The movie mogul's guide to Cannes

Michael Kuhn first went to the film festival as a star-struck ligger; now he's executive vice-president of PolyGram - and still ligging
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The Independent Culture
Did you know that the plumbing in the Carlton Hotel in Cannes is in British inches? If memory serves, the urinals are by Adamsez. The British have always felt proprietary about Cannes because they turned it into a resort.

I first went to the festival 14 years ago. Me and my pal Hockman. We hired a Fiat 500 at Nice airport, missed Cannes completely and ended up at La Napoule. Last year was the first year I slept in a film mogul-type room. So I feel qualified to advise both new and old hands.

If, like me, you are at mogul level, one of course stays at the du Cap in Antibes - not the main hotel, but the Eden Roc. As this is a 20- to 40-minute drive from Cannes by chauffeured Mercedes, you call meetings at the hotel. Beware, however, the concierge. He knows everybody's movements. Unless greased heavily, he will helpfully advise your wife that you were last seen with Pamela Anderson by the infinity pool on the rocks having a tte--poitrine. Everyone knows the du Cap doesn't take credit cards, only cash. Few know this can be circumvented by prior arrangement. Don't make the faux pas of asking for the addition. You don't sign for anything. They tell you what you owe at the end. The daunting maitre d' at the pool level greeted me on my first awestruck visit there with the words "I believe you have come to see Mr X and your preferred drink at this hour is a glass of Chablis". Too right, mate.

Also, be aware that your PP can land at Cannes itself, avoiding the mle at Nice airport and the traffic. Your driver needs a special pass to drop you off at the Palais and he should have the festival director's private line for those last minute ticket requests. But your assistant should deal with all this.

The things to worry about as a mogul are: to be invited to lunch at the private villas of the Riviera lite (if I told you who they were they wouldn't be lite) or major Eurotrash; to get to those screenings you have to be at but wish you weren't and those you don't have to be at but need to be (a good example was the famous In Bed with Madonna do); to have a hit movie out in the States at the time you're having your evening Bellini at the du Cap, and to be invited to join the right tennis foursome.

It is OK to visit a couple of independent producer bashes (to show you're in touch) and to lunch once or twice at what ordinary people consider fancy restaurants like Tatou or the Colombe d'Or. As a rule, yacht parties are out, unless (in the old days) it was Mario Kassar of Carolco or (maybe) Joel Silver spending Warner Brothers' money. Never stay for the whole festival. Never see more than three movies. In short, try to join or stay in the players' club.

At the end of the scale, there are no "don'ts" except "don't spend any money". You can easily fit four people in one single cheap hotel room overlooking the petit Carlton (a bar in the back streets which is so noisy till 4am that all hotels near it charge cheap rates). You can "lig" your way into most parties and even private dinners (producer Nik Powell can give expert guidance). Get someone else's festival pass to attend screenings. Feel free to walk on board any yacht having a party in the old port. No one knows who's been invited, who anyone is or what the party's for. Meet lots of bankers. They are lonely. They want meetings. They have no money except for expenses. Meet new talent. They are under the impression (still) that the more meetings you have the more likely you're achieving something. It will take three to five visits to Cannes before you know enough people to have a shot at setting up a movie. You do need something that will pass as black tie to attend evening screenings. Good gossip places - the Majestic Bar, the Carlton Terrace Bar and any Brit-patronised bar.

So, back to Hockman and me on our first visit. We went there to buy films for the UK. We were kicked out of the offices of the famous Cannon Group (Messrs Golan & Globus said our offer was so low it wouldn't buy groceries at the corner shop). We tried and miserably failed to put a movie together. We got smashed and seasick at a yacht party in the old port and then discovered we were on the wrong yacht. We found it impossible to get to see movies at the Palais des Festivals. It rained. Hockman snored. It was hell.

Some years later, I thought revenge was mine. We won the Palme d'Or for David Lynch's Wild at Heart. When it was announced we didn't know we'd won because in French the movie was called "Sailor et Lula". At the ceremony we were told to come back for an official reception at 11pm. We sent someone to book a private room at the Carlton for a celebratory dinner. Five minutes later we arrived to find Harvey Weinstein of Miramax eating some of our dinner (he always knows everything before you've thought of it). At 10.55pm flash Citrons with festival flags collected us and deposited us at the Palais' red carpeted steps. Our party (the producers, Lynch, Isabella Rosellini, Nicholas Cage and others) mounted the steps as royalty. Inside it was another story.

"Who are you?" says the gendarme.

"Les gagnants of the Palme d'Or," I say.

"You're not on the list - go away," says le flic.

Isabella saved the day and got us in to prevent the humiliating possibility of a retreat down the red carpet two minutes after arriving. When we reached the reception, 2,000 French burghers were stuffing themselves. A small table for four was reserved for the winners.

We left the stars to it and headed back to the Majestic for some Dom P... I don't know who paid for that bottle or the 60 that followed as our party grew. It wasn't me. I smiled and toasted Hockman.

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