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Cannes You Tell Me About Cannes



Yikes! I’ve obviously been coming to Cannes for too many years. I just saw Mexican actor Gael Garcia Bernal and he is a grey haired, middle aged man. It seems only like ‘yesterday’ that I captured a photo of him, a dark haired, boyish figure bounding up the Croisette.

*Sighs*. Time really does fly.

As do thousands of film journalists, filmmakers, actors, directors, PR agents. Into Nice each year to make the 45 minute journey to Cannes, which the rest of the year sits serenely as a sleepy seaside town. For 12 days in May though, the place explodes into a riot of colour, glamour, fireworks, red carpet premieres and crowds. Oh the crowds! You don’t so much walk the Croisette during the festival as shuffle along it, propelled by the sea of humanity that has descended on the town. The locals mostly hate it. And after about 5 days in the festival fray, so do many of the attendees!

You need to stock up on the energy levels to survive it because it’s probably the most in-your-face film festival. The excitement and bull sh** are present in equal measure. Both pretty much start on the plane and don’t let up the whole time you’re in the palm tree paradise.

The excitement hits you as early as Nice airport when you spot the paparazzi as soon as you land. And just as you adjust your hair and get ready to wave, you see they’re here for a European starlet you don’t recognise. She alights with a poodle in her arms and minions to carry her 53 pieces of designer luggage and you just know this is going to be a magnificent fortnight.

And the bs because everyone you meet is full of it. Just as every bar tender and waitress in Hollywood is an actor awaiting his/her big break, so everyone walking aimlessly up and down the Croisette is a ‘producer’, ‘director’, ‘writer’ with a ‘project’. By the end of the second day you could cheerfully strangle the next person who wants to tell you all about the screenplay he’s ‘working on.’

Cannes is both an inspiring and heartbreaking place for wannabe film makers. And there are plenty of them over the 12 days, yearning for that one lucky break.

But the sad reality is, that save for the lucky handful who will go onto make some sort of career in the film-business, most of those soaking up the sun on the beaches or sipping ludicrously expensive drinks at a plush bar hoping to bump into a Hollywood bigwig, will never make it.

That’s where the insipiration/heartbreak comes in. At Cannes you can feel you are part of the film world because the backdrop is so beautiful and you can almost the touch the stars and movie moguls as they strut around the red carpet of the Palais de Festival. But it’s an illusion. In reality the stars and moguls have only just popped down from Mount Movie Olympus for a few moments to mingle with the plebs who give them their lifestyles. When it’s all over, they will return home and be as untouchable and unreachable as ever.

That business card you pressed so eagerly into the hand of the man from Warner Brothers or Columbia, will, most likely, be lost and the great idea you shared with a financier at the party you gate-crashed will be forgotten the moment he downs his first glass of pink bubbly.

It’s not just emotional energy you need to get through it all. You need physical stamina too. For media the screenings start at 8.30am and you need an excel spreadsheet to ensure you see everything you want to – if you get a ticket at all. Gone are the days when you could queue for a ticket. Now, everything is online and you have to wake up at the crack of dawn, finger poised, to book screenings for 4 days later. It’s a horrible system, as maddening as trying the lottery of getting tickets for Glastonbury or the Taylor Swift eras tour. Having lost an hour’s valuable sleep, you’re lucky if you nab a ticket for some grim first feature by an unknown director from outer Moldavia. But, aah, the joy, when you get a premiere ticket in the main theatre Lumiere.

Scattered amongst the screenings are forum discussions in one of the many pavilions which make up the International village where representatives from the film industries of each country promote their nation and films. Or talks with big name stars in the penthouse suites of plush hotels. There are also the interviews to do and press conferences to attend. Oh, and the meetings to fit in. Of course you could do many of them back in Hackney but there’s something irresistible about having that aquamarine sea full of yachts behind you instead of the local kebab shop, as you sip a drink or ‘do lunch’ to strike a deal.

In the evenings there are the premieres, glitzy red carpet occasions that you have to be invited to attend but can watch from the sidelines as many thousands do each night, either by lining up by the police manned barriers or on the giant screens erected for the festival. The atmosphere is fun, music blares and there is excited running commentary over the loudspeakers. Increasingly fans come prepared with step ladders to get a better view while some simply climb up one of the palm trees and stay there, obviously willing to have very sore bottoms the next day!

At night, of course, there are the parties. There are so many it’s a wonder anyone can stay awake the next day to make a deal. On the other hand, that might be the ideal way to get that multi million dollar deal for that The Godfather meets zombies script you’ve been working on for the past decade…

Cannes 2024 so far

The weather isn’t great so far and the turquoise sea is a rather dull blue grey but the festival has got off to an upbeat start. It’s the 77th festival and who better to epitomise longevity in the film industry than the marvellous Meryl Streep. She was guest of honour at the opening ceremony where French actress Juliette Binoche paid an emotional tribute to her, saying that it’s not always recognised how much Streep has done for women in the business. Streep was given an honorary Palme D’Or.

Meryl Streep is always good for a fun photoshoot and a wise quote. She strutted her stuff to ABBA for the photographers and told the journalists she was waiting for an imminent call for Mamma Mia 3. Since her character was dead in the sequel, the storyline for a third film will certainly be one to watch out for.
Today, In her very entertaining masterclass, she spoke of how music is a ‘hotline to the heart.’ She revealed she’s not a big fan of opera but loves rock and Joni Mitchell. She said her famous talent for pitch perfect accents comes from her genuine interest in people who are different to her. She just picks them up listening to others speak.

Anya Taylor-Joy is bringing the Hollywood goddess glamour for her apparently exhilarating Mad Max saga addition, Furiosa. I can’t wait to see that.

Woman of the hour, the year, possibly even the decade, Greta Gerwig is head of the festival jury which includes Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone. If you wander around the right places (and I do) you can spot them deliberating over the films they’re watching as they sip coffee.

Francis Ford Coppola is unveiling his much anticipated Megalopolis, starring the ubiquitous Adam Driver. Jacques Audiard is showing his latest offering Emilia Perez and the prolific Yorgos Lanthimos has teamed up with Emma Stone again for Kinds of Kindness.

Stone won her second Oscar for his last film, Poor Things, so it will be interesting to see how this effort fares for them both.

Kevin Costner is in town for Horizon as are a host of other stars, even those seemingly with no current projects to promote. For all its glamour Cannes is essentially a film market. People attend the festival to pitch all sorts of ideas as well as to sell completed projects. So, unexpected celebrity encounters are not uncommon. For me these include bumping (literally) into fashion designer Ralph Lauren on the street, nearly tripping up poor Sissy Spacek as she tried to cross the road and stumbling into a cab with Samuel L Jackson. I’ve also sat on a wall gazing at the beautiful blue sea, only vaguely aware of the stunning older woman sitting beside me. As I moved away I saw that it was the legendary Faye Dunaway. She has a film about her illustrious career, at the festival this year, entitled simply Faye.

That’s one of the things I particularly love about the Cannes festival – it loves and celebrates cinema of both the past as well as the present (while also keeping an eye on future trends too).

Here’s to another 77 years of it.

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