Archive | May, 2013

#9: Secret Cannes diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

28 May
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Roman Polanski and Emmanuelle Seigner in Cannes. In the event, Geoff was too shy to say hello on the nearby table.

The penultimate extract from my 1997 Cannes Film Festival diary, in which MTV equals anarchy and a producer praises my “tabs” and “dabs”…

Jon Ronson and I left the Bright Young Things to their boat (see previous diary entry) and set off to meet Geoff Andrew for dinner. Geoff materialised through the usual scrum around the red carpets of the Palais with Sheila Johnston and Quentin Curtis, fellow critics, and we headed off to the Old Port and Le Réfuge, Geoff’s fave, a choice supported by the arrival of little mummified Roman Polanski with his sweetheart Emmanuelle Seigner.

Cannes treated us to a huge fireworks display, as we sat outside in the chilly night, so long in fact it almost became dull! Nigel Floyd and Mark Kermode came past but insisted on finding somewhere they could eat inside.

After four bottles of rosé, time to get to the MTV do. Geoff pooh-poohed my suggestion of phoning a taxi, as the Time Out Guide recommended, and we set off in search of one. Nothing doing. So we hoofed it.

It was a long, long, weary walk, Geoff wisely dropping out to drink sedentarily at the Petit Majestic, and we arrived an hour later to find a huge crowd outside that turned out not to be gawkers, but bona fide ticket holders. We pressed and panted and heaved for a while, then squeezed out of the crowd, gasping for air, and stood at the periphery, marvelling at the cattle-truck chaos. A fight broke out; then a woman who pushed her way to the front of the crowd was, according to Jon, thrown bodily back into the crowd by a bouncer, wailing dismally, “But I’m from Freud Communicaatiooooooons…..”

It was Freud PR that “organised” this shambles, so it felt like divine retribution. The few people who emerged unsteadily from inside, with the dazed look of the war-wounded, said there were similar scenes indoors. And there was our man Richard “Jobbo” Johnson, still vainly struggling outside with the rest despite his clutch of VIP passes.

We would have left sooner, but I couldn’t face the walk. Eventually Laura and the Soho House posse arrived and commandeered a Soho House bus to squeeze the 13 of us in, and off we went…

I called a halt at the Croisette, and a half-dozen of us trooped off to the Petit Majestic. Less a bar than a street party, it’s where the Brits congregate (and some noisy, sing-songing ones at that, sadly). Jon left after 40 minutes, but by then I’d found Geoff, and Emma Davie, so I stayed, talking with them and her Miramax friend and the Welcome to Sarajevo team.

I also met a funny little producer who said he loved the way I smoked as though I enjoyed passionately each lovely breath.

“Love the way you smoke your ‘tabs’,” he said.

[I met him again the next day in the grocery store, the worse for wear having followed on to G&Ts and Jack Daniels, and I discovered that the important-seeming Cannes office number he’d been giving everyone really belonged to some old French lady. He greeted me with “Hey, shiny ‘dabs’!” Meaning my shoes. What lingo is that?]

I called it a night sometime after 4.30am; not too drunk this time owing to the two and a half hour drinking hiatus imposed by those f***ers at MTV who ruined my big night out.

I teased Jon about that. He was always complaining of the Cannes hierarchies of colours and badges and party restrictions, and I’d played Mr Sensible, saying otherwise there would be chaos.

And there it was, his egalitarian “everyone goes” party society, descending rapidly into apehood.

For the next extract, in which I dance with James Woods and watch the Spice Girls on a Croisette roof, click here. For the first 1997 diary extract, click here. For the first blog on Cannes 2013, click here.

#8: Secret Cannes diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

24 May
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Continuing the extracts from my Cannes diary from 1997. This time: partying on the Soho House boat with a young Anna Friel, Sadie Frost, Jude Law, David Thewlis…
May 10. Woke up at 9, or so I thought — my watch had stopped, and it turned out to be 12.30. Started off feeling terrible, then thought hey! It’s Cannes! And the sun is shining! And immediately became annoyingly cheerful.Forced down some bread and pate, then watched Jon and Paul (Ronson and Kaye, see previous blog) rehearse the new character Jon’s been writing for him. I giggled in the kitchen, even though I’d heard the jokes before; Paul’s delivery brought them to life.

