Mme Thompson: elle a du style

WITNESS; Headlines, not awards, sell films at Cannes, writes David Lister

Related Topics
When I last went to the Cannes Film Festival, I saw comedy, drama and acting of the highest calibre. It was all so enthralling I never actually made it to a single movie. But then what film could capture the excesses of Hollywood at play on the terrace cafes along La Croisette or the spectacle of the British contingent using all their inventiveness to get noticed?

I remember a svelte American producer defying fashion for an opening at the Grand Theatre Lumiere by wearing leggings. Two British female film executives behind her were barred entry. "But we're wearing the same as her," they protested. "Oui," replied the doorman, "mais elle a du style."

But we are learning. I was in the British pavilion at Cannes when an American producer making a film of Othello said he wanted to shoot it in Dumfries and Galloway, "because I've heard it's just like Cyprus". The British Film Commission executive barely blinked, saying to me coyly afterwards: "I suppose they grow potatoes in Cyprus too. We can stretch our imagination and do some lateral thinking."

Emma Thompson's performance this week was a fine example of lateral thinking to get attention. Promoting a little known film, Carrington, and up against Pam from Baywatch for the day's publicity, she nevertheless made the front pages by comparing herself with the Victorian artist Dora Carrington, who fell in love with a homosexual man. Emma had had a varied sex life since she was 15, she revealed. The comparison was about as relevant as an actor playing Hamlet saying that he had actually always got on rather well with his real mother. But no matter. Em got noticed, even grabbing a second day's publicity by apologising the next day. Elle a du style.

The National Heritage Secretary, Stephen Dorrell eschewed le style and lateral thinking and chose to dress without any style and speak without thinking. It was a brilliant coup. Crowds gawped as he strode under La Croisette in an ill-fitting pinstripe suit, and his description of the French actress and former sex bomb Jeanne Moreau as "the distinguished Frenchman" put a nail in the coffin of European union which could yet endear him to the Tory rebels.

I salute Emma Thompson and Stephen Dorrell. Being British at Cannes is not easy. Cannes is a market where producers, lawyers and corporate executives buy, sell, network and wheeler-deal round the clock, with mealtime providing no respite. Indeed, a few years back, two lines scribbled on the back of a restaurant napkin between a lawyer and his business client became the contract for Nightmare on Elm Street.

There is a movie festival going on somewhere among all the networking and buying and selling, but it is increasingly a sideshow and the jury's verdicts have little effect on what we choose to see over the following year. The studio publicity machines, reviews and word of mouth are all far more effective than a palme d'or. Cannes is big business and little is allowed to get in the way of that. In 1968, at the height of the student revolt in Paris, a group of angry film-makers rushed the stage at Cannes, grabbed the curtain and shouted: "In no way are we going to allow the festival to continue while students are endangering their lives on the barricades in Paris." Among the young Turks were Jean-Luc Goddard and Francois Truffaut.

Such a demonstration today - say, about violence in Algeria - would be unthinkable.

Ironically, the soon-to-be-published Chronicle Of The Cinema recalls that it was originally proposed to have the festival in Algiers rather than Cannes. If it were taking place there today, Emma Thompson's childhood reminiscences would seem even more irrelevant.

But as long as the festival remains in this overpriced, decadent and desperate business convention masquerading as a film festival, good luck to Emma and all her compatriots for selling our movies as best they can.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower