Sunday,23 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013
Sunday,23 September, 2018
Issue 1149, 23 - 29 May 2013

Ahram Weekly

Hollywood moves to Cannes

It is now, as it was, as it always will be!   Superbly planned, meticulously organized and diligently managed, the fabulous Festival de Cannes, (May 15-26) is the crowning glory of international cinema. Cannes embraces the madness and the sanity, the chaos and the calm, the sensible and the senseless. They come from far and wide, leaving reason and logic behind, mingling the sublime with the ridiculous and together they live in blissful harmony for 10 glorious days in May.

After 66 years of silver screen splendour, Cannes remains the frantic, frenzied, fascinating and frustrating film festival, not to mention that it is French, which explains the flaming fever on the Mediterranean, every spring.  The city casts its magic spell on its 200,000 visitors for the occasion, and no one ever leaves disappointed.

Not even a torrential flood of pouring rain could damage the spirit of the star-studded fest.  The stars courageously came out on opening night with every bit of glitz and glamour to parade on a very damp red carpet.  They came to view a luscious bonbon, by the brilliant Aussie Baz Luhrman, as they did a dozen years ago with the exotic “Moulin Rouge”, (2001).  This year’s opening night treat was another extravaganza by Luhrman, his new adaptation of Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel “The Great Gatsby”.  While the critics were divided, all were dazed and dazzled by the film’s flamboyant colours, Jay Z’s Jazz score, and the incredible cast led by superstar, Leonardo di Caprio.

For almost two weeks in May not one inch of real-estate is available at all the outrageously- priced boardwalk hotels, villas, inns, flats and ‘rooms- to- let’ on the French Riviera.  The Cannes Film Festival is the most widely covered international media event, second only to the Summer Olympics, held every 4 years.  Mayhem reigns on the Cote d’Azur, where everybody is indeed somebody, at least in the film world.

Like French cuisine, easily palatable, widely desirable and shockingly expensive, Cannes is by no means the oldest film festival.  It has overtaken Italy’s earliest effort at launching the first film festival in Venice in 1932, by stealthily pulling the now famous red carpet from under Venetian marble.

Stunning Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman is Cannes’ recent darling, stealing the hearts of the crowds at each appearance, provoking images of their beloved neighbour the late princess Grace of Monaco. This is no coincidence as Nicole is starring as Grace in an upcoming biopic of the actress’s years after she trades Hollywood stardom for European royalty.  Kidman also serves on the jury alongside Taiwan-born director Ang Lee. The Jury is headed by Hollywood giant Stephen Spielberg.

There was a time when Hollywood was not exactly relished at Cannes.  For over a decade Festival President, Gilles Jacob, favoured obscure films and filmmakers which is commendable, but came at a price.  Year after year Hollywood heavyweights saw the coveted Palme d’Or, go to the wrong films, while they were being ignored.  Less and less Hollywoodians made the trip, and the effect on Cannes was devastating.  Hollywood makes the movies and the stars everyone wants to see!.   A famous statement by an eccentric old Frenchman echoed up and down their famous ‘Croisette’:”Always the same films, always the same circus”– Pollution—mental and physical pollution – Nothing, nothing, nothing.”!   Artistic Director Thierry Fremaux appointed in 2001, feverishly pursued and wooed the Americans, until one by one they started to return>>>  Woody Allen, Steven Soderbergh, Clint Eastwood, Mel Gibson and this year all of Hollywood it seems is residing at Cannes for 10 mad days in May.

There are 5 US films in the Main Competition and 2 in ‘Un Certain Regard’ a category devoted to unique and different points of view. Their opening night was another US production, directed by Oscar winner Sofia Coppola, “The Bling Ring”, starring Harry Potter’s Emma Watson about a group of teen-agers who rob celebrities’ homes when they’re out prancing at Red-Carpet events.

Shortly after the opening, a burglary took place of $1 million worth of Jewels by Chopard, which   disappeared from the safe in the room of their employee. Perhaps inspired by the Coppola film, it was all taken in stride, for at Cannes everything is expected and everything happens.

 The commercial aspect of the Festival cannot be overlooked. Film traders rush to buy and sell, film stars’ hopes rise and fall and fortunes are made and lost in a ‘Cannes’ minute.

The Fashion and beauty contest continues till Sunday, May 26, when the serious business of awarding filmmakers occurs. The finale hands the coveted gold palm-trophies to what the jury considers the best of the best in the realm of cinema. Creating a buzz are the films from Chad–‘Grisgris” by director Mehmet Saleh Haroun,– from Iran, “The Past” by Asghar Farhadi,– from the US, “Behind the Candelabra” by director Stephen Soderbergh,– and Japan’ “Like Father Like Son” by Hirokazu Kore-eda.

As the curtain descends on the 66th “Festival de Cannes”, winners and losers will head home with a pocket-full of sweet memories, of sand and surf, of scrumptious foods and spectacular sights, happy to have tasted that special flavor of French style and refinement at a French Film Festival.

They might even feel as the Romans did when they first stumbled on that tiny, sleepy spot on the shores of the Mediterranean in 200 BC–they too came, and saw, and conquered.


 “No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.”


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