Nothing planned till 5.30, so spent much of the afternoon wandering up the Croisette, where the crowds prevent you moving any faster than a zombie, and overheard a smart French woman tourist say, “Oh, mais il n’y a même pas des starlets nues.” Bought a phonecard and phoned Jonathan Rutter of DDA to beg tix for a party the next evening, which he said he was giving to only three people, Jon and I being two, then off to join the Young British Talent.

Normally you can’t get into the colossal Palais des Festivals without an accredited pass. Bureaucracy is such that I had prepared a speech in French for when I was inevitably  refused entry despite having a printed invitation to the roof-top reception, but no problems. There are gorgeous views from up there, and the view improved even more when the Brits arrived.

They’d all been styled in designer gear, and looked stunning: Joely Richardson in a ’30s-looking, calf-length shimmery dress; Sadie Frost with little horns, a tattoo, and killer blue eyes (and later in bare feet); Anna Friel (above) thin and poised in a black dress with plunging back, behaving like a naughty schoolgirl during the speech and making signs to Sadie; Catherine McCormack in Doc Marten’s beneath her dress; and then the boys — Rufus Sewell, Jude Law, Jon’s friend James Frayn — all dressed to kill in Paul Smith tuxes and exuding a raffish charm.

I introduced myself to Anna Friel and thanked her for being kind to Brian Case (Time Out‘s legendary Senior Editor) when he went on location recently for Landgirls. Brian had told me he was worried that his drinker’s reputation had preceded him, because Anna always seemed to have a bottle of wine to offer, even in the morning; but she said that’s just what she always did, with a deliberately insouciant air that shouted “See? I may come from the soaps but I’m a bad girl, really!”

Jon turned up late, and still gloomy, having a Bad Birthday. He introduced me to ??, head of MTV, who had produced his Jon Ronson Mission, and cheered up  when I told him the young stars were all off to dinner at the Soho House boat — so we could mosey along and somehow inveigle our way in…. which we did.

Barry Norman (the BBC film critic) was standing proud on the top deck, gazing into the distance like an Admiral, very much in command and in his element. We ligged into the bar area for free champagne and Sea Breezes, where Jon had two coups and two foot-in-mouths.

Catherine McCormack was effusive in her praise of Jon’s Omar documentary (earlier he’d said his great ambition was to meet Mike Leigh, but he was too frightened he’d snub him. I had joked that he’d probably say “Jon Ronson! I’m a great admirer of your films…”). This delighted him, though he spoilt the warm glow by saying to her, in the end, “So what do you do?” Oops. Mind you, I hadn’t realised she had starred in Braveheart, either.

Same with David Thewlis, who actually sought Jon out to praise him for his documentary; but when Jon started going on about meeting David’s ex-wife, and how he really liked her, it spolit the mood…

I meanwhile patched things up with Richard Jobson, who I worried might bear a grudge for a nasty Sideline in Time Out years back making fun of his dyslexia, which at the time made him furious. But no: he wanted to make a deal with Time Out to help out with his series of London movies [our News Editor Tony Thompson eventually co-produced with him], and sorted us out with VIP tix to the massive MTV party that night…

In the next episode, a fight breaks out at the MTV party… click here to read

#7: The Secret Cannes Diary of a Time Out Editor, aged 33¼

23 May
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I stayed in Cannes with Jon Ronson, who was then writing for Paul Kaye aka Dennis Pennis (above), terroriser to the stars

I’m back in England, but still blogging on the Cannes Film Festival. How? I found my diary from 1997, when as Editor of Time Out magazine I spent a wild long weekend in Cannes. This is the first extract, slightly edited for length…

May 9, 1997: Having arrived on the overnight sleeper train, I took it easy the first day at Cannes. Jon Ronson had kindly agreed to let me sleep on his floor. He had been a Time Out columnist, and now was being paid a fortune by the Standard to write a Cannes diary, as well as writing gags for TV menace Dennis Pennis, who would ask horrible trick questions of stars who were unaware at first that he wasn’t a “proper” BBC reporter. I met Jon for breakfast at 8am – he was up after a mostly sleepless night. The rest of his crew were asleep – Paul Kaye, better known to the TV-watching world as Dennis Pennis, was kipping late, having slept on the pavement to avoid waking up Jon’s flatmate who had pulled.

