Behind the Cannes curtain
When I posted my first blog a fortnight ago, I promised to try and add an update mid-festival. Unfortunately, but not at all unpredictably, that turned out to be a massive fail. But only because I and the rest of the Culture team were so busy running around (often literally) to bring you awesome interviews with the likes of Sofia Coppola, Emma Watson, Sharon Stone, Jessica Chastain... the list goes on.
So here is a post-festival roundup which will at least make a bit more sense as I've now had a chance to sleep, sit down, and reflect for more than two minutes before hitting the keyboard.
Our Cannes wrap show here:
One of the first weird things about the Cannes Film Festival is that the films so often seem to take a back seat to all the other action.
The two big landmark moments of each day are indeed the red carpet walks, called "la montée des marches" in French, which happen for the day's two or sometimes three premieres. At this point all eyes turn to the "Palais des Festivals", which houses several enormous screening cinemas.
However, being a bit on the green side, I personally was rather shocked to discover during my first festival last year that a lot of the people sashaying up the steps don't even hang around to watch the film. If you hot-foot it round to the stage door at the back of the Palais, you'll catch a few beautifully dressed, immaculately coiffed A, B, and Z-listers making a sly getaway. Yes, for many of those lucky peeps on the red carpet, it's all about the minute or so you get to spend with the paparazzi round the front.
Check out some of their pictures via this link and try to guess which ones didn't stick around:
(Photos by Mehdi Chebil for France 24)
I suppose it's just a symptom of our celeb-crazed world, but this gathering of thousands means plenty of other distractions are indeed laid on and lapped up. Which is why spending two or sometimes three hours in the cinema seems like too big an investment for some.
This means parties for everything from the cast and crew of a new movie, to the opening of a completely non-cinema-related posh underwear shop. I interviewed the CEO of one such fancypants (ahem) establishment, who freely admitted the only real link between his new boutique and the festival was a sense of glamour - but somehow that fits with the brazenness of Cannes, and if anything, you're the odd one out if you're NOT trying to cause a scene.
We shouldn't be too hoity-toity about it all of course, but I do wish people would have a bit more FUN at Cannes parties. All too often there's not enough letting down of hair, because everyone is so much more concerned with networking and checking out famous people who may or may not be there. The best party I attended was thrown by the Semaine de la Critique (Critics' Week) sidebar competition, and it was simply a tried-and-tested combination of good music, good vibes, a little free gin, and a lot of space to throw some shapes.
More about the Semaine and its support for young talent here:
The next weird thing is that nobody seems to hang around for that long in Cannes, except the journalists, who get more grizzled and unhealthy-looking by the day. If you're, say, the director or star of one of the competition films, you get to hang out in an official capacity for three days. One day to present your movie, the other two for press and publicity. After that if you want to stay on, you have to organise it yourself, whether you're the unknown executive producer, or Leonardo DiCaprio.
This means that if YOU want to catch your idol, you have to be canny and quick. I was terribly impressed early on by the organisational skills of one group of fans of the Indian superstar actor Amitabh Bachchan. They'd popped over to see him walk the red carpet just for his tiny cameo in The Great Gatsby. Twitter posts, facebook updates, and good old seafront gossip are juicy sources for starspotters with just 72 hours to spy the object of their affection.
Of course my own job offers very lucky star-spotting opportunities by the bucket load, and this year a few highlights were:
* Interviewing Formula 1 racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart, OBE, who was a perfect jovial gent, jokingly offered to give my phone number to Jenson Button, and let me hold his priceless 1971 Monaco GP trophy
(-Jackie Stewart interview here:)
* Having Jessica Chastain vow redhead solidarity to me at the amfAR Cinema Against Aids gala
* Running into Jeremy Renner as he took a sneaky ciggie break before making his on-stage appearance at the amfAR gala
* Getting fed a slap-up Michelin-starred meal by food sponsor Electrolux and their partner chefs Anne-Sophie Pic and Bruno Oger, who cooked an 'intimate' opening night dinner for Steven Spielberg and, er about 650 other lucky diners
* Bumping into Hollywood movie mogul extraordinaire Harvey Weinstein every time I passed the Majestic hotel. I think he just hung out at the bus stop or something, waiting to get mobbed.
* Top French cartoonist Plantu drawing a mini-me in a special France 24 cartoon
By the end of it all it does feel a lot like a circus. But I still think that Cannes is a force for good for the art side of cinema, and I'll tell you for why...
A 3-hour long lesbian love story winning the Palme d'Or IS important (Blue Is The Warmest Colour).
The film that won Amat Escalante the Best Directing award (Heli) will make a lot of people think differently about Mexico's so-called war on drugs, and stay with me personally for a long time. Michael Douglas and Matt Damon's universally-praised turns as Liberace and his lover Scott Thorsen (Behind The Candelabra) have proved that Hollywood actors will take risks even when their film is only destined to be shown on the TV in the United States.
It's also an incredible team-building experience for the France 24 team, who sent only about 20 people to make daily shows for three channels, and stayed professional, hard-working and jovial for the duration and even pretty chilled for the flight home!
So I promise you it's not all about the sequins, hairdos, stilted paparazzi poses and photo opportunities. Here's to Cannes 2014.
All photos by me and copyright me, etc., as you do.