The diary of Screen Edge's John Bentham at The Cannes Film Festival 1997
The Madness Begins Yes it's madness all right as we arrive in Cannes on the Friday. We've been up for 2 days and begin, what's always a tiring week, absolutely exhausted. But it doesn't matter somehow. You just seem to get through. An initial recce down the Croisette shows there really is a serious turn out for this, the 50th anniversary of the festival. It's ironic to see the display for 'Beavis and Butthead; The Movie' taking pole position at the Carlton Hotel entrance. As the Spice Girls breeze into town to promote 'Spice The Movie', the world's press gather round like flies. The girls quote the movie to be a drama, a love story, a comedy, an action adventure and a bit of a documentary. It makes you wonder how much of the script is written yet! Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Demi Moore all turn out to promote the opening of Planet Hollywood. Yes they've opened one in Cannes and, somehow it does not look quite right attached, like a limpet to the front of the Hotel Splendide (previously a very nice looking building).
Fatliners Amongst other things we're here to promote a movie. 'Fatliners' is a camcorder movie made in Yorkshire, which we've helped to finish. It's a Troma style affair about a world dominated by wrestling. We know we're really going against the grain here showing a no-budget shot on video movie. We've got badges that say 'fuck production values' just to press the point home. As the week progresses these badges become extremely popular. It's almost like, the more successful people are, the more they like to wear them. Very odd.
Anyway, the object is to raise attention to the film and get people to the screenings. The film-makers, Julian and Gus, don brightly coloured tights, capes and wresting masks. We then begin touring around the various hotels handing out flyers to executives and the like. There's a Radio 4 journalist with us (Dave), who's making a programme about the lads. This guerrilla marketing strategy does work very well until the entourage is barred from entering the Majestic Hotel. So it's off to the British Pavilion, where we immediately bump in to Barry Norman. Dave steams straight in with the mike and is asking whether Barry will be coming to the Fatliners screening. Julian leans a bit too hard on a display shelf and the whole thing collapses around everyone. This causes Barry to raise his voice somewhat, but he was ok really and we did get it on tape!
There are cameras everywhere, the lads of course are proving popular and get to do a fair few interviews. Live TV were struggling a bit trying to interview them in the bar of the Martinez Hotel. Their hand held mike was faulty and the camera-mike wasn't working too well with all the room noise (no change there then). Julian's solution was to shout all the answers at the top of his voice. He then of course had the attention of the whole room and had everyone in stitches. The exercise was a lot of fun and it worked. You don't necessarily get that many people to the screenings, but an awful lot of people get to know about the film and keep the flyers etc...
It's good to see Yes it's good to see other UK low budget activists out there and at it; Nico Rilla, having just wrapped shooting 'Siamese Cop', Alex Chandon with 'Pervirella', Caleb Lindsay has a new film 'Hard Edge' and Jake West with 'Razor Blade Smile'. It's a good feeling for Screen Edge to see Matthew Harrisons third film 'Kicked In The Head', exec-produced by Martin Scorsese, screening as part of 'directors fortnight'. Screen Edge has released Matthew's first two films 'Spare Me' & 'Rhythm Thief' on video.
A bit of fun was had being harassed by demented film-maker Lloyd Richmond of Million Dollar Films. Lloyd is in fact an alter-ego of that Dennis Pennis chap Paul Kaye and could be seen around town tearing into executives with a camera team in tow. The programme is set for a straight to video release. I did hear fleeting stories of him leaping over the fence onto the Palais steps to talk with Michael Jackson about child sex. In another incident his film crew caused a Gendarme to part company with his motorbike.
Usual Suspects Ok so it's time to hear the Arts Council announcement about who gets all that lovely lottery cash. "The Usual Suspects!", was a cry heard a lot that evening. There were in fact screams of various notes along with "how can public money be given to producers who have lost millions on recent projects" to my own pitch of "why can't some of the money be spent on lower budget projects". What we were hearing also were tales of "can the UK industry sustain a 30 movie slate" and "can the movies really compete with the 100 million dollar US titles", the stated object of giving all this money out, being to do just that. Another interesting line I heard earlier in the week was "those with the ideas have none of the money and those with the money want to make more of the same". I mean when you come across rights available on a project as "sequels gone, but prequel and remake are still available", it really does say it all!
Bullshit or bollox "What is the difference?" I hear you say. Well I'll tell you. The bullshit is what we get exposed to, whether it be the stars on the croisette or the endless rattle of lawyers and agents giving it "well, I can't commit now and I can't possibly make a 3pm" to the film-maker and his "how the hell am I going to get my film made". I've been around some people for a number of years who have been trying to get the same projects under way. They continue and I'm sure they're gonna make it, but I do sometimes wonder why a film-maker has to spend all this time, a number of years often, to get something underway. I do think this is bollox and a great waste of what should be a film-makers most creative early years.
It's interesting how many documentary and TV people there are around this year with digital handycam's, which although they don't quite look the part do give fantastic results. The perfect tool for the up and coming film-maker. I, of course, pitch this idea relentlessly, while continuing to hand out the badges.
French So it wouldn't be quite the same if we forgot to complain about the French! That arrogance we've learned to expect shows up all the time whether it's using the wrong door or leaning over the wrong part of the bar. When UK film-maker 'Mick' had his wallet stolen one evening at 'The Petit Majestic', he was subject to a scuffling knife attack after finding the guy and getting it back. Luckily it was only a light cut to his back and a ruined shirt. When attempting to report this at the local Gendarmerie he was literally kicked out of the door and spat on! He called the British Consul the next day with thoughts of taking action, but was quietly told to forget it.
Fun 25% of the market films are still erotica or porn. This year it was interesting to note the considerable absence of 'sleaze on the croisette' as it were. No troupes of girls posing for the cameras or wannabe's stripping on the beach. The annual 'Porn Awards', which has always amused me to take place during Cannes, was suspended. An effort to make things look better for the 50th year celebrations I suppose. I did see a crowd of photographers on the croisette one day and went over for a peek. Closer examination revealed a poodle as the attraction. You never know what to expect here. I guess they were just bored.
Friday night's excellent Moving Pictures party did see at least one young lady with something to get off her chest as 3000 people rocked the night away. Busses ferry people down the coast to the venue, which is a glorious walled chateau, fronted by the sea. This annual party really is the end of the event, and is celebrated by the provision of half a dozen free bars. It usually takes until the very early hours for the participants to drink these bars dry.
So there we are, it's all over. I know. I've got the headache.
John Bentham - May 1997