They had managed a heroic triumph in the small hours of morning, breaking through Michael Jackson’s notoriously tight security after 12 hours of trying, and “Dennis Pennis” managed to ask him two questions before they were bundled off: “Are you thinking of having any more children? Or are you worried about being arrested?” And: “Do you like 3T? Or do you prefer Boys2Men?”

After a lazy day, the evening started at the Majestic Hotel, where we were meeting Laura from Electric Pictures on the occasion of her birthday. Supposedly you can’t get in without accreditation, but I put on my power purple jacket and breezed through. The drinks were reassuringly expensive, 200 Francs for two Bloody Marys and a tomato juice – the latter for Boyd Farrow, Editor of Screen International and a dead ringer for Stanley Tucci, who had written the intro for the customarily invaluable Time Out guide to Cannes.

The next couple of hours were a chaos of people and escalating bar bills, plans going awry, people going off to dinner and never being seen again… Laura worried at mucking up all the arrangements, but it seems obvious to me that at Cannes, you just go with the flow.

Which Jon and I did, in pangs of hunger roundabout 9.30pm, to meet the Dennis Pennis mob in a tiny bar.

They were in a glum and savage mood, having waited to accost Charlie Sheen only to have him walk straight past them, early, while they were chatting. Paul Kaye is actually strikingly handsome in the flesh, with piercing blue eyes, an intelligent face and a nice smile – from zero to hero, as they say. Later, when he put on his heavy Pennis specs, he utterly transformed.

Geoff Andrew (Time Out Film Editor, now programmer of the BFI) turned up, having been sitting in the restaurant unnoticed with Jonathan Romney. Geoff’s been very helpful, writing me two sheets of telephone numbers and tips and maps before he left for Cannes.

We went off to party by the beach for Hanif Kureishi’s new film, leaving Paul Kaye to hit up Charlie Sheen later. It was a good do. I talked to Buena Vista supremo Daniel Battsek, and saw him for the first time look quite small and vulnerable when I witnessed a Big Swinging Dick competition straight out of Tom Wolfe.

A guy from UIP barged in on our conversation and started saying how the release dates of his new Bond film and Battsek’s Starship Troopers coincided, and he certainly wasn’t going to move, because if there was a war, he wasn’t the one going to get stomped over. “Real unzip your flies time,” said Daniel when he’d gone.

I found designer Pam Hogg on the beach, dressed in red rubber, yelling about “projectile pissing” at the top of her voice. The last time I saw her, she was bringing in pictures for our Weird Sex issue of herself naked and in chains… I shared a taxi with her once in a traffic jam after a radio interview, and we got on then, and we had a great chat now.

Danced with Laura from Electric to the Spice Girls and drank enough champagne to hurt my head. The beach was magical because of the lights from Cannes all around, the waves high and inviting. Jon disappeared to the Soho House boat with Paul Kaye, and I finally crashed out on Jon’s floor sometime around 3.30, waking occasionally in order to hurt in my head.

In the next episode, Anna Friel is naughty on a yacht while Sadie Frost wears devil horns: click here to read

Cannes confessions #6: the night time is the right time

21 May

Whoever said “Man cannot live by canapés alone” (they do say that, don’t they?) clearly has never been to the Cannes Film Festival. The place is a ligger’s paradise: every major film-making country has a pavilion, each one hosting receptions; the Croisette beach is lined with party marquees; and that’s without even counting the regular hotel ballrooms and nightclubs.

Veteran Canneites swap tips on how to smuggle extra people in – from walking purposefully past talking the doormen in someone’s slipstream talking into a mobile phone, to getting a stamp on your way out for a cigarette and then pressing it to your friend’s wrist before it’s had time to dry. Director Paul Wiffen, with whom I spent a fair bit of time, is a master of the art, having been to 16 Cannes Festivals. Someone really should ask him to write a book of Cannes Film Festival astuces, as he calls his clever wheezes, so if there are any publishers reading this…

There is truth, however, to the phrase “No such thing as a free lunch.” Every drink must be paid for excruciatingly in speeches, most of them barely audible and in a foreign language. And so I can exclusively report, from the ballroom of the Majestic Hotel with the Princess of Thailand in attendance flanked by kneeling flunkies, the exciting news that Thailand is proud of its film industry; ditto for the Russians; ditto for the Locarno Film Festival. As to the Swiss, for all I know they make atrocious films as efforts to gain access to their woefully disorganised bash on the beach were rebuffed.

