Cannes Notebook 2013: A hotbed of criminal activity too?

CANNES, France — Visitors exiting the Carlton hotel’s front door on this city’s beachfront main street this week can’t help but see a giant map of France with Cannes listed as being a “Safe Zone.” “This Is the Safest Place to Be,” one poster insists, though another implores the public, “Stay Off the Streets.”

Turns out, the display is for the forthcoming Brad Pitt zombie epic “World War Z,” but the advertising taglines are taking on a strange resonance, or dissonance, amid a drumbeat of reports about robberies, assaults and other crimes.

First, a man fired a gun with blanks as French TV journalists were interviewing actor Christoph Waltz. Then thieves made off with $1 million in Chopard jewels. A top Chinese film executive, the co-president of Hollywood mainstay Silver Pictures and employees at a company called Film Tree have all reported that their hotel rooms have been broken into. Gersh agent Jay Cohen said he was walking home with two others Saturday night when they were attacked by men seeking valuables.


PHOTOS: Cannes Film Festival 2013

Although the influx of high-value targets has long made crime a problem in this region during the festival, such anecdotes are contributing to the impression that criminal activity has risen this year.

Cannes has a robust police presence, but it is concentrated near the Palais des Festivals, where screenings and other gala events are held. Officers, both on foot and in trucks, are often guiding pedestrian and motor traffic and maintaining crowd control on the main Boulevard de la Croisette during prime evening hours. But streets even just a few blocks from the Croisette can be lonely, particularly late at night.

“A warning to anybody at Cannes to be vigilant about safety,” Jada Yuan, a contributing editor to New York Magazine correspondent tweeted Wednesday. “Got jumped by muggers near train station. Fought them off but it was not good.”

Movies for sale

A trip to Le Marché, the film market at Cannes, is always a tonic experience. The energy created by the unabashed desire to make money is a refreshing change of pace after the more rarefied experiences other parts of the festival offer.

Le Marché is where you can see hijab-wearing women working for an Iranian production company next to a booth where Japanese horror producers are selling “Cult” (“from the producers of ‘Ring’ and ‘The Grudge.’”) It’s that kind of a place.

There’s always an almost inexplicable title (“A Girl, a Guy and a Space Helmet”) as well as a big action star such as Thailand’s Tony Jaa with a new film (“TYG2: This Time the Fight Goes Beyond”).

VIDEO: Cannes Film Festival 2013

There are always wacky plot lines. From the U.K. comes “Grey Wolf: The Escape of Adolf Hitler,” described as a docudrama “based on interviews with eyewitnesses” insisting that Hitler, Eva Braun and “their daughter Uschi” all escaped to Argentina. From Japan comes “Dead Sushi,” about a rogue scientist who “injects hotel sushi with a drug that not only brings it to life, but also turns it into ferocious, blood-thirsty killers.” Sounds like a heck of a double bill.

But if things seem too bleak and hopeless, Le Marché also finds time for films with both religious and family-friendly themes. There’s “The Gospel of Us,” which promotional material says stars “Michael Sheen and a cast of over 1,000 People Performed a 3 Days Re-Creation of The Passion of the Christ.” Also in the holiday spirit is “Santa Claws,” about kitties pressed into service to deliver Christmas presents when St. Nick has a major allergic reaction to cats.

Most interesting of all, at least in theory, was the South Korean “Mr. Go,” which uses motion capture and CGI to make a film about a realistic-looking 600-pound gorilla who loves, loves, loves to play baseball. Maybe the Dodgers should look into this.

Ice cream break

On one of the most elegant beaches in this town, well-dressed people were elbowing one another out of the way last week to get free samples not of caviar or even Champagne. It was ice cream that was getting people all hot and bothered.

For the first time, Magnum ice cream — a brand that can be found in movie theaters in France and elsewhere in the world — is making its presence felt at the festival, using celebrity appearances by actress Liv Tyler and director Wim Wenders to win friends and influence people.

In a large tent festooned with signs saying things such as “Create the Magnum of Your Dreams” and “For Pleasure Seekers Only,” two hard-working ice-creamistas were making elaborate treats as fast as humanly possible at a large circular bar.

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Not just any treats but Magnum bars hand-dipped in chocolate and then “customized” with up to 18 different toppings (choices included rose crystalized petals, white chocolate vermicelli and mini meringues) enthusiastically mixed together in a mini cocktail shaker before being poured on the bar.

Some people, however — no names please — opted for just the chocolate-covered bar with no toppings at all. You don’t mess with a classic.

One man’s trash ...

Film enthusiasts at Cannes are famous for going the extra mile to be close to their idols — like, say dressing up in an evening gown at 11 in the morning, staking out a position near a festival building and holding up a handwritten sign in a bid to score premiere tickets. But nothing compares to the devotion a few hardy souls showed last week near the mailboxes where reporters receive a daily blitzkrieg of promotional material.

Or, more specifically, the devotion that a few hardy souls showed near a dumpster alongside the mailboxes.

The day after the fest opened, when a reporter discarded a swag folder from “The Great Gatsby” — an empty folder with little more than stock images from the film on its cover — no fewer than three people dove for it, like fans scrambling for a foul ball under the upper-deck seats. An older lady with buck teeth was the winner, and she proudly held up her quarry while the other two glowered at her.

The next item to enter the trash was a piece of bound marketing for Iranian auteur Asghar Farhadi’s new movie “Le Passé.” The trio again shot out their arms in a bid at recycled-paper glory. This time an older man came out on top.

PHOTOS: Cannes Film Festival 2013

The next item headed for paper purgatory was an even less exciting collectible: an empty envelope bearing a seal from the Cannes press office. Yet somehow again, all three went into capture-the-flag mode.

This time the third in the group, a younger woman, was the procurer. When a bystander gave her a look that suggested that even by the low standards of mailbox dumpster-diving, this hardly seemed like a victory, she shrugged her shoulders.

“At least it was near the other two items,” she said.