June 1, 2015

The Dark Underbelly of the French Riveria

Ok, I know you all want to know what Cannes is really  like. It's a perfect division of extremes. High fashion boutiques line the Croisette, the main road along the Mediterranean sea. You're surrounded by extremely beautiful people, stilettos and tuxedos in sharp European haircuts.

The Palais de Festivals is nestled around multi-million dollar yachts and paparazzi hollering in the streets. The air vibrates with excitement. People gather around the red carpet and a masterfully sexy playlist blasts through the streets, remixes of The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen - and y'all know the Boss is the quickest path to my heart!

The tinted cars arrive and out steps Charlize Theron accompanied by Sean Penn. Nicholas Holt, Zoe Kravitz and (drool) Tom Hardy smouldered before us. It's an absolute high to see celebrity in the flesh and at the same time, you notice how highly constructed this pageant is.  I'll try to break this down further, as Larissa and I discussed our observations at length.  First, think about how hard it is to take a good photograph. I'm an over-animated blur, my mouth is usually open and I do this weird hyper-flutter thing with my eyelashes that I'm completely unaware of. Watching celebrities in real time maximize this fifteen minute photo op is like taking a peek behind the curtain. No one makes these facial expressions, let alone holds them in place and floats before the paps like an exotic bird. 

Charlize and Zoe channelled this blissed-out post-coitus expression, glowing in passive femininity, whereas the men - and Tom Hardy rocked this  - scanned the crowd like a hunter for prey in a highly masculine primal urge to devour and let me tell you... wait... I need a moment... Eye-fucking the crowd totally works. Consider the serotonin in my brain forever associated with Tom Hardy. I will see all of his movies, buy all the magazines. I'm high and I'm hooked. The red carpet première is a highly manipulative mating ritual that plays on our base desires to sell advertising. That's it. It's fucked and it's brilliant, and intoxicating, and uncomfortably weird, because celebrities are just people. Us gawkers and the would-bes are being taken in and totally duped. 

Directly across the street, the local beggars come out for their evening performance, creating tableaus straight out of the old testament, emphasising deformities and suffering. You'll walk past a man who has collected several pets that sprawl lifeless before him. A woman recreates the Pieta, cradling her six year old son in her arms as he lays slack in the same dead-man pose I've seen on East Hastings, the heroin capital of North America. These scenes stab you through the heart. Are they dead? Are these bodies strewn in the streets before me? No. I was informed it's common for children and pets to be drugged to create these grotesque spectacles.  You're manipulated from every angle.

Even when you're invited to the most prestigious festival in the world, you'll be constantly reminded that you don't belong here. Outside the festival, the locals are fabricating aristocracy like they've never heard of the French Revolution.  One night on the town in my high heels and I witnessed systematic, celebrated elitism and discrimination. We stood in line for the VIP Room, cramped in barricades before these Eastern Promises Bouncers. I was with my crew, mostly men, which I was later told was a mistake - you go in twos and leave the men at home. The Bouncers politely allowed us to enter and then walked us to a curtained area where we ended up on the street, not in the club with the rest of our friends. It takes a few seconds to realize you've been rejected, led to the curb like a pig to the trough. The bouncers refuse to speak to you and intimidate you with a pit bull wearing a Hannibal Lecter mask. I am fucking serious. As Sofia yelled at the man holding the dog, "this is Le Bullshit!" 

This soft war of separation evoked guttural cries against injustice and stirred violent protest. A male model wailed like a dying animal and three bouncers had to struggle against his kicks to the face before he was tossed off the curb. An intoxicated woman screamed at the guards to eat a bag of dicks - gotta appreciate her spunk - but the intensity of which all of this was delivered disturbed me. Elitism has become the new hate crime. And what were we missing out on? A Euro-Trash exhibition and Paris Hilton "DJ'ing." Had I any idea that shit-show was going on, I would have stayed far away. I thought we were in line to see Busta Rhymes, but that was happening down the street. Larissa made the cut into the club and within five minutes she was pushed to the floor and her wallet was stolen. The perfect crime. It started to all piece together, why the bouncers separate women from their male companions. 

This is not the magic of cinema! This is not the shared dream that we experience in the dark, where tears and laughter equalize us beyond language and culture. This is a vulgar freakshow built up around the festival, the dream within the dream that turns sour. As I mentioned, this is the land of extremes, of agit-prop symbols and experiences of either universal connection or devastating separation that leaves you feeling empty and invisible. It's more dangerous to not notice these things, to fall into place and feel part of, or worse, fortified. The first evening left a bitter taste in my mouth and reinforced everything that I naturally recoil from. This is part of the available experience, but it has to be chosen and participated in to exist.

So dolled up in my designer heels, I spent the night at the police station with the Frankfurt crew, a box of pizza and a round of inappropriate questions, while Larissa spent hours verifying herself in order to cancel her credit cards. In spite of the unfortunate circumstances, there was no place I'd rather be. 

Hardcore Rebels, 3D Pornography, Celeb Spottings and those sparkly moments for true Cinefiles. 


  1. Nice contrast. Does the ugly side of the festival (and perhaps, the industry) make you hesitant to pursue your goal?

  2. Great question Bubba! Stay tuned... there's more to be unleashed!

  3. ah yes Linds. There's a whole lotta ugly out there. The great Glam Sham. But the more you see , the more you can be. Remember - anything short of death can build a great story and keep fighting the good fight. xo w


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