The best party I went to was for Four Senses, starring former Miss Switzerland Nadine Vinzens and described by the wonderfully named producer Omar Kaczmarczyk (pronounced “Cash-my-cheque”) as an “eromantic” adventure. (The movie, he clearly believes, is so ground-breaking that it necessitates a whole new word.) Though I am still eager to hear the rest of charismatic director/writer Gabriel Murray’s Hamlet story, as I was called away to dinner too early…

And of course, poker fiend that I am, I couldn’t resist trying out the Croisette Barrière Casino, which a couple of years ago wrested the World Series of Poker Europe away from London’s Empire Casino. The cash games there are brutal, with minimum blinds of 5-10, but I figured it would be a novel way to meet top producers, and so it proved: one ended up sitting to my left.

He was in a foul temper, however, cursing every unlucky break, and in no mood to chat to an aspiring film-maker. My British modesty didn’t help. After I guessed correctly that he was a producer (he had a Festival pass round his neck, and was playing high-stakes poker, so duh), he asked what I did. “I’m a journalist,” I say, “but I also have a film I’ve co-written at the festival.” And then, apologetically – “It’s only a short, playing in the Court Métrage. Gotta start somewhere, I suppose.”

At that, he turned away. I have to learn not to be so bloody British. Still, it meant I felt no guilt when I flopped two pairs to crack his pocket Aces, and he exited soon after, hurling his final chip angrily at the dealer with appallingly bad grace.

So let’s abandon all British reserve now and toot my own horn. The next night I played a 30-person tournament at the casino, and came fourth after eight hours’ play. Not too shabby. Good training for the WSOP Millionaire Maker tournament in Vegas the weekend after this…!

For my recent Cannes despatches, read my first IBT article first, with the opening night gala and towering celebrity tales. Then my tips for festival virgins; hanging with the Bond spoofers; and streakers, lesbian love-ins and Nuke ‘Em High with the Troma crew. Plus picture-gallery here, and my final IBT article, on outrageous Cannes publicity stunts, here

For more about my own film in the Short Film Corner, Colonel Badd, see outtakes here and posters here.

Come back tomorrow for more on Cannes.

Cannes confessions #5: the publicity stunt Queens and (Jonathan) Kings of Cannes

20 May

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I had no idea, when I woke up yesterday morning, that I would be spending an hour on the Cannes Croisette with the legendary, the notorious, the irrepressible (despite a spell detained at her Majesty’s pleasure) music mogul turned unlikely film auteur Jonathan King (see my photo, above — not to be reproduced without permission). 

He spins a great yarn, and I’d like the opportunity to write the interview up at greater length sometime/somewhere. Until then, you’ll find a small portion of that interview, along with futuristic nuns, Marilyn Monroe lookalikes, and Eva Longoria’s wardrobe failure, in my second and final Cannes Festival feature for the International Business Times: click here.

For my recent Cannes despatches, read my first IBT article first, with the opening night gala and towering celebrity tales. Then my tips for festival virgins; hanging with the Bond spoofers; and streakers, lesbian love-ins and Nuke ‘Em High with the Troma crew. Plus picture-gallery here

For more about my own film in the Short Film Corner, Colonel Badd, see outtakes here and posters here.

Come back tomorrow for still more on Cannes!

Cannes confessions #4: Behind the scenes festival pics

19 May

Enough words! Let’s let my pictures do the talking. Click on the pics above for captions and photo gallery.

For my recent Cannes despatches, read the IBT feature first, with the opening night gala and towering celebrity tales. Then my tips for festival virgins; hanging with the Bond spoofers; and streakers, lesbian love-ins and Nuke ‘Em High with the Troma crew.

For more about my own film in the Short Film Corner, Colonel Badd, see outtakes here and posters here.

