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Unveiling the Glamour and Intrigue: Insights from the 72nd Cannes Film Festival

Bella Hadid attends the screening of "Pain And Glory (Dolor Y Gloria/ Douleur Et Glorie)" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival
Bella Hadid 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival
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72nd Annual Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, France — The Cannes Film Festival happens every May in France. I would often sum it up with the phrase "The Splendors and Miseries," which comes from a famous book. Want to know why? Join me on a journey through the characters, the hidden corners, the sumptuous dinners, and the lavish parties of this illustrious event. I'll unveil the secrets of the red carpet and give away what truly unfolds behind the glamorous facade.

Official 72 Cannes Film Festival Poster on the Palace of Festivals and Congresses of Cannes
Official 72 Cannes Film Festival Poster on the Palace of Festivals and Congresses of Cannes
The Official 72 Cannes Film Festival Poster at the Palace of Festivals and Congresses of Cannes
The Official 72 Cannes Film Festival Poster at the Palace of Festivals and Congresses of Cannes

By Kristina Moskalenko

As you arrive at the Cannes train station, you’re greeted not only by the anticipation but also by the sight of a red carpet unfurled right there! One might mistake it for a symbol of grandeur and metaphorical significance, but alas, it serves a different purpose. This red carpet is reserved for those who didn’t secure invitations to the exclusive soirées and premieres. It’s the sole opportunity for the common folk to bask in the splendour and opulence of the festival — to don their finest attire and pose for a snapshot upon the illustrious carpet, conveniently laid out at the train station. They alight at the train station, change at a nearby Starbucks restroom, adorning themselves with a touch of glamour, and presto — the red carpet is theirs for the taking. Snaps captured from this locale, skilfully framed, create an illusion of presence amidst the glitz and glamour.

Red Carpet at the train station in Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival / Photo by Kristina Moskalenko
Red Carpet at the train station in Cannes during the Cannes Film Festival / Photo by Kristina Moskalenko

It’s undeniably disheartening to witness everyday French folk waiting in long lines, even in hot or rainy weather, at the Palais des Festivals. They hold signs showing their love for movies and asking to get into screenings. Meanwhile, wealthy international visitors breeze past with no trouble.

However, movie lovers are usually respectful, but there’s another group. They are much more proactive and see sneaking into high-profile private parties as a challenge and a personal victory. To get in, they try different tricks with the security at the door, like pretending to be pregnant and needing a restroom, or saying they’re friends of someone famous. Sometimes they drop the name of a list-B filmmaker or a boxer like David Haye, hoping the security won’t recognise them and let them in. It’s like a game, using names that the event staff might not know, but which might be on a guest list, to get into the party. And it works!  Sometimes. 

Once within the sanctum, these guests hasten to capture images of menu boards and floral arrangements left in the wake of legitimate attendees, swiftly broadcasting them on Instagram to cultivate the illusion of attending extravagant banquets.

This eccentric facet of Cannes remains somewhat uncharted, yet it serves as a notable demarcation between the luminaries of the red carpet and the industry stalwarts less swayed by glitz and glamour.

Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio attend the photocall for "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival
Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio attend the photocall for “Once Upon A Time In Hollywood” during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival

Celebrities, often in attendance solely for the allure of photo ops, make fleeting appearances at parties before deftly sidestepping the barrage of incessant selfie requests.

But there is its own star battalion at every party — a group of young women confidently stealing the show with their twerking, fuelled by champagne. This kind of dancing isn’t usually seen from people wearing expensive Chopard necklaces — those come with certain expectations. But even at Chopard parties, you might see these moves.

La Palestre for Chopard
La Palestre for Chopard

The landscape of soirées has undergone a transformation too. Adopting a more budget-conscious and trend-focused ambiance reminiscent of London’s hipster haven, Shoreditch, rather than the opulent banquets of the past. Consider, for instance, the La Palestre arena — transformed into a chic haven with the exterior bedecked in stylish pink hues, the interior walls swathed in golden film, and strategically placed mirrors to amplify the dazzle. It’s all not that expensive, but makes an ideal backdrop for the perfect selfie! The dance floor, adorned with artificial cherry blossoms and enveloped in the haze of menthol cigarette smoke, bathed in thematic pink lighting, sets the stage for none other than Mariah Carey herself, lipsinking to the crowd with her timeless tunes.

Mariah Carey performance for Chopard
Mariah Carey performance for Chopard
Mariah Carey and Caroline Scheufele
Mariah Carey and Caroline Scheufele

Soon enough though, with a sip from her milkshake cup, she launches into a flawless live performance, evoking nostalgic childhood memories. DJ Cassidy maintains the pulsating rhythm as Madame Scheufele, bedecked in neon pink, succumbs to the irresistible allure of the dance floor. Champagne flows freely, cigars are indulged, and those disinclined to twerk dazzle with radiant highlighters, plunging necklines, and exquisite jewellery — ingredients essential for a soirée of distinction, just like any Chopard event eventually is.

Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Correspondent Kristina Moskalenko attending Chopard Love Party, Cannes 2019
Correspondent Kristina Moskalenko attending Chopard Love Party, Cannes 2019
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard
Ambiance Cocktail by Chopard

Dancing at the Love Party, Chopard 2019. Click for the twerk video. 


