While former jewel thief John Robie in Alfred Hitchcock's wonderfully stylish classic To Catch a Thief may have been played by the suave Cary Grant, this year in Cannes con artists and thieves came in all shapes and sizes. But while they were successful in their larceny, they were not handsome. At all.
The Hotel Con
At one super expensive, luxury hotel overlooking the Croisette, the CEO of a major Gulf cinematic organization was robbed of her very expensive Rick Owens suit, which she had sent out along with other outfits to get steamed by the hotel laundry. When she called reception to inform them of the missing ensemble, she was met with a mixture of accusations, "have you checked inside the closet madame?" along with someone from security coming to her room to personally check she hadn't done away with it herself. Now, not only was that utterly offensive, but let's face, it also made little sense directed at a woman who has become a staple of red carpets the world over -- the Oscars, Cannes and beyond. If she brought her suit to the festival with her it was to wear it. Not to claim it as stolen at a hotel that is meant for VIPs only, with their prohibitive rates in the four digits during the duration of Cannes.
When the hotel itself didn't come through, after claiming they would check their "security cameras," the industry insider asked to be directed to a police station, to file a formal complaint-slash-police-report. The clerk at hotel reception, once again completely unhelpful, purposely gave her directions to a police station in another city, which would have put her out of commission for an entire day. Only by asking an Uber driver for the nearest police station was she then taken to one not far from the hotel.
Needless to say, even with a police report filed and all the time spent instead of conducting serious festival business, she went home without her beloved suit.
** There was an update, as on June 8th the management of the hotel offered to pay her back for the suit, at full price.
The Train Theft
A well respected photographer from the Region travels to Cannes every year and ends up supplying many esteemed publications with irreplaceable images of celebrities on the Cannes red carpets and during the photo calls. This year, as he was traveling back to Paris on the train, at the end of the festival, he fells asleep momentarily and when he woke up, his entire equipment was gone. We are talking tens of thousands of dollars of cameras and equipment that will take him quite some time to replace. As he informed us of his loss, he pointed out that "all the work I've done in Cannes, will go towards paying for the new equipment." This man takes the same train back from Cannes every year and puts the suitcase in the same spot -- and in 20 some years, has never had a problem.
But this year it was different. Things at times did feel out of control for those of us on the ground. The ticketing system kept crashing for days, making it impossible for industry attendees to book tickets to any of the films. And when picking up our accreditations, there was a queue for hours, also due to computer glitches.
When the photographer approached the train controller about the theft, he was told that this happens all the time and it has gotten considerably worse since the pandemic. There are thieves planted at the train station in Cannes who "mark" unaware travelers that look like they could be carrying valuables, and have an accomplice on the train who robs them. Just before the train, which makes a few stops along the way, approaches a smaller station, they grab the stuff. Then they get off at the next station with the suitcase, the doors close and the expensive equipment, the suitcase containing valuables, etc, are all gone.
One would think that in the era of cameras and constant surveillance, at the end of a prestigious festival like Cannes, the French police would reinforce their presence and organize themself for the crowds returning to their homes... Yes, one would think. But it ain't so.
What a Dump!
An editor we know booked a flat in Cannes, to share with an esteemed festival director from the MENA region. So far, so good. Said flat, for 12 days cost almost twice as much as her rent in London for the month. But it was advertised as a two bedroom, two bathroom flat in a central location only a short walk to the Palais. So people make sacrifices to be at the biggest, brightest film festival in the world.
Once she reached her accommodations in Cannes, she discovered that the second bathroom really didn't exist. It was an improvised thing, for which she would have had to climb up some red plastic steps bought at the local hypermarket. And what one really doesn't want to do in Cannes is break one's leg. Or neck. Also, the flat was grungy, dingy and there was debris everywhere. Two patios were photographed in the brochure, both were a disaster, which hadn't been cleaned in years. And the washing machine was filled with clothes.
She didn't wish to unravel the mystery of whether they were clean or dirty.
Along with this disaster, her bedroom had a moldy, ripe odor which made her sick and she ended up having a sleepless first night there. Only in the morning did she realize that the bed she was on was a Murphy bed, one of those foldaway constructions, which was probably always kept closed. And the mattress, an old yellow grungy thing, smelled like mildew. Needless to say, she soon packed her bags and left Cannes, losing out on work, contacts and planned interviews. And a whole lot of money, as what you pay for in Cannes, stays in Cannes. Even if the service and accommodation provided are criminally awful, worthy more of a bunch of college kids on Spring break than a media professional there to do her work.
So while this may have been an anniversary 75th Festival de Cannes, we are hoping those are not indications of the next years to come. The old saying goes "if it ain't broke don't fix it" but as far as Cannes goes, it needs a whole lot of loving to continue. Because eventually people will get tired of paying for rudeness, super expensive meals and tips for service that seems often subpar. Not to mention, the criminal element.