If you liked my picture post, share it with your friends! NEW POST HERE: http://bit.ly/13BMgKC

Cannes confessions #3: Troma Warriors in Festival Hell!

18 May

Yesterday morning in Cannes a gang made off with a million dollars of Chopard jewellery destined for the swan-like necks of the festival’s red-carpet stars. Later the same day, a lone gunman was arrested after firing blanks at Tarantino actor Christoph Waltz. My first thought, in both cases, was “I wonder what movies these stunts have been staged to promote?”

Maybe I’ve been hanging out in Tromaville too long.

I met up with Lloyd Kaufman, the legendary cult film-maker and founder of Troma, in the Marché du Film. Over nearly four decades, Troma has made hundreds of films bearing a distinctive brand of high-octane schlock, gross-out effects  and occasional gratuitous nudity, coupled with relatively high production values and often surprisingly witty scripts. Some titles to savour: A Nymphoid Barbarian in Dinosaur Hell; Alien Blood; Angel Negro; Attack of the Tromaggot; and, appropriately, All The Love You Cannes. And that’s just from the ‘A’s. Enjoy the full list here: http://www.troma.com/films/.

At 67, Kaufman shows no signs of slowing down. With a limited budget for marketing, he has long found inventive ways to generate heat. Hence the foundation this year of Troma’s “Occupy Cannes” movement, staging a different promotional stunt – sorry, piece of performance art – each day.

On Thursday they handed out flyers and stickers while a male streaker Tromatised the crowds on the Croisette. On Friday they attempted to stage a lesbian “wedding”, in honour of the tender love story at the heart of Kaufman’s latest oeuvre, Return to Nuke ‘Em High, but the event was shut down by the police.

Opinions vary as to why: Justin the publicist thinks it was revenge by the authorities for the streaker incident. Asta Paredes and Catherine Corcoran, the film’s young stars, say that it was the gay celebration that disturbed the authorities. “France has legalised gay marriage, but it doesn’t come into effect until the 26th, so they said they were in fear of riots. It’s ridiculous: yesterday we had a streaker and nothing happened, but two women displaying a public symbol of love was threatening.”

It’s refreshing, incidentally, that these girls are clearly both highly intelligent (Paredes previously wrote and directed her own short) rather than rent-a-babes. As to Kaufman, there is no doubting his drive and conviction. “You think I do this for the money? These films don’t make any money. Unless you make an underground movie for $150 million and cast Arnold Schwarzenegger, no one gives a fart for true art.”

He likes to smuggle social messages into the films, and behind the laughs, he is in deadly earnest. Kaufman made a promotional film for PETA called Sunny Acres Farms, in which naked humans are locked in tiny cages like chickens, injected with drugs and “humanely” slaughtered. Even Poultrygeist – Night of the Chicken Dead is, he says, about “the dangers of fast food”. The New York Times called it “about as perfect as a film predicated on the joys of projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea can be”.

As Paredes puts it: “That’s the role of the jester, isn’t it? To make social commentary through humour?”

I’ll leave you with a final intriguing piece of Tromatrivia. I asked Kaufman if, like B-movie maestro Roger Corman, he had helped launch any A-list careers. “They call me the East Coast Roger Corman!” he said, before rattling off a string of names: the creators of South Park; Oliver Stone; Kevin Costner; Samuel L. Jackson; Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas (aged nine in Monster in the Closet).

And you may not have heard of James Gunn, whose first film was Tromeo and Juliet, but you will. He is currently directing the mega-budget Marvel/Disney movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

More on Troma in my International Business Times feature on Cannes promotion: click here.

Click here for the next thrilling episode of Cannes confessions, in glorious Picturerama!

Cannes confessions, #2: the name’s Wiffen; Paul Wiffen

17 May
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Paul Wiffen (left), Tony Errico (centre), and Spy Fail actress Victoria George-Veale

Glorious glamorous beach-side Cannes hasn’t totally worked out that way. True, I haven’t seen so many dinner jackets since watching March of the Penguins. They were even in the McDonald’s opposite the Palais. (Before you sneer at me for eating there on my first night, I did order a Royal With Cheese in deference to former Palme D’Or winner Pulp Fiction.)

