Alone in my hotel room, surrounded by gifts and goodies galore, I’m getting nervous. I can’t get to grips with my bow tie, and I’ve been warned there’s no way you get to go up that starry stairway without this illustrious accessory round your neck!
I stroll down to the Renault cocktail gathering near the pool hoping to find help. As casually as I can, I grab a glass of champagne and step up to a couple of guests, engrossed in a discussion on Asian market shares.
“Hi there! Any idea how to tie a bow tie? I need one for the red carpet.” They’re as mystified as me! So I down my drink in desperation, then the solution comes miraculously to mind: I’ll get someone to find me a velcro version. The kind lady on the festival support staff is reassuring: “Your first time? Make the most of it: first time at Cannes is an unforgettable experience.”
Unforgettable: that’s the word. Cannes is a coalescence (a clash?) of opposing forces: the purity of art and the frenzy of business; showbiz bling side-by-side with depth of human interaction.
As if to prove this very point, I’m picked up at the airport in a Renault Espace, decked out in festival colours and driven by Patrick, formerly a globetrotting barman, who lived seven years in Nepal before turning prestige chauffeur. “Transport strikes everywhere today,” he warns me.
Bob Sinclar, heading for the airport on foot, was clearly taking it in his stride. I expected Eric and Vincent, my co-prizewinners, and Dominique, our Renault benefactor, to be less laid-back about their cancelled flight and five-hour delay, but it would take more than that to put Dominique in a bad mood; he could see his Twingo swept away by a tsunami and he’d still be smiling.
After dinner at the Majestic and a photo session, we were finally off to the Festival Palace. The red carpet is crackling with camera shutters. A journalist from Canal Plus descends on us as soon as we get out of the car, doubtless mistaking us for celebrities. Because of the official car? The official chauffeur? The official bow ties? I mean, this is Cannes! When he realizes we’re nothing out of the ordinary he disappears just as fast to lie in wait for the next car.
Meanwhile, the photographers take our photos, we take our own photos, and for good measure we take photos of the photographers taking our photos. It takes forever to get to the top of that stairway, but once we’re up there it feels like Everest. Taking one last look at the crowd below, we’re ushered in swiftly by the security staff, understandably exasperated by the selfies craze.
Again, we’re struck by the Cannes schizophrenia. In two hours, the foie gras and the incessant camera flashes have given way to a world that could hardly be farther away: Abderrahmane Sissako’s masterpiece Timbuktu. The standing ovation lasts 15 minutes. I’m moved to tears. Indeed, the handkerchiefs are out all over the theatre.
But at Cannes, you learn to digest films as fast as the salmon canapés; less than an hour later we’re at Le Silencio, a very select club.
Our heads bursting with unforgettable images, not to mention the champagne bubbles, we eventually return to our hotel —Le Mas Candille at Mougins— to collapse into our four-poster beds.
The next day’s schedule is intense:
- Master class at Ciné Guinguette on La Croisette, on the connection between brands and creative writers, then an interview with the charming Welovewords team.
- Lunch at the Plage Nespresso restaurant. George isn’t there, but Dominique Besnehard is. He’s the sponsor of the competition we won. Around a caffeinated cocktail, he signs his book for us, and then there’s yet another photo session. Anyhow, I’m glad to see he’s much nicer with us than with Odile Deray in Fear City!
- Meet-up with New Twingo, one of the reasons why we’re here. Again, what a surprise! I’m bowled over, by the proportions, the performance, the colour process, the advanced ergonomics. And I just love the insider anecdotes on making the car. Are we still at Cannes here?
On the way back to the airport I find myself plagued by doubt. How am I going to get used to not having a glass of champagne before each meal? Won’t I be getting a little bored without people coming to take my photo every couple of hours? What I am going to do without Dominique taking charge of everything, so I only have to bother myself with eating and drinking? Aren’t people going to look a little drab without their smoking jackets?
After wrestling hard with these questions, I come to the conclusion that this magical interlude leaves me with one burning desire: to do it again. Bigger and better still. More bubbles, more glitter, more photo shoots. More Twingo! And, above all, with a real bow tie this time.