With the film festival in full swing, we knew Cannes was going to get log-jammed to the point of immobility, so last Sunday we left just after seven for church. We got into Cannes so early that some people still seemed to be coming back from the parties and others were still asleep on the public beach. In contrast, there was a small army of municipal workers busily tidying up the rubbish and washing down the streets. So we had breakfast in a café, strolled along the Croissette, gawked at the yachts and tried to work out who amongst the unshaven were hung-over film stars in scruffy-chic and who were genuinely impoverished tramps. Then we went to church and after that wandered back along the much more crowded seafront trying to make sense of it all.
Cannes is known locally as La Ville de ‘Bling’ at the best of times but the seasonal influx of everybody from Tinseltown causes it to lose any lingering trace of good taste. The Carlton Hotel, which for most of the year aspires to some semblance of stately respectability, gives up and becomes nothing more than a glorified billboard for the highest bidders. The streets are full of wanna-be film stars, has-been film stars, people who would like to be mistaken for film stars and, just possibly, even some genuine film stars. There are producers, promoters, people trying to market Mauritania as a film location, journalists, the wealthy who want to be trendy and the trendy who want to be wealthy.
In this jostling chaos some sort of social order is imposed by official name badges, the colour of which apparently determines your status in the enormously complex and bitterly contested hierarchy of the film festival and whether you can actually get into see any films. There are also people who lounge leisurely around Cannes and those who seem to be rushing about with urgent purpose. We have decided they may be important or they may just be faking it. Of course, for a lot of people, Cannes is all about networking and in the shark-filled world of film, you need to network to survive.
Of course there were the gawkers hoping to catch a glimpse of glory. There were vast numbers of people who apparently believed that, for this week, Cannes was playing host to the gods. There were also security guards. Chris was rather hoping that he would be prevented from taking photographs by one because the irony of being stopped from taking a photograph during the film festival would have been intense.
It was certainly spectacular. Offshore there was a small flotilla of incredibly glamorous yachts collectively worth enough to buy the whole of Greece. There was the constant buzz of helicopters shuttling people backwards and forwards from Cannes airport. There were some spectacular fashions and some extraordinary hairstyles and even more small and obnoxious dogs than usual. (We don’t care for dogs in handbags.)
The front of the Marriott hotel was clogged by an expectant camera-bearing crowd clustering around a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce so big that it could have been mistaken for a tank. The engine was running, either to keep the air-conditioning going, or perhaps simply just to say that whoever had hired it was rich enough to afford the fuel bill. We asked some people who they were waiting for, but they didn’t know and actually didn’t seem to care. It was very tempting to shout out “Brad and Angelina have just left by the back door!” and see what happened. In the end we got bored and walked away.
But Cannes being Cannes there were more than the usual reminders that not everybody makes it to the top. Or if they do they can easily slide off….
Someone who knows the town far better than us cynically commented, ‘the festival isn’t about art, it’s about money.’ It’s certainly about consumption, appearance and prestige.
We were glad to leave.