A-Z of Cannes
ACTORS: Scores of brave thespians and Maria Carey have accompanied their films to Cannes this year, but even if they don't make it to the Riviera's edge in person, some actors can still dominate the festival. British bare-knuckle action man Jason Statham is on such a disproportionate number of posters advertising films along the beachfront, that the uninformed might think this is the Jason Statham Film Festival.
BRUCE WILLIS: Absent this year, and not a huge fan of the festival. When selected scenes from his film Armageddon received an exclusive preview at Cannes, ungrateful hacks snickered. Unfortunately when the lights came up, Bruce was revealed to have been shipped in as a surprise guest.
COALS TO NEWCASTLE: Bring seagulls to a coastal resort? That's what Alfred Hitchcock did, by the hundreds, to promote his movie The Birds in 1963.
DOGS: A long-running sideshow of Cannes has been the Palm Dog, where prizes are presented to the best four-legged actors. The Citizen Canine of award ceremonies, it's just as prone to barking performances as its older brother.
ENTOURAGES: Attending Cannes is expensive, so smaller studios have been cutting back on costly coifs, lavish lunches and star perks. Scarlett Johansson put up a spirited fight against this downsizing, demanding an entourage of nine, including specialists in hair and make-up, to promote Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The film's backers balked at the $100,000 cost and La Johansson stayed home.
FRENCH: If you want to see a nation shed its Gallic shrug, check out the optimistic crowds lining Cannes' long esplanade, the Croisette. All of them have cameras, and all firmly believe that Tom Hanks will be jogging along any minute.
GOLDEN PALM: Winning the Palme D'Or doesn't wave box-office magic over a film. Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction and Steven Soderbergh's Sex, Lies & Videotape are two past winners – but even the top award doesn't guarantee fame or popularity. Hands up all those who have seen Gus Van Sant's Elephant.
HOTELS: Rooms in Cannes sells out fast despite soaring prices. Suites cost about 2,000 a night. Fortunately, British film-makers have found a cunning way of saving money – failing to get accepted by Cannes in the first place.
INTERVIEWS: Cannes press conferences are treasure troves of oddness. Promoting Spice World The Movie, Ginger, Baby, Scary, Sporty and Posh were diverted from Girl Power by an earnest inquiry from a Middle East correspondent. What did the girls make of the current situation in the Lebanon? The pop stars were briefly perplexed until Geri offered helpfully: "I've been to Debenhams."
JURIES: The source of Cannes' whimsical awards, and therefore the recipients of occasional abuse from sore losers. When Dogville failed to take the main prize, Scandinavian arthouse director Lars Von Trier branded that year's jury president Roman Polanski "a midget".
KEN LOACH: Few film-makers are as beloved in Cannes as our Ken. This would mean more if they didn't also mount tributes to Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke.
MARKET: The real centre of activity at Cannes is a maze of trade show stalls where films are bought and sold, with intriguing titles in approximate English, such as 200 Pounds Beauty. I almost want to see this.
NUMBER CRUNCHING: The first festival was in 1946, so why is this being called the 62nd one in 2009? Because in 1948 and 1950, it had to be cancelled because of a lack of money.
OTHER FESTIVALS: Sundance has become a bigger priority, Venice is more fun and London is the gateway to the annual awards season of Baftas and Oscars.
PASSES: Unlike the Edinburgh International Film Festival, there are few Cannes screenings for which the public can buy tickets. At screenings the brown-shirted gendarmes inspect the colour of attendees' festival passes and turn away those of the wrong shade.
QUENTIN TARANTINO: The director's Second World War action movie, Inglourious Basterds, starring Brad Pitt, is one of 20 films that will vie for the Palme d'Or this year. However, even a Cannes favourite can fall foul of the festival. While trying to get into a screening, he was shoved in the chest by a security guard. Tarantino swung back, and five security men piled on top of him, until Tarantino's girlfriend broke it up.
RED CARPET: The closest thing to a spiritual experience is walking the grandaddy of all red carpets at dusk. For a few minutes, every woman can be a Bardot, every tuxedoed man a Cary Grant in the making.
SCOTS: Selfless Scottish film industry figures continue to square up to the chore of spending May by the Med. However, there is some debate as to whether all of our representatives pass muster as film buffs. In one example we had a culture minister who admitted that they had never seen Trainspotting.
TENUE DE SOIRE: Evening dress is de rigeur at parties, and, before he was famous, Robert Redford gatecrashed beach parties by wading through the sea in a tux.
UNEXPECTED: The Cannes jury sometimes invents new awards to suit itself. David Cronenberg would have gone home empty-handed if the jury hadn't spitballed a prize for Crash's "audacity" which he accepted happily.
VINCENT GALLO: The New York film-maker became a Cannes celebrity when he had a war of words with film critic Roger Ebert, who called his film Brown Bunny as the worst ever made. Gallo then claimed to have put a hex on Ebert's colon. Ebert replied that enduring a colonoscopy would still be more entertaining than Brown Bunny.
WHY ARE WE HERE THEN? Actors, producers and directors enjoy being feted by other film-makers, but winning at Cannes doesn't boost the box-office figures. Quite the opposite, in fact, since people assume Cannes films are arthouse fare, not multiplex movies.
X-RATED: Cannes veteran Barry Norman recalls one photocall where two topless actresses played ping-pong on the seafront watched by 100 male photographers.
Z-LISTER: The rise of the attention-grabbing starlet dates back to 1954 when Simone Silva abandoned her bikini top on the beach and threw herself at Robert Mitchum. The picture went around the world, sending out a message of stripping for success that Madonna has followed ever since.
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