The diary of Screen Edge’s John Bentham

at The Cannes Film Festival 1996 day 1


So here we are in Cannes again for the film festival. Six to a room is nothing, with people sleeping on every available cushion. For the festival there are sleepers in tents, cars and on the beach. The place is packed and the circus really has come to town. This year there is even a live TV show, going off every day from an open sided tent on the beach opposite the Martinez. When I clocked it the other day the French presenters looked more like clove puppets, but I don't suppose that's unusual. Apparently Colm Meany and Stephen Frears went down well with an interview consisting mainly of fucks and fuck right offs. But who cares its only the French and by god they don't half know how to annoy.

For those of us who cant take the 15 quid for a large rye and coke and the hundred quid round, night time is much fun at two little bars, close together in the centre of town; The Petit Carlton and The Petit Majestic (don't ask!). By the time it gets to midnight the crowds are so big that they not only fill the pavements, but right across the road and across the opposite pavement (aka sidewalk). This obviously causes serious problems whenever a car comes along, nudging slowly forward until the crowd opens and makes way. This is of course extremely annoying. With the promise of a drink John Feldman persuaded a motor- biker to stop and park up blocking the way. His bottle went whilst John was at the Bar. Paul hills tried next by placing two tables and chairs in the road. One after another pissed off looking Frenchmen would get out of his car to move them. The bar staff eventually put a stop to that one. And then the fire eaters arrived as if on cue and took up position. Their usual frantic display of juggling and fire- breathing followed, which of course was ok until one of them tripped on the curb and fire-breathed half a dozen people. Luckily it a was only quick heat and a few singes.

So maybe it was time for the 50 yard dash to The Petit Carlton. Things went ok for a while until a rather odd looking large woman; unbelievably, yes, began pissing herself. Two guys from Fox looked on in astonishment as 'she' pulled off her skirt to reveal a full meat and two veg, ‘She’ then proceeded to walk around, hosing away for fun, with everyone jumping out of the way screaming. It was the kind of thing you wouldn't even see in a movie ! 'IT' later returned drunker than before and immediately made a beeline for Steve Buscemi. The sight of Mr.Pink and girlfriend being chased down the road by a fat French transvestite will live with me forever


Yes it really makes me smile to see the black dinner suits out in force. Its follow the leader as hoards of industry executives are shepherded along the Croissette for another Gala screening. Tales of a two hour wait only to be turned away do nothing to stop this determined behavioral change. The desire to queue and perhaps even gape. I even heard of one instance where the suits, becoming angry at a no show were baton charged into the road. Unbelievable. It makes me think back to stories from the late 70's when the 'indies' first appeared at the Midem music market, which takes place here in Cannes during January each year. In the music world where the indies have a natural kind of inbuilt rebellious attitude, The Gala shows at the Palais were boycotted out of principle as the meaningless shams they were (and probably still are). I really do just wish that this same attitude was visible in the Film business.

By god it needs it !

Screen Edge’s John Bentham

at The Cannes Film Festival 1996


Its a public holiday today and there's gridlock on the croisette. It seems like most of the French nation is out there, mainly gathered outside the Carlton Hotel, standing on things, hanging off balconies or tree's hoping to spot a star. Dear god, one wonders, how can this happen, what can make these poor people do this. Thinking about it I guess it must be the film business, the nature of the game and all that shit. And whilst we're on the subject, I've wondered often how the PORN AWARDS came to happen to coincide with the worlds most prestigious film festival. How the biggest boat (well ocean liner) out in the bay belongs to the 'Private' organisation, obviously one of the richest Porn companies around. They had a party on the boat last night and I shudder to think what it must have been like. A guy said to me, "would you go to a party to watch two girls muff themselves off?". What do you reckon? And the basement of the Palais building is turned into a sleaze pit, containing dozens more companies selling film after film of this kind, never mind the sex CD-ROM's. But there we are, so be it, as it is and all that.

