We’re in Cannes. The world’s most prestigious, and arguably most pompous, film festival begins here tomorrow, Wednesday 11th May. Despite what general media coverage might have you believe, Cannes is not just a procession of celebrities posing on the red carpet with signature outfits. The festival’s daring selection of films – a mix of art-house, foreign, independent fare – frequently propels new directors to fame. And in addition to the main twenty-one films in competition for the coveted Palme D’Or prize, there are several parallel festivals: ‘Un Certain Regard’ typically focuses on younger directors; the International Critics’ Week presents first and second features by directors from around the world; and the Director’s Fortnight is ran by the French Directors’ Guild and showcases a similar genre to the main competition.
Cannes is also a major industry event. Alongside the festival runs the film market, where rights to movies are bought and sold. The great majority of festival attendees are here to do business. Many will only cursorily care about the films competing, too busy attending back to back appointments, networking furiously, and working hard to close deals.
A day before the festival begins, the anticipation in town is palpable – as you might expect. The city’s key buildings and luxury hotels are all decked out in advertisements: for cars, upcoming blockbuster films, alcohol, and media outlets. The streets are punctuated by the flags of the festival – this year the colours are red and yellow. Half of the people on the street walk around with festival lanyards and badges around their necks, looking a tad smug (an expression which will shift to exhaustion and stress in the coming days).
At the Palais des Festivals, the red carpet is being laid out at its grand main entrance. It’s replaced each day, so the maintenance team is always at work in mornings, stripping the steps bare and refurbishing them with a new layer of crimson.
Across the street, intent festival enthusiasts have set up their seats and ladders. They stand on these to get a good glimpse of celebrities as they arrive to their film premieres. The ladders stay there for the whole ten days, padlocked into place.
Meanwhile, the beach is almost entirely taken up by bars, restaurants and clubs – many with extravagant decorations, all with expensive menus, some difficult to get into. Many of Cannes’ infamous parties are held there. One strip of the seafront has been set aside for a huge screen, on which classic films will be projected for the general public.
Fans have also clustered at the entrance of key hotels, autograph notebooks and phones at hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of someone famous.
As a member of the press crew, the schedule looks a little intense – meaning that emotions flit between utter excitement and panic at the thought of being thoroughly overwhelmed. No matter – it’s all part of the fun!
Things kick off tomorrow evening with the opening ceremony, and will be followed by Woody Allen’s Café Society (which will not be competing for any prizes). It stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively and Corey Stoll. Along with Allen’s film, tomorrow will also be all about introducing the panel of the festival’s jury to the press. The president this year is George Miller, director of the Mad Max franchise.
Stay tuned for further news!
Marion Koob is The Digital Fix’s Cinema Editor. She will be tweeting throughout the festival @marionkoob.
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