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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
Reporter's log: Cannes Film Festival
Stephen Robb
Our man in Cannes: Stephen Robb
Some of the world's leading film stars, directors and producers are in the French Riviera for the 60th Cannes Film Festival.

BBC News entertainment reporter Stephen Robb has been following the sights and sounds of one of cinema's biggest events.


Angelina Jolie in A Mighty Heart
Angelina Jolie's A Mighty Heart was one of the festival stand-outs
It's the films, stupid!

The celebrity hoopla and showbiz parties can be powerful distractions in Cannes, but the best thing about the festival by a red carpet mile is the wonderful movies.

Cinema-going is a hit and miss affair at the best of times, and these sequel and remake-laden days are definitely not those.

But festival organisers trawl hundreds of movies each year, hand-picking the finest for cinema's greatest showpiece.

My stint in Cannes is now at an end. The festival has been chaotic, crowded, noisy, often vulgar and completely exhausting - and I have loved it.

My best film: A Mighty Heart. It was handsomely made, impeccably acted, surprisingly suspenseful and desperately moving.

There are honourable mentions for the excellent Joy Division film Control and the harrowing Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.

A Mighty Heart was directed by Britain's Michael Winterbottom and Control is a UK-made film - what was that about "the British aren't coming"?

Biggest disappointment: meeting the Coen brothers, of whom I have been a huge fan since Miller's Crossing, to find them bored and unfriendly.

Aerial shot of the Festival Palace in Cannes
Farewell to the red carpet
Most entertaining press conference: Michael Moore, who alternated between "rise up out of your cinema seats" rabble-rouser and stand-up comic.

"I started eating these things that you refer to as fruits and vegetables," was among the pick of the lines.

Most bewildering press conference: the near-religious worship of Quentin Tarantino would always have been excessive, but since Kill Bill it's inexplicable.

Worst film: Death Proof. Someone has to start saying: "No, Quentin."

Biggest annoyance: journalists' subservient, "jump through hoops" relationship with the publicists who wield the power of access to the stars.

It reaches an outrageous level when they start e-mailing to complain about how you have covered their event. (You know who you are.)

After my time in Cannes, two classic film quotes spring to mind.

One: "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

And two: "I'll be back."


Quentin Tarantino and the stars of Death Proof
Tarantino was in town with the stars of his latest film, Death Proof
Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof has delivered genuine scares and a sense of danger in Cannes, and that was just trying to get into the press conference.

A security effort that could best be described as nonchalant, and a lack of the British way with a queue, almost led to a crush when the conference room was opened and the crowd surged forward.

The clamour for Tarantino here is exceptional (which I take exception to, given the self-indulgence of his last three movies).

However, a similarly dangerous situation was reported earlier in the festival at an over-subscribed press screening of the South Korean competition film Breath.

Opinion among journalists on festival organisation apparently remains divided. Some think it is ineffectual, amateurish and arrogant; others think it is worse than that.


It seems that the starry world of the Cannes Film Festival can bestow a little celebrity on even its lowlier guests.

Late yesterday I was able to grant the honour of a telephone interview to Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme, hosted by the inimitable Sean Plunket.

My tremendously insightful and entertaining despatch on Michael Moore's Sicko was undermined only slightly by not actually having seen the film.

It was actually the third request for a radio interview that I have received while at the festival, but the only one I have had time to do (shameless plug alert - you can hear it online for the next seven days).

Is it a Cannes star-making moment to rival Brigitte Bardot in a bikini in 1953?

Perhaps not, but Heathrow might want to think about extra security for my return tomorrow just in case.


I have just come out of a late screening of Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof.

My feeling was that it was bit long, and could stand to lose half an hour or so.

Of course, a 90-minute movie might leave some cinemagoers feeling slightly short-changed, so how's about this for a great idea - put it in a double bill!

How brilliant would that be? I think I'm on to something. I'm definitely going to suggest it to Tarantino at the press conference on Tuesday.

MONDAY 21 MAY, 1840 CET (1740 BST)

Angelina Jolie
Stephen had to see Angelina Jolie's press conference on a big screen
Celebrity status can be accurately measured in Cannes by the number of irate reporters who fail to get into events they are attending.