But the first night was a wash-out – a Biblical downpour that not even the heat generated by Leo DiCaprio’s smile could ward off. Read more about that in my article for the IBT, here. It’s also taken me two days to get the internet working in this apartment, which is a good deal further from the Palais than advertised (everywhere, apparently is “15 minutes from the Palais”); plus Google maps didn’t warn me about the incredibly steep hill. Thank god I’m not wearing heels.

Yesterday was a bit more on track: after filing my article for the International Business Times, we fit in a couple of afternoon parties in the marquees behind the Palais. The first, at the Russian Pavilion, earned black marks for refusing to open the bar until the end of loooong, barely audible speeches in Russian. The second, in honour of the Locarno Film Festival, required some blagging to get into. Tony Errico, whose short film Colonel Badd I helped write, is Swiss, which helped; I played the Press card. They didn’t seem too fussed as long as you looked the part. For me, gold shoes, white trousers, white Clements Ribeiro jacket, and always the Philip Treacy Elvis hat.

When you’re hanging around critics and journalists at Cannes, as I was in 1997, the talk is all what movies have you seen? When you’re hanging out with film-makers, it’s all what movies have you got coming up next? Tony and I spent some time with Paul Wiffen, co-director of a Bond spoof premiering in Cannes on Tuesday called The Pink Marble Egg, with a sequel, Spy Fail, shooting shortly. He cuts a dashing figure with his white lieutenant’s hat and bevy of spy girls. It’s his 17th Cannes, he seems to know everyone, and he’s always the Man with the Plan: which parties to go to, how to score the best screenings.

He had tickets to the Ozon film Young & Beautiful, in the balcony – or “balcon”, as the French has it, which caused some ribbing from his friends. (“Balcon” is the more elegant French slang for what the Americans call “rack”. So “Il y a du monde au balcon” – literally, “there’s quite a crowd on the balcony” – well, you can work that out for yourselves.) Paul has a master’s in languages from Oxford, and switches effortlessly from French to German to Italian. He’s also a master delegator: this person to carry that bag, take this picture, call that person – whatever gets the job done, but always with a kind word.

It’s a salutary lesson that it takes a certain personality to be a director. Camera angles etc, yes, that’s all well and good. But you chiefly have to be a leader of men, a marshaller of resources, a smoother of egos, a tireless cheerleader when things are going wrong.

More Cannes confessions tomorrow… NOW POSTED: how Troma Occupy Cannes

Cannes confessions, #1: top tips for festival virgins

16 May

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The sun has finally burst through the clouds, and I’m sitting writing this by a pool on a hill with a view of the white-walled town and the deep blue sea. Yes, you can be jealous now, because I’ve finally made it back to Cannes for the Film Festival.

The last time I was here, it was 1997 and I was Editor of Time Out, with VIP access to all the most glamorous parties. It’s a great story, and I’ve just written about the highlights, plus an account of last night’s star-studded opening gala, for the International Business Timeshere — you should definitely read that first.

Now I’m in Cannes as a film-maker, with Colonel Badd, a short comedy I co-wrote with the director Tony Errico, accepted into the Short Film Corner. (More about Colonel Badd, which takes the form of an interview with a retired supervillain, here.)

Cannes is a crazy, wonderful, chaotic festival which every aspiring film-maker should experience at least once. I had very little clue how it worked before I rocked up yesterday. But I’m learning fast. Here are my top tips so far:

— Accommodation. I found a terrific two-bed flat near the Palais for £800 a week. Cheap by festival standards, when prices triple, but not so stupidly cheap as to be suspicious. I discovered too late I’d been scammed. Police and banks alerted (gosh they move slowly in a crisis), but money I think irrecoverable. The next cheap flat I found, for which I was also asked for a bank transfer, I Googled the owner, found her office number, and talked to her secretary to make sure. Top tip: Book very early (or very late) for the best deals; find flatmates to book an apartment or house with rather than get a hotel; try to be within walking distance of the Palais.

