When Paris comes to the Cannes Film Festival

Plus d'un tapis rouge

There is more to Cannes than the red carpet or the terrace overlooking the port and the Bay of Cannes, but you wouldn’t know it from the photos.

Although in my mind, Cannes lacks the charm of St. Tropez or Antibes, it certainly has its attractions. During film festival ,the studio yachts lined up next to the festival hall (Palais des Festivals et des Congrès) host nightly parties, and celebrities and celebrity-watchers fill the hotels, restaurants and clubs into and beyond the wee hours.

But year-round the city offers chic shops and easy access to the Lerins Islands (les Îles de Lérins) in the bay, the famed Croisette, with carousel, mini sight-seeing train, sandwich and ices cream kiosks, petanque courts, the

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Le Suquet, for centuries a fort to protect against coastal raiders, is noe a museum--with a great view of the Port of Cannes (foreground).
Le Suquet, for centuries a fort to protect against coastal raiders, is noe a museum--with a great view of the Port of Cannes (foreground). | Source
The Estrel Massif provides a backdrop for private yachts in the Bay of Cannes
The Estrel Massif provides a backdrop for private yachts in the Bay of Cannes | Source
Across from the Palais, a public telephone assumes the guise of a section of film.
Across from the Palais, a public telephone assumes the guise of a section of film. | Source

handsome town hall, the beaches, the historic Suquet looking down on it all and the distinctive rugged outline of the Massif d’Estrel standing sentry to the west.

During film festival, though, there is an electricity in the city. Navigating the teeming sidewalks requires complicated choreography and celebrity watchers and paparazzi crane their necks to penetrate tinted limousine windows to identify the VIPs huddled in the back seats.

But year-round the city offers chic shops and easy access to the Lerins Islands (les Îles de Lérins) in the bay, the famed Croisette, with carousel, mini sight-seeing train, sandwich and ices cream kiosks, petanque courts, the

Oops! it's festival time

It is sobering to realize that this year I forgot—forgot!— that the Cannes Film Fesitival was underway until I saw a picture of a director and several film stars posing on the terrace of the Festival Hall. I have spent enough time in Cannes to immediately identify the exact spot that the photo was taken (It helps that it is the most frequently used spot.) and that I knew what was behind the actors and behind the photographer. My closest friends live in Cannes, so the festival is only a small part of my association with the city. However, as my favorite time and place in the world is mid-May in St.Tropez, I have often planned my stays to coincide with the Bravades before heading back east to the Film Festival.

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Reporters wait on the access road to the Palais.
Reporters wait on the access road to the Palais. | Source
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès | Source

Maybe it's not Rolling Stone....

During the Festival I am always eager to see what celebs grace the cover of Nice-Matin , a regional newspaper that is delivered to the villa—and that influenced the design of a publication that I ran for several years. The cover is always a full-page picture of whoever was the hottest celeb in town the day before. One year, I was chagrined to see that Paris Hilton (whom I always think of as lower case paris hilton) was the focal (Should that first vowel be an "e"? Meow.) subject on the cover.

As it happens, I feel both intense contempt for Ms Hilton and profound resentment that the media have celebrated her bad behavior and obnoxious air of presumed entitlement. With so many talented artists in town, why would they choose her?

Cinema de la plage

Cinema de la Plage shows films from previous festivals
Cinema de la Plage shows films from previous festivals | Source
Celebrities approach the red carpet on a narrow access road
Celebrities approach the red carpet on a narrow access road | Source
Goober tries to sneak a peak at the celeb in the back seat
Goober tries to sneak a peak at the celeb in the back seat | Source

It might have been a happy ending if....

It reminded me (once I begin to digress, I get really good at it) of the time a number of years ago when I entered a restaurant and observed Monica Lewinski smiling broadly and waving to excited fans. I said to my companion, “I wonder whether people remember why they recognize her.”

Oh, yeah. I remember Paris

I have the same response to Paris Hilton. Granted, she has great cheekbones, but beyond that, what substance has she, other than inherited wealth that makes her –what is an inoffensive word for “slutty”?—undisciplined behavior newsworthy?

Well, I ranted at my friends, the husband only kept repeating that she is beautiful. (He is sooo French.) The next morning, the Nice-Matin’scover image was---paris hilton. Well, double my blood pressure medication! My eyes bulged and when my friends awoke, they were served another barrage of contempt tirade with their coffee.

“No wonder everybody says, ‘in France they consider Jerry Lewis a genius?’ ” I ranted.“Where are the standards? Who makes these decisions?”