Using this formula, it is clear that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt are very big stars indeed (I should patent this system.)

My failure to get into today's press conference for A Mighty Heart - pleasingly missing out by just one place - comes a day after being turned away from a screening of 10 minutes of The Golden Compass.

Yesterday's rejection was due to the three most loathsome words in Cannes: "Distributor nominations only."

As a festival first-timer, I was unaware that many of my access requests to the film publicists were doomed without prior nomination by distributors.

I hadn't been turned away from a cinema since failing to get into The Terminator at Bognor Regis Odeon aged 12.

I took it rather more stoically this time, I'm pleased to say.

But I won't be writing a single syllable about the film or any of the sequels, ever. So there.

MONDAY 21 MAY, 1000 CET (0900 BST)

Screen International shows its jury's scores
The jury has reached a verdict on all the competition films so far
The Screen International critics' jury is considered highly influential on competition films' prospects of securing the coveted Palme d'Or in Cannes.

It averages ratings from nine international critics, including the UK's Derek Malcolm, to construct a festival league table.

The French film The Love Songs seems to have squandered home advantage and is currently sitting bottom.

Equal on points at the top are the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, and the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men.

While I am in agreement about the former (see below), there would be no unanimous verdict on the Coens' movie if I was on the jury.

It is the finest one hour and 40 minutes of film that I have seen at the festival - unfortunately the movie is two hours long.

It was never likely to offer a happy ending, but I would at least have hoped for one that wasn't confused, incongruous and so disappointing that it spoiled everything that had gone before.

The jury should be dismissed.

SUNDAY 20 MAY, 2100 CET (2000 BST)

Actresses Talulah Riley, Caterina Murino and Gemma Arterton attend a photocall for the film St Trinian's
The St Trinian's launch was a big draw for the media
"It might be at a later time - it's Cannes," a publicist tells me today about a planned interview.

Another popular festival sentiment goes along the lines of: "It all comes together at the last-minute in Cannes." And often a while later, in actual fact.

"Thanks for waiting," is heard a lot, though nothing like as often as it should be.

For the St Trinian's press conference today, more journalists were surprised to be turned away for not being on the publicists' list - including me - than were being admitted.

Eventually, the person in charge - used in the loosest sense of the term - saw sense and decreed, stepping aside to avoid the stampede: "Just open the doors and let everybody in."

It may be that the only certainty in Cannes (other than that Spike Lee doesn't win) is that everything is uncertain - the festival functions at a level close to all-out chaos.

If the biggest showpiece is typical of the industry as a whole, no wonder movies cost such ridiculous amounts of money.

SUNDAY 20 MAY, 1500 CET (1400 BST)

Parade for Poultrygeist in Cannes
Film-makers of all nationalities - and budgets - come to Cannes
Screening out of competition in Cannes - a long, long way out - is Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead.

It's a devastating expose of the fast food industry, with chicken zombies, lesbianism, bloody massacres and musical numbers thrown in for good measure.

Independent film studio Troma stages two parades a day on the Croisette to promote the film and its library of more than 800 other movies.

"The people of Cannes love the parade - they all cheer us," says a male participant in a black dress, pink feather boa and cheerfully unconvincing horror make-up.

At any time of day in Cannes, and most of the night too, a publicity stunt will be going on somewhere.

They promote everything from the biggest-budget Hollywood productions to films for which the greatest expense must have been the return flight to Nice.

"We put our hearts into our movies, and we have to put heart into our marketing - we cannot throw money at this," says Troma's Mark Hawley.

He delightedly tells me that Poultrygeist is to have its commercial premiere in June in London's Peckham. (Get it?)

SUNDAY 20 MAY, 1400 CET (1300 BST)

Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski has just marched out of a news conference for a film celebrating the Cannes festival's 60th year.

Roman Polanski arrives for the screening of No Country For Old Men
Roman Polanski stormed out of Cannes' biggest media conference

He accused journalists of asking "empty questions" about To Each His Own Cinema, made up of 35 three-minute films by top directors.

