PARIS: For its 65th anniversary bash, the Cannes filmfest will be wining and dining 700 of the film world’s elite at a black-tie dinner, but for decades the movie showcase on the Riviera was a pretty laid-back affair.
Cannes’ longtime chairman, the 81-year-old Gilles Jacob, first attended as a humble critic in 1964: “It was like a little colony,” he told AFP in the run-up to the May 16-27 event. “There was hardly any press, we all knew each other.”
Right from the start, Cannes has been a magnet for glamour, a party place for jet-setters and stars from James Dean to Grace Kelly.
These days, Cannes is a frenzy, with 700 police on hand as its population triples to 200,000, 90 films shown in the main competition and sidebars and 4,300 titles up for grabs at a giant film market.
Hollywood royalty descends each spring on the Riviera, with this year’s crop including Nicole Kidman, Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain and Sean Penn to name but a few, their appearances chronicled by a swarm of 4,600 journalists.
Stars with films in competition are ferried from breakfast photocall to press conference and back-to-back interviews, before the limo picks them up to whisk them to the ritual red carpet gala screening.
But the stars are a vital part of the equation at Cannes, now firmly entrenched as the leading showcase for world cinema with entries from three dozen countries in this year’s lineup.
“It’s thanks to them that we can afford to launch edgy directors,” Jacob said.