Considering that it is the most important movie gathering in the world, it is still surprising that few Americans have a true grasp of what takes place this week on the shores of France. Besides the oil slicks closing off the beaches, there is also an always historic film festival taking place in Cannes. Therefore, I felt it might be of help to offer up a quick primer from someone else who has little grasp. You could, of course, refer to the esteemed Mr. Gore’s book to learn all the nuances, but that would involve getting up and actually looking for it–something that approximates effort. So just sit back and do some learning.
The first and most important thing you need to know in any discussion of this event is the correct elocution of the name “Cannes”. You will hear it pronounced as “Cans”, “Can”, or “Kahn”, so remember this helpful rule: whichever way you choose it will be considered wrong. Film “experts” take greater joy in being critical of your speech than they do in critiquing the films, so don’t be surprised to be corrected more than once in the same conversation. As a form of defense from this condescension, I make a point of talking around the name, referring to “the French festival” and such, until somebody asks, “Do you mean Cannes?”–to which I respond, “It’s pronounced ‘Can’ ”.
Once this compulsory verbal dance is complete you can now openly talk about the Cannes Film Festival itself, and the discussion will get no easier. This is because, like most activities in France, they do things in a distinctly European manner. Take the opening ceremonies. The streets will be packed with people who have no chance at all in getting in to see any of the films, so they spend each day in a huddled mass watching the beautiful people who will get to sit inside where there is air conditioning. This seems to be something the French love to do–attending an event they do not get to see. The Tour de France is much of the same, packing the streets to see a brief blur of colors and then reading the paper the next day to see who won. They may ridicule the way our NASCAR races go around in a circle, but at least we get to see the racers drive by a few hundred times.
The people walking the red carpet are either actors, directors, people you will never recognize, or are those who have nothing at all to do with movies. European royalty love to turn up for these things. This year, one such member of the Crown was Albert, Monaco’s Prince himself, and thus the answer to the question is, (forgive me, I promised someone I would do this)… yes, they do have Prince Albert in the Cannes.
The crowds are packed to watch the luminaries walk the red swatch in a fashion we in the states may find a bit curious. American movie premieres are where the stars take an arduous amble through a gauntlet of vapid reporters while constantly being yelled at to turn this way and that for the photographers who have been corralled and penned at a safe distance. At Cannes they perform a curious looking drill where they slowly stroll and stop at prescribed intervals, calmly rotating for the cameras, the photographers sitting orderly in proper little rows. The difference is that rather than a clot of photographers hoping to get a lucky snapshot, the famous and beautiful people have actually been instructed on how to behave for the benefit of the paparazzi. It looks like an alternate universe high school where the cheerleaders are squares and the audio-visual club makes up the cool-kids. It is almost quaint to the point of making our events appear like a felled cape buffalo at the watering hole getting set upon by jackals. (Still, ours is not as bad as the British tabloid press, who are known for their rugby scrums of flashbulbs, which can then break apart as they hop on Vespas to give chase to their photographic targets.)
The opening night is the perfect metaphor for the whole event, as it appears to be an opulent, extravagant affair for the sake of having an opulent, extravagant affair. The Grand Jury goes through the practice of hitting their marks on the red carpet before joining the huge throng of tuxedos and evening gowns to witness the opening of the ceremonies. Cannes seems to take the most pride in being an international body and this year’s spokeswoman, Monica Belluci, is a great choice to represent this flair. She has a great body. She is also an Italian actress who speaks French and is appearing in an American blockbuster, “The Matrix: Reloaded”, which is having its world premiere here.
She and other Cannes officials take to the monstrous stage to recite numerous announcements three times—once each in French, Spanish, and English. The gravity of this ceremony gets somewhat dissipated because of the odd effect this multi-culturalism has on the audience. At times, people will begin clapping for an applause line while those at the podium are still speaking in a different language, and then the crowd takes on a life of its own. While the French may be clapping, the Spanish cannot hear what was said, so they ask why they are clapping, and then the English can’t hear the line because the Spanish are talking, so while they are shushing, the French miss the next line and eventually order is restored. Then the Spanish begin applauding.
Get the rest of the story in part two of CANNES-DEMONIUM>>>