Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
Opening day before Opening Night

by Cari Beauchamp

Fifty years of Cannes...with that alluring combination of sex sun and cinema has brought increasing crowds each and every year and to celebrate, the French are putting on an eleven day anniversary party.

Red banners silk screened with the golden palm and the number 50 are everywhere -- all the stores window displays contain the 50 poster, strips of film, cans of film, anything and everything to tie their storefront to the festival and the festival to their store. The Chamber of Commerce should be proud.

The billboards announcing films showing, films to be made, films that someone hopes might get financing join together to cover the walls of the normally sedate Majestic and Carlton Hotels. Kiosks run down the median of palm trees parallel to the beach advertising more films. It is official - the Festival has taken over Cannes.

Tonight, May 7, the 50th Festival du Film officially opens and today the workmen were busy putting the finishing touches on the red carpeted stairs where the band will greet with stars and the honored guests as they enter the theater to see Luc Besson's "The Fifth Element", starring Bruce Willis.

Today, producers, writers, photographers and distributors poured into the Palais to get their official credentials that will allow them access to everything that matters and while at first the crowds looked daunting, the lines moved much quicker than they do for Splash Mountains and the French behind the counter were actually polite, accommodating and efficient.

Some other changes of note are that cell phones are now everywhere and there is a pavilion where you can get your e-mail. For someone who remembers the days when we had to take apart a phone to send a fax to the home office, this is truly revolutionary. And as I walking the familiar streets today, shaking my head over what looked a little more seedy than years past, a young friend here for the first time commented on how exciting and glamourous it all looked to him. I remembered my first Cannes 20 years ago when I had that same look of excitement in my eyes and an older Englishman said to me, "Oh darling, it isn't anything now, you should have seen it when..." I told him then and there I didn't care, I loved it now.

I'm grateful to have someone stop me from saying the same thing today and remind me of the excitement of the first day of Cannes, when you know so many possibilities are still in front of us.

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