— Transport. Flying is cheaper than the train, but the coach from Nice to Cannes is a nightmare. Three times as many people as there are seats crowd into a disorderly queue. You’d think they might put on more than the usual half-hourly coach on the opening day of the festival, but no; everything in France is “réglementaire”, by the book, whether or not it makes sense. In my desperation to get to the Palais before accreditation shut I overcame the problem, I am ashamed to admit, by jumping the queue. And even then I had to plead with the driver in French that my “compagnons de voyage” were already inside, as they wouldn’t let me on with luggage. Top tip: don’t queue by the bus doors; go round the side and get your bags in the hold sharpish. The driver calls for people with stored bags to get on first.

— Accreditation. Cannes operates on a complex system of colour codes and badges, with access to certain areas and screenings and not others depending on your status. Without accreditation, all you can do is chat to people in bars. Top tip: Make a short film and submit it to the Court Métrage/Short Film Corner, and they give you two accreditations. Thank you Tony Errico for mine.

— Screenings. This works on a points system. They started me off with 100 points, plus I get 2 extra points for every hour spent in Cannes, like a casino loyalty programme. Popular screenings at popular times cost 100 points; others cost 50 or even 30. It actually makes a strange kind of sense. Until I discover that Tony Errico, as producer, gets none. Go figure. Top tip: You usually book from computer terminals inside the Palais, but now they also offer an app that lets you book from your iPhone or similar. You can only book 24 hours in advance.

And that’s enough for now. Right, I’m off to see where this wild ride will take me… Click here for my second despatch from Cannes. Plus photo-gallery here.

S**t happens: the coincidence of the new Audi ad and the remarkably similar short

15 May

I’d like to show you an amazing coincidence. A coincidence so astounding that you could stick a beard on it and tour it round the country in a freak show. In fact, forget the beard; it’s freaky enough on its own.

Take a look at the new TV ad for the Audi SQ5, above. Then take a look at the minute-long 2011 art short No 26 To Hackney, by fashion photographer turned film-maker Ben Charles Edwards (below).

 

See what I mean? Freaky! To the untrained eye, it gives kind of a déjà vu.

A glamorous woman walks down a dimly lit street: in slow motion, to nonchalant music at odds with the drama about to unfold, her heel breaks; her handbag falls; she falls with it; there’s a close-up on her handbag as its contents spill to the unforgiving pavement; the woman is left sprawled on the cold hard ground.

There is a key difference between the two: the ending. At the close of the ad, a gleaming Audi drives off leaving the hapless pedestrian stranded, whereas at the end of the short film it’s the more prosaic No 26 bus to Hackney.

Oh, and in the short, the woman’s face ends up pressed into a pile of dog shit. That’s not in the TV ad.

I know that film-making coincidences happen. My own premise for a sci-fi movie turned up years later as Looper (see here). Animal Charm, which I co-wrote with Ben, featured terrorist babes in balaclavas, just like Spring Breakers (see here). But this seems a bigger one. The first Ben heard of it was when his mother texted him to say “Congrats on the Audi ad!” Knowing his short film, she had assumed the ad she’d just watched on television was his doing.

So I wondered if there might be some connection between the two, if Ben’s film inspired the ad in some way. I phoned the ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty, who told me to phone Audi’s PR agency, who told me they would look into it and have an answer later that day. By evening they still couldn’t quite give me a definite answer: “So sorry I haven’t got back to you today. Just checking out the story but at this stage I think it is just a coincidence but I am just waiting confirmation.”

The next day, ie yesterday, I got my response, from Richard Stainer, Client Services Director of BBH. And it is categorical: “BBH was not aware of the short film of Ben Charles Edwards. While there are points of comparison in content (like the broken heel and the dropped bag), the Audi SQ5 story is original material. As an agency, we pride ourselves on creative originality and we take any claims suggesting otherwise very seriously.”

So there it is. An amazing coincidence.

I’m glad it turns out to be a coincidence, though. Not just because amazing coincidences are fun to gawp at, like a wedding ring lost at sea that shows up years later on someone’s dinner plate, inside a fish. But because it would be rather embarrassing all round if it weren’t. No top British ad agency would want to use emerging film-makers as a cheap source of inspiration. And no manufacturer of superlative cars would want customers to be viewing their ad, while all the while thinking of dogshit.

Come back for my daily reports from the Cannes Film festival, starting tomorrow!