But what about those who weren’t invited to the party? They stand in line outside, hoping to get in. Among them is a woman with bright red hair and highlighted roots, sparkling with interest and confidence as she looks around. When she sees someone who might be a journalist, she approaches them, probing, “Who’s your invite? Can you add me to the list? I’ll accompany you.” Though momentarily taken aback by this brazen intrusion, the victim politely rebuffs such overtures, refusing to entertain such practices. Undeterred, the determined lady cites connections to Russian elite in London, dangling promises of future invitations to esteemed events at Christie’s auction house. 

Amidst a surge in questionable attendees flooding various events in Cannes, esteemed historical venues like the Château de la Napoule have chosen to bow out of hosting parties during the festival. These hallowed halls have witnessed their venerable floors trodden upon, garden shrubbery despoiled, glassware shattered, and priceless artworks tucked away, harkening back to the cautionary measures employed during the tumultuous Italian occupation of World War II. Nowadays, they opt for the more “manageable” affairs of weddings and Cannes Lions events.

Despite the meticulous efforts of organizers to uphold a semblance of decorum, the red carpet affairs sometimes are veering into pandemonium too. 

Picture this: I’m walking on the rainy red carpet to see a documentary about Diego Maradona. The last person to walk this famous carpet is a young blonde woman in an open and revealing green dress. She’s spinning around, like a broom high on some alcohol. Sometimes it looks like she might fall because of her  heels, but she keeps going, blowing kisses to the cameras. Looks like she has the time of her life, as she appears live on the big screen inside the famous cinema and on the screens outside, streaming the event for the cinema lovers that gather on the street. Photographers are wondering: if she is another blogger, who will want to buy her photos after to post them online with some fancy agency logo? So they do click their camera buttons — just in case. They need to make their extra money too. Guards try to guide her to her seat, but she won’t budge. Instead, she feels that the show must go on and lifts her dress in a much more brave manner than Marilyn Monroe did. As the confused cameraman tries to almost cover the camera with his palm, the mysterious lady in green somehow makes it to her seat. Later, amid the throng outside the cinema, I found myself in close proximity to her as she conversed animatedly with a companion in the melodious tones of Russian. Though uncertain of the emotions stirred within me, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the encounter, dubbing  her as a “Green Russian.” Have you seen one?

Meanwhile, the cinematic offering proved to be a masterpiece. Despite the absence of Maradona, convalescing from surgery.

“For me, it’s not all glitz, glam, and parties, — one attendee shares. — There’s serious work involved. I serve as the ambassador for numerous brands, showcasing their dresses at events. Some of these gowns weigh up to 10 kilograms, adding literal weight to my whirlwind schedule. It’s a non-stop sprint from one engagement to the next, all while ensuring I’m impeccably styled with professional makeup and hair. Now, picture navigating all of this amidst the relentless downpours we’ve endured this year!

Despite the glittering facade, many mourn the transformation of the festival’s soirées: a decline in celebrity sightings and an influx of bloggers, eroding the once-exclusive aura. Kendall Jenner’s bold neon pink gown at the AmFAR gala, timed with the debut of the Giambattista Valli and H&M collaboration, serves as a poignant symbol of this shift.

While certain traditions endure — such as the prohibition of trendy sneakers on the Cannes red carpet and the disapproval of eyebrow-raising attire — there have been incremental steps towards modernization. Women are now officially permitted to grace the crimson walkway in flats, a departure from the previous mandate of heels. Yet, arriving sans Louboutins may still guarantee the entry to the red carpet, because I myself witnessed some women in flats being redirected to less glamorous back entrances. 

Gerardine O'Flynn, Emily Beecham, Géraldine Bajard, Philippe Bober, and Jessica Hausner attend the closing ceremony screening of "The Specials" 72 Cannes Film Festival
Gerardine O’Flynn, Emily Beecham, Géraldine Bajard, Philippe Bober, and Jessica Hausner attend the closing ceremony screening of “The Specials” 72 Cannes Film Festival

Rumours have emerged suggesting that certain locals are scrimping and saving for an entire year just to indulge in the opulence of the Cannes Film Festival. They’d rent a flashy car, don pristine white jeans and pointed shoes, all to bask in the spotlight and live the high life, if only for a fleeting week.

It only looks logical in these circumstances that the dark comedy «Parasite»‎ by the South Korean director Bong Joon-ho won Festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or. The film talks about disparity between rich and poor, reality and a dream, class conflict, social inequality and wealth disparity. Things that you see in full bloom every May right in the heart of Cannes.

The day following the festival’s culmination, Cannes wears a desolate air. Orchid beds and mirrors vanish from the beaches, the JW Mariott’s rooftop stage dismantled, and poster stands stripped from the Carlton hotel.

Elton John and Actor attend Taron Egerton the photocall for "Rocketman" during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival
Elton John and Actor attend Taron Egerton the photocall for “Rocketman” during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival
Antonio Banderas holds his trophy during a photocall on May 25, 2019 after he won the Best Actor Prize for "Dolor Y Gloria (Pain and Glory)"
Antonio Banderas holds his trophy during a photocall on May 25, 2019 after he won the Best Actor Prize for “Dolor Y Gloria (Pain and Glory)”

Seasoned attendees mull over the dismantling of festival infrastructure, likening it to disassembling a movie set. It serves as a poignant reminder that cinema, for all its societal resonance, just like the festival itself, is rooted in illusions and dreams too.

Read more about the Cannes Film Festival, 2019 >