"You're no longer interested in what's going on in the cinema. Frankly, let's all go and have lunch," he said before leaving the stage.

He was promptly followed out of the theatre by not a single one of the other film-makers present.

Ken Loach, the Coen brothers and Jane Campion were among the film-makers who both contributed shorts and managed to behave like grown-ups.

SUNDAY 20 MAY, 1200 CET (1100 BST)

Surely one of the best-dressed U2 crowds ever last night, as black tie and evening gown-clad guests rattled and hummed to a brief show on the Cannes red carpet.

U2 singer Bono performing in Cannes
Bono and his band mates rocked on the red carpet
Singer Bono's voice sounded strained, bass player Adam Clayton looked eligible for a senior citizen's cinema ticket, but the band still rocked the crammed Croisette.

Bono showed off his multilingualism with Vertigo's "Uno, dos, tres, catorce" intro, wishing the festival a happy 60th birthday in French, and a few lines of the Seventies hit Ca Plane Pour Moi.

But he can't have understood the crowd's cries of "Encore, encore!", the band performing only Vertigo and Where The Streets Have No Name before disappearing for the world premiere of their U2 3D concert film.

SATURDAY 19 MAY, 1920 CET (1820 BST)

Possibly the biggest story in town today is the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced, written and fronted environmental documentary The 11th Hour.

Except the documentary itself seemed to be of little interest to the journalists who began walking out in the early stages of the press screening.

The problem may have been that the shots of the beautiful and talented movie superstar kept being interrupted by depressing interviews with dull, old environmental experts.

Their early exits doubtless got those journalists to the front of the queue for the subsequent press conference, though, where they could always be gazing at Leo even when someone else was talking.

SATURDAY 19 MAY, 1515 CET (1415 BST)

The BBC's Stephen Robb (left) with The Simpsons
The BBC's Stephen Robb (left) settled down with a visiting family
With the early screenings and late parties starting to take their toll, I was in need of a quiet night yesterday.

I was kindly invited for an evening in front of the TV by a family on holiday from the US (a town called Spring-something, I think they said).

Nice enough, although they all look like they could use some sun, and the boy seems to be suffering from attention deficit disorder.

The elder daughter, Lisa, is a very bright girl, and tips Andre Zviaguintsev for the Palme d'Or.

FRIDAY 18 MAY, 1725 CET (1625 BST)

Michael Moore's Sicko
Smartest marketing item spotted so far is this plaster promoting Sicko, Michael Moore's controversial - there's a surprise - indictment of the US healthcare system.

Meanwhile, Warner Bros is sending out no press materials for the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced environmental documentary The 11th Hour, instead asking media to download information and images.

Somewhat perversely, the request was made by press release on suspiciously-fancy paper, although Warner Bros has confirmed it is recycled.

Whether the crusading DiCaprio is cycling in to Cannes is still unclear at this stage.

FRIDAY 18 MAY, 1020 CET (0920 BST)

The parties start in Cannes long before the projectors stop rolling for the day.

Last night I dropped in to the event hosted by that esteemed film journal, erm, Playboy (I went for the articles).

I hoped to get the chance to ask Pamela Anderson about her disappointment at not being in the running for the Palme d'Or with her new film, Blonde and Blonder.

Bosnian director Emir Kusturica, chasing a record third win, doubtless breathed a sigh of relief when it failed to make the competition shortlist.

Alas, the "actress" failed to make an appearance in the short time I was there.

THURSDAY 17 MAY, 1745 CET (1645 BST)

The applause-ometer was peaking well into the red after the press screening of Control, a British film about the life and death of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.

First-time film-maker Anton Corbijn and first-time actor Sam Riley have created a visually-stunning and moving doomed-rock-star biopic.

The film also threw up a couple of contenders for the Lost in Translation subtitle award.

"Job's a good 'un" translated to the rather less expressive "C'est parfait", while "Chin up" was simply "Courage".

I couldn't help thinking the subtitler must have knocked off early that day.

THURSDAY 17 MAY, 0930 CET (0830 BST)

A shrewd and experienced Cannes reporter knows better than to make impulsive awards predictions this early in proceedings.