My friend said, “Who says that Jerry Lewis is a genius?”

Monsieur Canard, your l'orange is ready.

Some celebs and guests walk to the carpet--and who knows who they are?
Some celebs and guests walk to the carpet--and who knows who they are? | Source
Time  to party.  Sometimes they tossed a shrimp to me. Usually not.
Time to party. Sometimes they tossed a shrimp to me. Usually not. | Source

She's baaa-aack

I went into town and fortunately, for all concerned, did not run into parishilton anywhere. I suppose that she must sleep during the day.

The next morning, I opened the Nice-Matin to see--paris hilton beaming at me from the cover. I swear she was gloating. I would have choked on my pain au chocolat had my café au lait not been cool enough wash it down. My friends did not make an appearance until after I had left to catch the first ferry to Île Saint-Honorat. By the time I saw them late that afternoon, my anger had cooled to a simmering grudge.

Crowding to see the red carpet
Crowding to see the red carpet | Source
The beach beside the Palais.
The beach beside the Palais. | Source
The beach, the boats, the bay
The beach, the boats, the bay | Source
The Hotel Carlton
The Hotel Carlton | Source
Cannes Cans running on the Croisette
Cannes Cans running on the Croisette | Source

And now, on a different not...

On the evening of the fourth day, my friends had tickets to Les Infos, a French news progam that broadcasts from the beach during Festival. They gave the tickets to me and a fellow American whose mother is French, and we were fortunate to be seated about three seats behind the guests on a horseshoe set a short distance from the Festival Hall.

As we waited for the show to begin, we watched the boats skimming across the bay as twilight neared and looked at the private yachts as large as cruise ships and the islands across the bay. It was slight warm, but a beautiful late afternoon. And I enjoyed getting to know my fellow American, a blood relative of my adopted French family.

Then came the host who introduced the show and announced his guests…I froze in place, hoping that I had misheard, but no. Along with Jamel (Debbouze) the French-born Moroccan actor whom I had seen on the street earlier in the day and. Oh,my. paris hilton.

When I said I enjoy Hilton Head

In a cruel twist of Gallic fate, my nemesis (who had never heard of me and would not have cared if she had) entered and sat almost within reach.The Three Stoogees kept whispering “Niagara Falls” in my ear.

After returning the items he confessed to stealing from her family (mini shampoo, hair conditioner, shower shoes) Jamal told parishilton that she is so beautiful that the most beautiful city in the world was named after her. She looked…confused. I whispered to my new friend: “Hilton Head.” The double entendre cracked me up.

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A street restaurant in Cannes
A street restaurant in Cannes | Source
Cannes Hotel de Ville--city hall
Cannes Hotel de Ville--city hall | Source
This statue by Milthon stands at one of the entrances to the city. French municipalities routinely purchase art for public spaces.
This statue by Milthon stands at one of the entrances to the city. French municipalities routinely purchase art for public spaces. | Source
The Port of Cannes from Le Suquet
The Port of Cannes from Le Suquet | Source

A touch of class

I was amused and possibly offended to realize that the French interpreter seemed to be enhancing parishilton’s comments so that she would sound evolved.

After the broadcast our friends and family met us on the Croisette. Guy, my parishilton tormentor, grinned when he told me that he had recorded the show with me and my girlfriend. He teased me about my secret attraction to her.

When we watched the recording, he found it even funnier. Even I had not realized that my friend and I were frequently in shot with parishilton, and every time she answered, I was captured sneering.

Five days. Five days! Five days in a row, with all the celebrities, famous directors and VIPS in town, parishilton was awarded the Nice-Matin’s version of the Palme d’Or.

The next night we were eating at a sidewalk table in front of Café 72 on the Croisette, a wonderful corner café from which to watch activity along Canne’s busiest and most famous (Where a server once slapped my credit card against my chest and told me, under unique circumstances, that my money was no good there).

As we enjoyed local wine and a bite to eat, a television crew set up across the street and Tommy Lee Jones sat down for an interview. In contrast to the inane drivel parishilton had been quoted spewing all week, in what seemed to be a concentrated effort to embarrass the United States, Mr. Jones was eloquent, reasoned and engaging. I never saw his picture on the cover of Nice-Matin.

Despite the agony of paris hilton experiences, I miss being in Cannes, whether during film festival or any other time of year. Unless you are crazy for celebrity watching, though, I’d suggest going some time other than the second half of May, when you can enjoy the sights and the wonderful people who live in the South of France in relative peace.

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