Column: Yes, the Cannes Film Festival is super glamorous, but it’s also completely exhausting

Cate Blanchett waving with her right arm on the red carpet in Cannes.
Cate Blanchett at the premiere of “The Zone of Interest” at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. Though the actress is definitely glamorous, other aspects of the festival — not so much.
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision via AP)

When you tell someone you are going to the Cannes Film Festival, they are inevitably, and often quite vocally, envious. “Oh my gosh, can I come too?” All those amazing films, parties, movie stars, fashion icons — not to mention the French Riviera — it’s so cool, so glamorous, so exciting.

And it is all of those things, sometimes, and sometimes it’s exhausting, frustrating, baffling and overwhelming.

One minute, your heart and mind are overthrown by a life-changing film, a miraculous performance or the radiant energy of brilliant people talking passionately about their art.


The next you’re nearly sobbing with hunger and fatigue, wondering who exactly thought that watching a bunch of really intense movies from 8:30 a.m. to midnight was a good idea, and struggling to maintain your sanity while standing in yet another line. Honestly, if that guy behind me does not stop rhapsodizing about Martin Scorsese like every male “film buff” I ever dated in college, I will not be responsible for my actions.

I fully own my privilege — to experience the most prestigious film festival in the world is nice work when you can get it. I’m just saying that covering Cannes is much more complicated than watching Alicia Vikander glide down the red carpet.

In describing William Hale, the character he plays in Martin Scorsese’s ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ Robert De Niro compared him to former President Trump.

May 21, 2023

A few mid-fest observations:

Every film in competition, and some that are not, get gala premieres so it is not unusual to see people dressed in formal evening wear at 3 in the afternoon. Most festival attendees, however, are dressed for comfort and multiple weather possibilities — you may enter the theater from a day filled with sun only to emerge to find il pleut.

On a related note, sitting in front of Cate Blanchett, resplendent in couture, while I’m wearing linen pants and a jean jacket is thrilling and also very demoralizing.

The best-dressed people on the streets of Cannes may be its actual residents — mature women with little dogs remain the fashion bearers of France, and possibly the world.

The most common, and prized, accessory is the festival badge. But if you do attend a gala opening, don’t forget to take it off before you hit the red carpet, or a festival sheriff will “suggest” that you do. In exquisite French. Which makes it just that much more mortifying.


Standing ovations are overrated and entirely subjective, both in time — did “Killers of the Flower Moon” get six minutes? 10? According to whom? — and level of enthusiasm. How was the seven-minute ovation for “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” considered meh by one outlet and solid by another, while the equal length for “May December” was a clear triumph? Does it count if the extensive cast and crew reinvigorate the applause themselves when it begins to flag? Or that the movie was three hours long and people need to eat or use the restroom?

“I just saw my life flash before my eyes,” Ford said at Cannes on Thursday, thanking wife Calista Flockhart and his “Dial of Destiny” collaborators.

May 18, 2023

Standing in line for an hour in the rain for a movie that is running 45 minutes late does not predispose you to like the movie you are waiting for. “This damn well better be good” is probably not the mood filmmakers or festival planners are going for.

The herds of cruisers who regularly clog the Croisette are a hilarious addition to the already bewilderingly varied crowd — you will know them by the polo shirts and white capris. Also the perky guides.

There are many cool restaurants in Cannes, but there never seems to be any time to eat at any of them. Hence the always long lines at the local McDonald’s and Steak ‘n Shake.

If your film has elongated scenes involving drifting sand, rustling wheat or the gentle rattle of cicadas, there is a very good chance some people will fall asleep. This does not mean they don’t like the film; it just means they are very tired.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Lily Gladstone, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro.
Leonardo DiCaprio, from left, Lily Gladstone, Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro appear at the Cannes Film Festival on Sunday to promote Scorsese’s new film, “Killers of the Flower Moon.”
(Vianney Le Caer / Invision via AP)

The press conferences are nuts because they are filled with members of the press, many of whom are quite willing to walk over your broken body to be in the same room as Harrison Ford or Leonardo DiCaprio.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think there should be standing ovations at press conferences.

With ‘Occupied City,’ filmmaker Steve McQueen adapts his wife’s house-by-house, street-by-street guide to the city’s history under German occupation.

May 21, 2023

American children really need to be instructed in at least two languages, if only so we can eavesdrop more efficiently at Cannes. (When the Germans sitting behind me mentioned a colleague’s name, was it in praise or condemnation? I will never know.)

It is easy to be envious of those who are staying at the fancy hotels like the Carlton, until you realize that many of the suites are filled with publicists hunched over laptops who are swilling warm Coke Zero.

Whatever the Cannes red carpet is made out of, it is admirably durable. Often soggy this year, but more than a week in, it is still holding its own at the multiple venues it adorns.

The footwear rules of the above-mentioned carpet are not as gender-biased as previously reported — a man was turned away from the “Dial of Destiny” gala for wearing black tennis shoes. They were, apparently, Prada but they were still tennis shoes, which are not allowed.


The tuxedo may be the best form of clothing ever invented and I think we should all own one.

There aren’t as many boulangeries as you might think in Cannes, but there are a lot of great kebab spots, and my favorite gives out whole bags of pita with every order. So who needs a bakery?

I have never seen so much grace under pressure as I have witnessed from the festival staff, who appear to remain calm no matter how many abrupt and frantic questions in multiple languages (and execrable French) they are asked. Including by me.

There are many adorable and friendly dogs in Cannes; the cats, however, are complete snobs. As they would be.

And, of course, there have been many amazing movies at this year’s festival, but that’s a conversation for another time.