But I'm a naive first-timer, so here goes: Anamaria Marinca to win best actress.

After a tip-off yesterday that the Romanian drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was "going to be big", I abandoned my plan of a few beers on a bar terrace watching aspiring actresses go by - excuse me, looking for stories and contact-building - for a late screening.

Anamaria Marinca
The Romanian actress featured in Channel 4's Sex Traffic
I want to give nothing more away about the lean, utterly compelling plot than that it centres on Marinca's character, Otilia, and the friend she is helping to obtain an illegal abortion in Communist-era Romania.

The movie is grim, sinister and harrowing - and absolutely excellent.

Marinca's deeply-affecting performance is the heart of the film, achieving more power saying nothing for minutes on end than a yacht-full of Hollywood starlets will manage in their entire careers.

I can also tell you that my precision Applause-ometer measured a far more enthusiastic response from a few dozen journalists than Wong Kar Wai's My Blueberry Nights managed from hundreds earlier in the day.

WEDNESDAY 16 MAY, 1550 CET (1450 BST)

An early favourite has emerged that will take some beating for the Most Cryptic Press Conference Comment award.

The competition jury members were asked how they responded when asked to join the judging panel for the 60th Cannes.

"I hesitated, then I spoke to my ex-wife," said jury president Stephen Frears.

Enough said, apparently.

WEDNESDAY 16 MAY, 1430 CET (1330 BST)

Wong Kar Wai
Wong Kar Wai unveiled My Blueberry Nights at Cannes
The race for the Palme d'Or is under way with the unveiling of Wong Kar Wai's road movie My Blueberry Nights, which gets its gala premiere later.

But the half-hearted applause that greeted the end credits - and only the first few seconds of them, at that - at the first press screening suggested the assembled journalists felt it never reached top gear.

Some were almost apologetic as they expressed negative verdicts to me on the Hong Kong director's first US film.

Jude Law and Norah Jones
Jude Law and Norah Jones star in the road movie
"It was so disappointing - American cliches. And I'm a Wong Kar Wai fan," a French reporter told me.

"It feels sacrilegious because he's like a god here, but I wasn't crazy about it," said a US journalist.

The other 22 competition entries would surely have to stall spectacularly for this movie to take the chequered flag (and that's more than enough of the motoring metaphors).

TUESDAY 15 MAY, 2100 CET (2000 BST)

Does the biggest film festival in the world also have the most dedicated fans?

The dozens of movie-lovers in position opposite the Palais, about 30 hours before any stars will be chauffeured into sight, stake an impressive claim for that accolade.

Cannes 'stargazer' Maryse Gormot
Maryse says she and her husband are lifelong movie fans

Their chairs and stepladders - for that elevated view - are padlocked in place on the central reservation, overlooking the stretch of road to be carpeted red tomorrow.

Maryse Gormot, 64, has been Cannes "stargazing" with her husband for about the last five years.

She hopes to beat last year's total of 70 autographs collected over the festival's 12 days.

"There are more people here than last year - it will be difficult," she says.

"You have a very short time to get the signature and to see the stars. It's not easy. We will have a fight."

And I thought queuing for 30 minutes earlier to request St Trinian's cast interviews was dedicated.

TUESDAY 15 MAY, 1545 CET (1445 BST)

"Calm today, but tomorrow it's like a hurricane hits," a press officer tells me at the Palais des Festivals, which serves as the hub of the world's biggest film festival.

Cannes press pass
On the list: Cannes press passes are valuable commodities
Less than 24 hours before the curtain rises on the 60th Cannes, workmen are still rolling emulsion on the ceiling and plastic sheeting protects a pristine conference hall.

But conversation snippets like "straight to DVD", "in development", and "Harvey Weinstein's yacht", overheard on the flight from London, hint that the movie world is soon to descend on the French Riviera.

BBC arts correspondent Rebecca Jones found herself on the same flight - albeit in different sections of the plane - as actress Chloe Sevigny, who appears this year in David Fincher's competition film Zodiac.

The Oscar-nominated actress had managed to remain fairly inconspicuous behind dark sunglasses until greeted at Nice Airport by a man with large sign bearing her name.

