There is a problem in being Cannes. Because Cannes’ very existence depends on being known as bright, glitzy and exclusive that image must, at all costs, be maintained. The mayor must lie awake at night worried that he will read in some influential journal that Cannes is looking “dowdy”, “shabby” or is simply “no longer the place to be”. (It’s worth remembering that from March to November, Cannes is the focus of not just the famous film festival, but many other much less newsworthy festivals, conferences and symposia that are here for the glow of fame that the film trade likes to think it bestows.)
The result of this hound of image constantly nipping at the heels of the town’s administration means that Cannes is in a seemingly ceaseless state of “makeover”. This leads to the fascinating and frustrating situation that when you drive into Cannes on a weekly basis you’re never quite sure what you’re going to encounter. Which roads are going to be dug up today? What streams of traffic are rerouted? Which buildings are being dismembered to be refurbished? What new pipes are being relaid across what roads? There is a perpetual sense of manic activity in Cannes which is either invigorating or incredibly annoying. Certainly around our church we seem to have lost at least ten vital car parking places and we live with the uncertainty that, come next Sunday, we might lose a dozen more.
One embarrassment for Cannes has been that for some time it’s been a coastal town without much of a coast. A combination of proliferating hotel restaurants and sand erosion has reduced the public beach areas to two small patches either end of the Croisette. This sorry state is now being deal with by a major program of coastal engineering which, it is hoped, will be a win-win situation for everybody. There will be a wide beach accessible to everyone in front of the restaurants and a pedestrian walkway and cycle path immediately behind them. Well, that’s the plan and its not going to come cheap. But that’s the price of the image.
At the moment 95,000 cubic metres of sand are being spread out along the length of the Croisette and, on the basis that you may as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb, they are simultaneously refurbishing and replacing all the various sewage and water pipes. Work is currently in progress and it’s going to be ongoing for at least another four years. It will be interesting to see the results.
There is, it is remarked acidly, a distinct plus point about the fact that the main part of Cannes is a perpetual and seemingly random excavation and building site. It has produced a very effective anti-terrorist strategy in which any attempt to deliver an explosive-laden vehicle or unleash a hurtling truck would undoubtedly be foiled by being rerouted around a random and ever changing series of side streets.
Still it is fascinating to see how Cannes, having become what it is on the basis of its image, is now enslaved to maintaining that image at all costs. Remember the phrase about “those who live by sword perish by it”?