Virginia Bottomley's here, The UK governments heritage minister is talking to producers and the like about the best ways to spend all that lovely lottery cash. She arrived at the Queen party early and had to hang around till Brian May arrived to greet her (photo shot and all that you know). After speaking out in support of Dustin Hoffmans appeal for less violence in films, she came out of the midnight screening of Trainspotting quoting it as "Authentic". One shakes one's head. I've talked to people about what we need to do in the UK to revitalise things, let make films from street level and all that, I even heard that 10 million of the lovely lottery cash was going to be spent on experimental and non-commercial kind of projects. But. Yeah. And heres the big fucking BUT here. They are frightened to death to give anything too controversial any funding in case theres an outcry that public money is being used to produce filth. Dear god I ask you. On another note, the Trainspotting party the other night cost nearly a quarter of a million pounds. One sixth of the films budget has just been spent to promote it within the industry. I could make maybe a dozen camcorder movies with that kind of money.

But they might be controversial !!!!

Screen Edge’s John Bentham

at The Cannes Film Festival 1996 - DAY 3


click me Well the crowds are still here. As bad as yesterday. The French national holiday looks like its two days long and its a nightmare walking anywhere. Its not hard to go out in the morning, march up and down, go to the British Pavilion for messages, leave messages for some other people, march back to the Noga Hilton, the Majestic and The Carlton. Next thing its suddenly 6pm. What has been achieved here. Not a lot I can tell you. Its actually a relief to see someone you know and sit down a while for another beer. Occasionally whilst marching along the croisette, one sees a huge circle of photographers around something on the beach. Today my curiosity got the better of me and there in the centre of them was a girl slowly peeling off her clothes. I hear this happens a lot and is often some wannabe in spurious pursuit of fame. I'm not sure the photographers all work for the press either, most of them look like middle aged trainspotting types to me. I suppose we'll have to be careful with this term now.

Mobile phones are everywhere, just walk down the street and there are dozens. What are all these people talking about. Its probably how am I going to get my next film financed. What I'm learning here is just how difficult this is. I really find it hard to believe just how this business does work. How much continued effort it takes and how many different elements need to be put into place for a film to get finance, and then keeping them all in the picture until everything is finalised. The haggling over the stars (of course the agents are in town) and of the importance of the stars to those with the money. Then theres the bluff, the stories and tales that need to be told with unbelievable enthusiasm to keep the show on the road. I suppose there really is a difference between bullshit and outright lies.

Excuse me if I appear cynical.


Its my last night here and I'm too tired to go out. A week like this is an endurance test staying out till all hours and often until dawn. But I have to say it has been a lot of fun. A good time has been had. A good old nobble as they say. What has been a lot of fun is the digital stills camera I've been loaned to take pictures for these articles. Whenever in use its caused serious attention and at times gathered crowds. The viewfinder is much like a little video monitor, which when panned across a scene does slow scan frame grabs. The lens even swivels around so it can be held at arms length for self portraits. It holds up to 96 images which are stored internally on a hard drive and it has a switch for playback so you can scroll through shots taken on the cameras monitor at any time. The images are reasonable resolution (around 250k) and are downloaded onto a computer for re-use via a connecting lead. Its certainly gone down well, almost everyone that's seen it wants one immediately. I've loved this of course, always happy to be seen to be on the front line. When I Bumped into Barry Norman at the Edinburgh Film Festival party, sight of the camera led to the prospects for the film business in the digital age. Barry has no problem with this generally which considering his standing as the UK's leading critic is a healthy sign (there are so many cinephiles around who can't even deal with video). His main worry was the re-manipulation of classic imagery and bygone stars. The prospect of Marilyn Monroe giving Humphrey Bogart a blow job did enter the conversation, which then moved onto the UK's gutter press for a while, with the usual lack of real conclusion. For the parting glass, heres to the French for their unbelievable humanity and hospitality. What do you mean we've got to rise above the arrogance.

Heres to it.

I mean it man!