Collecting the all-important media accreditation badge, which will gain me entry to festival screenings and press conferences, I am advised to "guard it with my life" and remove it when out and about in the town.

The resort town is all geared up for the 60th festival
Apparently there is a thriving black market for stolen badges - although surely diminished after last year's Southland Tales, the infamous follow-up to Donnie Darko, that is still awaiting a release 12 months later.

Will this Cannes throw up a similar cinematic disaster? A controversy to rival the 2005 victory of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11? Or even just a movie to enter the Cannes pantheon alongside classics like Apocalypse Now and Pulp Fiction? The next 12 days will tell.

Your comments on our reporter's log:

Thanks Stephen for giving us this precious insight of a reporters view of the festival! I'd be interested to hear more about the whole process of requesting, scheduling, and finally conducting interviews. Where do they take place, how many minutes are you allocated?

Will you also be dispatching from the movie market where all the distribution deals are made?

what's the best Cannes Swag you've been handed?
Marq Riley, Athens, Greece

Hollywood is dead. The internet has had a huge downward impact on the film business, not a bad thing considering how 95% of the media in America are in minority hands. It was reported last week that over 2 million people in the US, stopped watching television during the current season. This is a positive development.
cliff taylor, london UK

I thought that films in competition at Cannes were required to be 'world premieres', how come Zodiac and Grindhouse qualify?
Chris Taylor, London

The British film industry has brought such larger than life stars as Dame Helen Mirren to the screen. I can't believe there is not any British film represented at Cannes this year. It will be poorer for it!
Francoise Frobisher, Ilkley,Great Britain

It will be interesting to see the reaction that Quentin Tarantino's re-edited half of Grindhouse "Death Proof" will get. Grindhouse performed poorly in the US, with the double bill concept failing to get peoples interest and money, and subsequently it has been split for the UK. Death Proof is now set to be released on 21 September in its extended form.

Also be interesting to see how Coen Bros "No Country for Old Men" performs - early reviews have been very favourable and it hopefully represents a return to form for them after a few years in the comedic wilderness.
Mark Foster, Preston, England

I'm still in rapture over some of the recent Euro flicks, such as Italy's "The Best of Youth" and Denmark's "Italian for Beginners". Yes, I like Tarantino and I look forward to M.Moore's "Sicko", which I hope can spur some real debates here in the U.S. over our lack of affordable health care coverage for everyone. But please keep an eye on the Euro, Asian and African flicks, as we here stateside don't get a wide enough array. Marketers write us off, and it only helps to keep us provincial in our views.
Carolyn Abernathy, Glenham,NY USA

Though Cannes is no way obligated to be revolutionary, I do feel the looming hype and star attraction which the festival's becoming famous for is unfortunate.

I would hope that film festivals aspire to delineate from the Hollywood norm of conformity and distaste and generate a more artistically directed sentiment.

This stardom hype really gets to me. This is not Hollywood. We need to appreciate human integrity and achievement for once and not pretentious rich folk.
Parv, Wellington, NZ

It is always difficult when hearing about films from Cannes. The reason being that we won't see the best of the for some time and you can never tell if a movie is good or not by reading about it.
Rory Devitt, Ireland

"Does the biggest film festival in the world also have the most dedicated fans?" asks Stephen Robb at the beginning of his blog. In point of fact, Cannes may be the festival with the highest profile, but in terms of media registration, coverage of sections (co-production market, EFM, talent campus, forum, retrospective, culinary cinema, etc.), and, some say, even attendance, the Berlinale, held each year in February in Berlin, claims that it is the "biggest". However, with snow in Berlin being somewhat less attractive than the Croisette in May, perhaps Cannes' visibility ratings are higher? I'd be interested to see an authoritative comparison.
Susan Latimer, Frankfurt, Germany

I am overjoyed by the auspicious presence of all Hollywood as well as Bollywood stars in the glorious film festival.
Amulya Malhi, Indore, India

Who cares anymore about Cannes? It has almost no influence on the global film industry as all of the key decisions are taken in Hollywood. Its just another marketing exercise for selling films in Europe, nothing more.
Patrick, Luxembourg


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