To an uninitiated America male, attending the 2011 Cannes Film Festival is a visit to another planet – a world of ethereal sunshine, unfettered avarice and endless money.
Still bleary eyed and just recovering from the jet lag and the croup cough 11 hours of airplane air provides, it’s a good time to look back on the festival experience and share what a week in Cannes teaches.
1. It’s good to have a place to hide from the festival chaos – with beer. I was invited to explore the festival and write up my experiences as part of a journalist team assembled by international brewer and festival sponsor, Stella Artois. We wrote our various articles from Stella’s Chez Jacques on the beach along the Mediterranean Sea, while Stella keep the free beer flowing all week long.
2. Life is about being in the right place at the right time. To celebrate Cannes, Stella Atrois invented a European movie star of its own, Jacques D’Zur, actor, producer, writer, director, tennis player, chess master, backgammon champion and water skiing pioneer. The company cast its net far and wide looking for a Stella lover who could play D’Zur, choosing Argentinean Gustavo Alvarez as the new Jacques. The unknown actor and agronomy engineer became an overnight star of the festival, appearing at many Stella events in person.
3. Even $1,000+ a night hotel rooms need to be painted. The maximum room rate at the classic, beautiful Carlton Cannes Intercontinental for my king size bed overlooking the parking lot was €1,314, or about $2,000 per night. The room was comfortable, I slept well enough. But, when you notice the wainscoting and the windowsill needs painting, you realize a hotel room is just that – a place to sleep.
4. You never know who’s behind the door. I shared the fifth floor of the Carlton with a mystery guest in the corner Greta Garbo Suite. I know I was sharing the hotel with Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Donatella Versace and other celebrities. But, whomever lived behind Garbo’s door for that week had two armed bodyguards in position at all times. They weren’t overly chatty.
5. There are little hotel shops, and then… Most hotels have those little gift shops with candy, postcards, newspapers and assorted little gifts for the folks at home. The Christie’s Gallery Shop in the Carlton’s lobby is filled with original art by Rene Gruau and Dior. In 1994, thieves hit the shop for more than $40 million in jewelry and got clean away.
6. When the cabs are nicer than your own car… The cabs of Cannes are predominantly Audi A6s and Mercedes Benz S series. Unlike New York cabs, there’s no gum on the seats, and the drivers speak better English.
7. Massive amounts of money evidently don’t assure happiness. I stayed in the best hotel in Cannes. I ate in the best restaurants. I window shopped stores where the least expensive item for sale is more than my rent and car payment combined. I walked the red carpet for the premiere of Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In. Yet, I cannot report seeing seas of beaming, smiling faces. Evidently, being elite means you’re required to keep a sort of mildly annoyed malaise fastened to your well-manicured puss at all times.
8. Art films have to be unrelentingly depressing. Several themes filled the screening rooms of Cannes, including rape, incest, kidnapping, revenge and rampant pedophilia. What must European filmmakers’ lives be like if this is what they choose to share with the world on the big screen? Somebody needed to lighten up somewhere at some point.
9. American popular culture still has a long reach. My most enduring memory while walking the streets of Cannes was not the hordes of well dressed women or windows full of gold and jewels. It was a middle-aged, working class Frenchman in his beat-up delivery truck along La Croisette. As the perfect French Riviera sun shone down on him, as old money flowed around him, he was happily singing Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues at the top of his lungs with a full accent: “But that train kept a-rollin’, down on to Zan Anton’…” You can keep all of the glitz and glamour. That brought a smile to my face as much as any bikini glimpse or five diamond meal.
10. Visiting Cannes once, with all of its elite charm, means you long to return. Enough said. Ciao.
Mandatory Credit: WENN.com