Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999

1999 Cannes Film Festival Diaries
#9, My Ride in the Cortege

by Richard Schwartz

Film Scouts on the Riviera 1999 is brought to you by:

CANNES, May 20 - In my years at the Cannes, I'd experienced the festival from quite a few perspectives, but nothing prepared me for the heart-stopping experience of taking part in the official procession, or cortege, to a black-tie competition screening. This year, I was fortunate enough to tag along and what follows is a brief description of the events:

6:15 pm We meet at the Petit Bar in the Carlton Hotel for a champagne toast and some mini crudite - smoked salmon on toast, caviar on crackers. Red tickets, which tell us the location of our assigned seats in the special block of mezzanine seats in the Lumiere, are distributed. Invitations for a reception to follow the screening are given out as well. Bow ties are adjusted. Photos are taken.

6:50 pm The group is herded to the tightly secured back lot of the hotel where we are then loaded into about a dozen official festival automobiles, navy blue Renaults with official Palme D'Or flags affixed to the hood flapping in the evening breeze. The actors and director are placed in cars at the back of the line. As these red carpet entrances are broadcast live on French state television, a camera crew follows us every step of the way documenting the action.

7:00 pm With hazard lights blinking, our official festival driver follows the car in front of us out with a left onto Rue Francis Einesy and then a quick right onto a special lane reserved for the official procession on Boulevard de La Croisette. The camera-toting Cannois and other star-struck hoi polloi line the strip, straining to get a view of the people behind the tinted windows. When they spot me riding shotgun in our car, they lose interest and quickly shift their attention to the next vehicle, hoping for a glimpse of someone famous.

7:10 pm The four-block trek from the Carlton to the Palais having been completed, we exit our cars at the foot of the red-carpeted section of the Palais and we are met by PR handlers, who direct us to our spot. Thousands of gawkers crowd the streets and plaza. The camera crews follow us out of the car and our image is displayed on a gigantic television screen next to the Palais. A bit bizarre, to say the least, and now I understand how "EdTV" felt.

7:12 pm We continue to wait at the base of the carpet. The cars carrying the filmmaker and actors pull up to the curb, as fans hanging in trees scream out for them, bastardizing their prenoms in heavy French accents. More camera crews scurry to cover the arrival.

7:15 pm With the film's score drifting through the sound system, the French public address announcer lists previous credits of the director and then announces the key above-the-line personnel (producers, writers, et al) who are present. The key people move to the front of the line where they lock arms and strike a pose for the hordes of paparazzi, who like madmen bark instructions at the group ("Turn over here!" "Look this way!"). The image of the group will appear in hundreds of newspapers and magazines around the world the following day.

A British photog (they are most notorious) yells at me to turn around, which starts my heart pumping, and then tells me to "get outta the bloody way" as I am blocking his clear shot. I gladly oblige.

7:20 pm The photo call continues for a short while, and then our group begins proceeding up the steps toward the theatre. The rest of the 2,000-plus people who will be viewing the film have already taken their seats inside. An outfit of the French guard stand at attention along both sides of the staircase. The flashbulbs continue popping.

7:25 We enter the grand Lumiere Theatre and are directed to our seats in the prime block right behind the orchestra seating. Somehow, the the count was off and there is already a man in my seat. To my surprise, I am told of a "secret" extra seat that pulls out from the last seat at the far end of row.

7:30 pm I take my seat. The lights dim. The crowd hushes. The film begins.

Previous Installment | Next Installment

Back to Cannes Film Festival Diaries

Look for Search Tips

Copyright 1994-2008 Film Scouts LLC
Created, produced, and published by Film Scouts LLC
Film Scouts® is a registered trademark of Film Scouts LLC
All rights reserved.

Suggestions? Comments? Fill out our Feedback Form.