I remember my first time. I was in awe; sweat dripping down my face on a spring day and all. It was brief, hot, and then it was over. I was fourteen. My middle school professor briefly gestured at the building, Cannes’ Grand Théâtre Lumière muttering something about movies. It wasn’t the festival, but a red carpet was on display for tourists to trample. Already, there was something special about it. My second time at Cannes, I was older, wiser. To the security guards, my badge was practically meaningless. But the novelty of it all — the parties, the pictures, the people — stunned me. I was barely legal, running around with my partner in crime, when I got kicked out of that very theatre (and then later snuck back in for the Cronenberg premiere) and missed my flight home. By then, I knew it was a sunny place for shady people and that you can’t BYOB premieres (no exceptions). I came prepared for 2015. Here are the key things Street learned at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival to spare you some embarrassment and pain.
THE HUSTLE IS WORSE THAN HOLLYWOOD
Who are you? Who do you know? Everybody wants something from somebody all the time. That’s what happens when you grab half of the film industry, a bunch of young aspiring artists, tourists, and businesspeople and throw them together in a small town on the French Riviera. The hustle is unavoidable – it’s everywhere. At a party, it’s the veteran European playboys hailing from Paris, London, and sometimes Rome. At a hotel, it’s the fifty-year old man at the bar that wrote a “touching yet daring” screenplay he wants you to take a look at upstairs. At the press office terrace, it’s a trembling, stressed-out journalist shaking out an empty pack of Marlboro Golds on their pink plastic press card. In line, it’s fucking everybody.
THE TOWN IS UNACCOMMODATING AS HELL
Is it charming? Of course. There’s a port and sunshine — but you better come prepared. It’s France, so forget the existence of a CVS or a 24-hour grocery store. That’s what you expect — you’re ready for that. But can you know what awaits you at Cannes? No you can’t. You can’t eat between the hours of two and seven. You can’t get a cab. Forget getting an Über to the airport. You will inevitably miss your flight and be stuck in the airport for six hours, nursing the worst hangover of your life, as the workers go on strike with vuvuzelas. Forget fighting with the coked-out waitress charging you for the gin and tonic you didn’t order: you will get thrown out of the club. It’s a small town. If you get with a certain British producer one night, know that you will run into that person every day, three times per day for the rest of your trip. And forget not going home with the strangers whistling at you from their car, they’ll roll down their windows and spit at you.
THE LOCALS HATE IT WITH A PASSION
The bus driver, the panini maker, the bar owner — everyone. They find the tourists imposing and obnoxious, the celebrities demanding and impossible, and the fans annoying and drunk. An Austrian local explained to me outside a bar that the festival is nothing more than “ten days that are crap for everybody that lives here. It’s just tourists who want to look around, and not pay. It’s not that interesting.” So despite the Porsches and Teslas that align the streets in front of the Chanel, Dior, and Armani shops, the influx of tourism does not seem to have a large effect on the town as a whole.
THE SECURITY GUARDS ARE FRENCH ASSHOLES
When Street went to Sundance this January, it was hard to order a coffee or full-strength beer. At Cannes, it’s difficult to get into a movie, even with the right badge. This is due to the army of beige suits that will make your daily life a living hell. They will send you in the wrong direction, frisk you a little too closely, kindly escort you out of the building, and then laugh, saying that “you could maybe get in, that is, if you worked for a better magazine.”
WOMEN ARE STILL NOT REPRESENTED
The film industry is known for its extreme lack of female representation. Cannes, unfortunately, is no exception. While some women showcased their work, they did not bring home awards in the main competition with the exception of best actress. The reason this discussion even reached a global level this week in the press was not because of women in film, but because of complaints made due to the festival’s premiere “heels-only” unwritten rule. The international festival has a long way to go to place men and women on the same level and care about more than the latter’s hair and makeup.
IT’S EVERYTHING YOU EVER IMAGINED IT TO BE… AND MORE
Everything you hear — it’s all true. Some hotels boast suites for 40k a night and more than 800 kilos of lobster to go with their 15,000 bottles of champagne for the week. People do buy party invitations to the galas and balls on the Cannes black market, and clubs do hire girls from European capitals to stay in a villa on the one condition that they go to their club every night. A club does make you stand in line for thirty minutes, seemingly let you in, and then push you onto the street if they don’t think you’re wealthy enough. A slew of escorts walk in and out of the best hotels every morning, as others beg on the street and others beg for tickets. Penn kids do it all (check out their favorite films here). But watching it all — it’s the crème de la crème of entertainment, and Street was lucky enough to be a part of it.