We’re back from the Cannes Film Festival. You can read my coverage at www.forbes.com. Ten days that started with dinner with Jane Fonda and ended at the new Cannes Hospital with an inner ear infection and Vertigo. That’s right, Vertigo, but without Jimmy Stewart or Kim Novak. Just Alfred Hitchcock. Social highlights: the Vanity Fair party at the Eden Roc, Sean Penn’s Haiti fundraiser with Petra Nemcova and Paul Haggis, Charles Finch’s annual dinner — this year sponsored by IWC watches.
Funny things about Cannes: the people who float around on yachts but never actually come in for the film festival. You get communiques– “Cyndi Lauper” is on Paul Allen’s boat. (He brought his small gigantic floating mall this year.) If you’re there for the film festival, all of this is like static. Especially news of Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, playing bar band music on his boat at 2am in the rain.
Yes, it rained. It poured. It was cold. The weather gods were not with us this year. You could buy a $50 umbrella on the Croisette. The ran dampened the whole Cannes gestalt, but not more so than the sinking European economy. This was by far the least flashy Cannes for studios and hype. Billboard advertising was way down. Prices were way up. None of the studios brought blockbuster screenings to Cannes, or even decent promotions. The only exception: Sacha Baron Cohen, who came in for ten minutes, rode a camel for “The Dictator,” and left. Otherwise, no sign of the new “Spider Man.” “Batman,” or even “Men in Black 3.” Is showmanship dead?
Not if you were Harvey Weinstein, who was everywhere. He showed three really good films to get excited about– “Lawless,” “Killing Them Softly,” and “The Sapphires.” He had a viewing party for footage from Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master,” David O. Russell’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” They all looked great. “The Master” is going to be controversial. In a good way.
Things that didn’t work out: amfAR’s Cinema in Cannes. Described as “glamorous and boring” by people who went and did not see Janet Jackson perform because she didn’t. “Glamorous” because the women wear gowns. Otherwise, this thing has devolved into something to be avoided. Alec Baldwin not only didn’t emcee, he didn’t even get up and speak. Sharon Stone was still missing. Nicole Kidman didn’t go; she had her own movie premiere that night.
Nicole’s movie, “The Paperboy,” directed by Lee Daniels (“Precious”) was a last minute hit for all involved. Kidman is the first actress of the year headed to awards glories. There were lots of other good films. I loved the Italian film by Matteo Garrone called “Reality.” The star, Aniello Arena, is in prison for killing three people 20 years ago. He will not be doing press. But the movie is great. Also memorable: Wes Anderson’s charming “Moonrise Kingdom,” the difficult “Rust and Bone” with Marion Cotillard, and Walter Salles’s brave attempt at filming Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Sony Pictures Classics comes home a winner with “Amour” by Michael Haneke–and another film they picked up from the Directors Fortnight called “No.”
And then, the Vertigo, or vertige, as the French say. Suddenly, on Wednesday night, I got hit with a deep inner ear infection. It was a text book case, if you had the textbook. Off to the new Cannes Hospital, where they put me through a loud MRI to see if I had a brain tumor. Negativo. There’s a Vertigo specialist at the hospital! They got right to the bottom of it, so to speak. Now I wear a little patch the size of a nickel behind my ear for the next three weeks. Still much wobbling. But nothing fatal.
Was the Vertigo a symptom of Cannes? Or vice versa? We’ll never know. But the rain, the cold, and the constant itinerary planning took its toll. Next year will even be stranger because the Carlton Hotel is closing down completely for renovations. Nothing will knock out the Croisette vibe more than that.
And what about the weird movies? Hated by just about everyone: “Holy Motors.” Also a foreign film in which a guy reportedly twists his head off or something. (I missed that–vertigo!) Few people could make out David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis.” Of course, for sport, there was James Toback’s roaming film crew, with Alec Baldwin, trying to get some of this down for a mockumentary. The results are keenly anticipated.