Cannes in '90s: The stars now stay hidden

THE BALTIMORE SUN

CANNES, France -- Diane Keaton? Meryl Streep? Sharon Stone? No, the last movie star Cannes resident Yvon Orengo met was Sophia Loren more than 30 years ago.

That was back when film stars traveled without a retinue of brawny bodyguards, when local residents could slip into film showings, and everybody strolled the seafront walkway at night, from butchers and bakers to the cinema's best and brightest.

But those days are long gone.

Today, residents can't even get within several blocks of the film festival, which staged its grand opening Wednesday night.

"Now, you have to have connections to get in," said Ms. Orengo, a 55-year-old florist who once delivered a bouquet to Ms. Loren and got her autograph.

Cannes may be synonymous the world over with its film festival, but the natives, or Cannois, much to their chagrin, are now largely excluded from it.

These days, the festival packs in so many Hollywood glitterati that no one without a producer's private phone number can lay their hands on a ticket for a movie screening. The parties at the swank nightclubs are open only to those in the know. Even strolling into the Majestic Hotel takes an ID and a festival badge.

What with the limousines and the groupies and the thousands of tourists, the film festival for those who live in this gracious city on the French Riveria is less of a head-turning spectacle than it is a giant headache.

Traffic is hopelessly snarled. The 150-member police department expands to 3,150 just for the 11-day event. An estimated 40,000 people descend upon Cannes, including 3,000 journalists.

The crowds, for sure, are good for the city. The festival brings in about $100 million to Cannes' economy each year, according to tourist officials.

But somehow, it's not the way it used to be. "It is a victim of its own success," said Gilles Cima, the tanned real estate dealer who is deputy mayor of tourism. (He once played golf with Michael Douglas, but lost).

Indeed, part of the festival's success lies in how its mandate has changed. Since it opened its doors in 1946, the Cannes Film Festival has become not just a place to judge films but also to sell them.

"Cannes is the No. 1 marketplace," Mr. Cima said. "That's what distinguishes Cannes from the Berlin Film Festival."

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