into the rivers of traffic, his eternal pipe making its own small contribution to the smog. An undying urban nostalgic, Tati's elegant clown would have found an endless supply of grotesque modernity--both human and architectural--in this city with no center.

I recently spent a week in L.A. for a film festival, and the Tati moments came fast and thick. A peripatetic man with bushy beard singed himself trying to light an Export A cigarette he had nervously bummed from a model. A very drunken man took a debonair bow when the cocktail waitress gave him another drink, blowing her a wet kiss with true passion. Sean Penn showed up, but hid behind a bush, afraid of his own celebrity. And, best of all, I watched two people on a cell phone converse for almost two minutes before they realized they were in the same large room.

And then there were the name tags. At film festivals, all guests are issued color-coded name tags: blue for directors, red for actors, purple for press. Mine was a green producer's badge, slung in the middle of my chest on a short length of ball chain. The effect of these badges, it soon occurred to me, was analogous to that of exposed cleavage: No one made eye contact until first fixing a gaze on the area between my breasts. Green was a relatively alluring color in the festival spectrum. More often than not, the faces upturned to me would be kindly. Not so the dreaded yellow badge. Signifying "staff," this badge would cause the perverse viewer to avert his eyes in near disgust, as if he had caught a glimpse of the bearer's falsies.

On the last day of the festival, a short, stocky, fast-talking man cornered me, his eyes fixed on the area between my breasts. "So, you got a film in the festival?" he asked rapidly. "Yes," I confessed, and told him the film's title. "Sorry, didn't see it, didn't see it, too busy," he yapped, and began to palaver restlessly, talking about "The Industry," complaining about Hollywood, asking me if I'd seen any stars. All the while, his eyes darted uneasily about, refusing to meet mine, casting themselves into the crowd in search of someone more famous. Finally, he caught a glimpse of a celebrity--I think it was Steven Soderbergh--and impatiently grabbed my hand. "Hey, shit, gotta go, gotta go!" he said, pumping my arm. "By the way, I loved your film."