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At this year’s Cannes Film Festival there are more stars splashed across the sky than sparkling along the croisette, the main drag of the French Riviera’s legendary seaside resort.

The film festival traditionally heaves as a hedonistic playground for the rich and famous during May, but this year, while the rich are here in their droves – cruising up and down the Croisette in their limos or stretch-limos and hiring yachts at some R30 000 a day – the famous have stayed away.


In a desperate bid to raise the star presence, Mel Gibson was flown over to stroll up the red-carpeted Palais stairs. But aside from a few “Mel, Mel” screams, which echoed into the night, it failed to score on the Richter scale of fan frenzy like Sly, Bruce, Armie and Madonna have in the past.

The problem is that none of the mega Hollywood movies has been selected for this years competition which could be interpreted as a blessing by some.

But, tragically, none of the international films screening here has half the chutzpah of the Italian masterpiece Life Is Beautiful, which won last year’s coveted Palm d’Or prize at Cannes.

The movies have been more boring than watching Liz Hurley’s nail varnish dry (an event which could probably be viewed at a nearby villa where she’s promoting her latest film EdTV), and longer than the lines of party revellers queueing up outside the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me party.

Cannes Film Festival 1999. Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta Jones
GLITTER AND GLAMOUR: Sean Connery (waving, right) and Catherine Zeta Jones (waving, left) arrive for the screening of their new movie together, Entrapment, which was previewed at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

Award for the Biggest Yawn picture goes to Barber of Siberia, a Russian film which runs for six hours in its homeland, but which has been mercifully chopped down to a mere three hours for Cannes.

That’s not to say that Cannes hasn’t still rocked – because for most it’s not just about the movies. It’s about something infinitely more significant: the parties!

Jedi-star Ewan McGregor, Salma Hayek, Jeremy Irons, Mike Myers, Val Kilmer, Milla Jovovich, and jury members Holly Hunter and Jeff Goldblum have boogied the nights away on private beaches, in casinos, clubs and on luxury yachts.

Playboy boss Hugh Hefner hosted the biggest bashes aboard his humungous hired yacht and declared that “one wishes the whole world could be like Cannes”.

Barba Hendricks, a jury member (responsible for selecting the Palm d’Or prize-winner), reminded the throng of 4 000 journalists gathered here that there is indeed a world outside Cannes.

When persistently questioned about the absence of the forth-coming Star Wars movie, she retorted that Star Wars is not the be all and end all of the film world and that “there’s a wider world than Star Wars. There’s another war going on.” Kosovo is just a two-hour flight from Cannes’ pulsating party land.

Ironically, a bomb was discovered and defused in Cannes on the eve of the festival, but since then only movies have bombed.

The biggest buzz has surrounded the expose of Camilla Parker Bowles’s son, Tom, for indulging in cocaine.

Tom works for DDA, a publicist company, which is down here with a heap of stars – but the only person the truckload of tabloid hacks had been interested in interviewing is its infamous employee.

Even the band All Saints failed to muster up much interest when its members flounced into Planet Hollywood to announce their movie venture.

There have been a few out-of-competition films which have been well received, namely Entrapment, starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery, and a 20-minute preview of Titus, with Jessica Lange.

The films’ stars were warmly welcomed for bringing globules of glamour to the Croisette.

The best in-competition movie so far has been Tim Robbinsons’s The Cradle Will Rock, which features his partner Susan Sarandon and an ensemble of Hollywood actors who have all trooped into town to add some glitter to the Croisette.

And then, of course, there’s always the bevy of babes who brighten up the dullest of film festivals.

This year’s quota has been supplied by Darryl Hannah, Heather Graham and Claudia Schiffer.

Contenders also include a pack of porn stars who pour suntan lotion on one another and pray they’ll be picked for the Hot d’Or prize, porn’s version of the Oscars; and a woman who broke a record by sleeping with 251 men in 10 hours.

She’s promoting her documentary about the feat.

Billy Hayes is also here. You may ask: who? Well, he’s the man upon which Midnight Express was based. Filming is to begin on a sequel.

Perhaps the weekend’s arrival of thesps will turn this festival into a raving success.

Gwyneth’s ex, Ben Affleck, jets in to promote Dognar; Jennifer Anniston and Brad Pitt are expected; and the cast of An Ideal Husband (including Cate Blanchett) will be here.

THE MERCURY, May 21, 1999

Cannes Film Festival 1999

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