My Experience at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival -- Cannes, France
I wouldn't consider myself an 'artsy-fartsy' person, nor do I really show a lot of interest in 'star'-gazing. However, there's always been something about the Cannes Film Festival that I always found fascinating. Probably because it has been for so long the world's premier international film festival, there was some sort of romance about it that built up in my mind over time, So, with the wonderful city of Cannes only a night-train ride away from my house, I decided to head down there for a weekend and see what the fuss was all about, and see if I could find any stars I recognized.
The Film Festival may attract the world's attention, but it is largely a private affair. The Convention Center is located in the center of beach on a peninsula that juts out into the sea, so there's actually very little area where the public can go. Only credentialed personnel are allowed on the Festival grounds, and the participants rarely venture into the city itself. Thus, the only chance one has to get a glimpse of the stars is if one can get a spot near the famous Red Carpet or collect around the hotels where the stars reside. As you can imagine, the crowds at both locations are large throughout the day.
It's a great event for people watching. The visitors were quite a various lot - groups of senior citizens, classes of art and film students, avid filmgoers and cinéphiles, people in the business, people who wanted to be in the business, and people who obviously were trying too blasted hard to get into the business.**
Premiers are held four times a day, and each is preceded by a procession on the Red Carpet. The procession is a carefully orchestrated affair where the producers, directors, actors/actresses, other VIPs, and their entourages are given the chance to appear. For those unable to see what's going on, a large LCD screen is mounted on the Palais wall connected to a mounted camera. I actually had the chance to watch one of these processions in full, albeit one of the minor afternoon ones:
The crowd was beginning to gather for the 2PM premiere of some film (I don't know which). Basically the way this works is that at 11AM, 2PM, 4:30PM, and 7PM there are key premieres (films that are in competition for the Cannes' revered Golden Palm awards) being shown in the festival each day, and the VIPs (usually members of the country's National Film Federation, the producers of the film, and various actors, actresses, and others in the entourage) get to have their moment of glory here. The 7PM premiere is really when all the real stars came out for their showing -- the 2PM guys and gals are not quite as well-known or glamorous.*
The procession was very orderly, but also very slow and methodical. They spent a lot of time at the beginning of the carpet, letting the photographers circle around you for a while, then they moved forward to the center of the platform, stopped for more photographs, walked to the base of the stairs, more photographs, then climbed the stairs painfully slowly. All the while, the lead guy (that is, the one the photographers paid the most attention to) had to make sure that the *pretty girl* was in full view so *he* looked better. Europeans and 'political correctness' never did get along...
In the second photo, notice how high the gray platforms were. I'm a tall guy, but my eye level would have been even with the photographers feet. When the real stars showed, the photographers were all going to stand on that gray platform, completely blocking the view. I had expected some sort of obversation deck where the public gets to watch the stars on the procession, but that was definitely not the case. I was thinking, "Kinda defeats the purpose of having the red carpet, doesn't it?"
Clearly the main event was the evening premier, with its procession beginning around 1900. If you want a chance to witness it live, you must find a spot across the street from the foot of the carpet to have a chance, and you have to camp out there probably starting at 1500. Not a terrible deal on a good day, I supposed, but as the photographs suggest, this day was not a fun day to stand outside.
The environment was absolutely electric! Hundreds of photographers present, and I mean hundreds! That LCD screen came in really handy!
Of course, the real thrill was when the recognized stars appeared! It was great to watch the crowd ooh and aah and cheer. I heard chatter and gossip in a dozen different languages when the likes of Sharon Stone appeared on the LCD screen! (Nope, no one could see her in person walking up the red carpet at all. It was hilarious to see thousands of people watching the LCD screen with the real live event happened just a few meters behind them.
To be truthful, it was difficult to get into the Film Festival without the ability to get inside or enjoy the crowds in better weather. While you can't do anything about the weather, I strongly suggest going if and only if you have the ability to get the credentials to go inside or are able to secure tickets to one of the premieres. Otherwise, quite frankly, you get the best views on television... ***
Click here to access the official Cannes Film Festival website (browser will open in New Window).
Attended Cannes Film Festival on 18 May 2002 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2002 Tom Galvin
Ok, so this is a bad joke, but you wanted to "follow the stars", right? So I guess that means you followed the *'s down here. You are hearby duly rewarded:
*Note: But that didn't stop some of the crowd members from trying to attract attraction. Before the procession began, a Clorox-blonde woman wearing an optic-yellow swimsuit and jeans paraded among the crowd at the end of the red carpet. She cavorted around openly, clearly to get the cameramens' attention, and three of them were dumb or pheromonal enough to go over. While the crowd surrounding her was busy staring and trying to hold their lunch, the woman put on a really provocative dance routine (about the only thing missing was the pole). Then, as the men were deeply involved in yellow-balancing their cameras, she flashed them. The three men instantly turned off their cameras and walked away laughing. The woman just sauntered off. Its times like those that remind me just how sheltered I life I have led...
**Here's what I mean. I overhead the following at my lunch spot. The two people are clearly 'in the business' or who are trying too blasted hard. This was said by a woman in her 40s who already had her first face lift to her younger male subordinate whose looks probably exceeded (or invalidated) his intellect, "Listen, I'm the supervisor. It's my job to come up with story project ideas. If they don't work, it's your job to cancel them!" Do I detect an unhealthy artistic work environment or what?
***Well, unless you want to see a Clorox-blonde women flashing you. See above. :-)