Hacks, flacks and superstars: where to spy the different tribes of Cannes
All human life can be found at the Cannes Film Festival, alongside most subhuman life too. But where are they, and what are they drinking? Nous présentons our guide to Cannes’ diverse ecosystem of cliques, or "cliquosystem", if you will.
1. The Hollywood A-List
Where to find them: A private jet, then the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc for publicity duties, then the red carpet at the Palais de Festivals to meet the adoring public, then another private jet, possibly within the space of 12 hours. Cannes’ most lavish media junkets normally take place at the Hotel du Cap, just out of town, although the format is the same as everywhere else: a half-day’s worth of five-minute interviews, carried out back to back, in which journalists from all over the world ask the same three questions over and over again, which the star answers through progressively more tightly clenched teeth. The aim is to create blanket media coverage in which absolutely nothing of interest is said; in the unlikely event the star does say something interesting, this is known as a PR disaster, and their personal publicist will spend the next few days demanding some kind of retraction.
What they’re eating/drinking: The Hotel du Cap has played host to cinema’s most glamorous names since the festival was founded in the 1930s, and boasts two renowned restaurants overlooking the Med. But junket schedules don’t tend to allow for frippery like "meals", so dinner will probably be whatever the bar can muster before the red carpet beckons. The club sandwich here is €36, and I’ve seen a director scoff one in three minutes flat.
2. Critics (newspaper/magazine)
Where to find them: Normally either in the cinema or the press room on deadline, typing like the pianist in Shine mid-Rach 3 and wishing they were still in the cinema. At other times: elbowing their way through the priority queues, then sitting down directly in front of you and throwing themselves back into their seat like a fainting dowager countess.
What they’re eating/drinking: Anything they can get their hands on, providing it’s fast and cheap. Canapés are the new dinner; Nespresso is the new breakfast. Rosé is still rosé, except in Cannes it’s actually drunk by choice. Sensible dinners are a rarity. Most will be pizzas from tourist restaurants on the Rue Felix Fauré, and they will taste like, and look like, and possibly be, deep-fried bicycle wheels.
3. Critics (online-only)
Where to find them: Queueing. For younger critics, or those writing for websites without a print outlet (old biases die hard at this festival), Cannes is like Disneyland without a Fastpass. The holding pen outside the Lumière starts to fill up at around 6.30am for the crucial 8.30am screening, but even then, they’re not guaranteed a seat (see elbowing, above). Sharper operators can be found chewing through the Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week programmes, where older/lazier festival-goers are less likely to venture.
What they’re eating/drinking: The McDonalds near to the Hotel de Ville, which serves beer – how European! Or, just for a change, the Steak N Shake, which opened last year and deserves a special Palme d’Or for its milkshakes. Or, in the direst of circumstances, one of the open-air croque monsieur joints by the bus station, with elbow-scorching metal tables and napkins the size and texture of railway toilet paper.
4. European show-business journalists
Where to find them: In the corridors of the main hotels on the Boulevard de la Croisette – the Majestic Barrière, the Carlton, the Marriott – hurriedly reading the plot synopses and early reviews of films they haven’t seen, before interviewing their stars and/or directors. Asking at group interviews if (for example) Sofia Coppola has a burning message for the people of (for example) Austria. Then rephrasing the question, usually with a time-consuming personal anecdote, when the answer is a bewildered no.
What they’re eating/drinking: Free croissants and mineral water. Expensive-looking herbal tea. The contents of goody-bags. Anything on offer in a hospitality suite, basically.
Where to find them: Days one to three: striding purposefully around town; juggling stars’ impossible interview schedules with total insouciance; expertly wheedling gossip out of critics; engineering front-page coverage from a laptop on a roof terrace with a glass of champagne by their side; working 22 hours in every 24; seeing all, knowing all. Days four to 12: drunk and crying in a hedge.
What they’re eating/drinking: Anything served at the Rue Tony Allard’s Petit Majestic, the British media’s late-night watering hole of choice, after 2am. So, in practice: beer.
Where to find them: On a yacht – normally one that’s rented for the duration of the festival at an exorbitant rate, although the real Bond villains will of course bring their own. Perhaps it will have a helicopter on the sun deck. Perhaps the upholstery will be lime green leather with gold and ivory trim. Perhaps the name will be a sex pun rendered on the hull in Comic Sans. Anything is possible.
What they’re eating/drinking: Dreams. If you’ve come to Cannes as an aspiring filmmaker, you’re probably looking for money, and since these people are wearing sunglasses that cost more than your house, they’re a good place to start. The timeless glamour of Cannes can be like Dulcolax for purse-strings, and if your pitch is impressive, it’s theoretically possible to raise your entire budget within the fortnight. Of course, your new lead actress may be your main investor’s daughter or 20-year-old girlfriend, and your credits reel may feature more executive producers than crew members. But these are small concessions to make in the pursuit of art.
7. The Hollywood Z-List
Where to find them: Wherever there are cameras, ie everywhere. In 1954, the French actress Simone Silva posed topless with Robert Mitchum on the shore of the nearby Lérins islands, and was momentarily the talk of the film industry and the toast of the international press corps. She may have been expelled from the festival a few days later, but the incident set the tone for the next 61 years, and you can hardly walk 15 feet along the Boulevard de la Croisette without tripping over someone primping for the cameras.
On the outermost fringes of Z-dom lie the yachts in theVieux Port, where you’ll occasionally spot bikini-clad actresses in town for an energetic few days of networking. At the 2007 festival, the French police bust a prostitution ring that supplied more than 50 models and beauty queens from around the world to rich Middle Eastern clients. And while there might not be quite as much money washing around town these days, a quick glance at the clientele in most upmarket hotel foyers at around 11pm will confirm the oldest profession is still very much in business.
What they’re eating/drinking: Nothing/you don’t want to know.