Why did we choose Cannes to launch our publication? How could we not, more like?
Cannes is the festival of festivals. A mad, impossible to ignore, two weeks ‘cut-out’ of the year where all things film good and bad descend on the Cote D’Azur. It is a love-it-or-leave-it Marmite-like experience at the best of times… At least, it is like that for me. I have strutted the red-carpet steps of the Palais with a movie star on my arm; had two films I have written and directed panned by critics at the festival; passed out at a party or two; once from my passion for the Finch Martini – a swimming lemon twist and olive on the side – and once from food poisoning. Oysters, I am betting…
I have crashed a motorbike on La Croisette, made out with a girl or two, and swum in the clear Mediterranean at the Eden Roc with my kid, Oona, watching from our Cabana, as Brad and George, and my old pal Jerry Weintraub walked the walk in the distance toward the ever-breathtaking Julia Roberts.
Sometimes, with a dime or two in my pocket, I have elegantly entertained…and other times, sung for my supper with a script under my arm…But poor or rich, the Hotel du Cap has been my FINCH perch for decades and decades. And for the last 30 years, cabana no. 512 is my home-away-from-home; a place to duck out of the madness and the ‘sell, sell, sell’ atmosphere of downtown Rue D ’Antibes. That this grandest of Grand Hotels would in my youth allow me to rent a chauffeur’s room for 500 fr a night, is a testament not to me, but to my mother’s immense beauty and charm. She would sunbathe semi-naked through the season on the white sun beds by the pool, covered from head to toe in olive oil from Nice, with her hair swept back and huge sunglasses perched on her nose. A glass of Rosé was always within reach of her painted nails, she was a vision to inspire Lartigue. She is no longer with us, and the use of olive oil for a dark mahogany tan would be considered insanity in this all too sanitised world.
If you have a film in competition, a film to promote or sell, a deal to close or an actor or director you are desperate to meet for your film, chances are this is the time and place to get a shot to close. And, at Cannes, one should always be closing. That’s how I see it, and if that’s not your way, then this festival of madness is not for you.
I fell in love at the Cannes too – with film that is – in a true sense. I was 12 when I saw my first Italian film Scent of a Woman by Dino Rizzo with Vittorio Gassmann. If you haven’t seen it, run out and get it. Pacino did the American remake, but the original is just what it says on the packet. My father died a year later while promoting Network, which never made it to Cannes, and I can’t remember if I saw Scorsese’s masterpiece Taxi Driver there the following year. I am pretty sure it did.
It would be true to say that I also fell out of love with the film business at the festival too. For those of you who don’t know my story, I have directed and written movies; I have also produced and executive produced films. And I have represented actors and directors, having been to the festival in almost every imaginable guise. My annual Charles Finch Film Maker dinner at the Hotel du Cap, and before that at Tetou, has over the years honoured film makers including Gus van Sant, Bernardo Bertolucci, Nick Broomfield, Bertrand Tavernier, Lynne Ramsey, George Miller, Jeremy Thomas, and many others. I have been there with Cate Blanchette, with John Malkovich, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, and with Depardieu and so on…
So then, I have a long, long, history with the festival that goes all the way back to my childhood, when my mother Yolande moved for several years to the south of France. It was in the mid-70s, after her divorce from my father, the actor Peter Finch. A writer and filmmaker in her own right, she snared a role with the organisation to work the festival. Looking back, it’s quite hard to decipher what exactly that work entailed, as I seem to remember her being out to lunch every day and dressed to the nines every night. And, by the end of the festival, we were just as broke as we were at the beginning. Although I do remember meeting several filmmakers, and the glamour pitted against the madness of the swarming croisette is embedded in my subconscious.
At the age of 23, I took my first film Priceless Beauty to the festival. The film – a naive and navel gazing art house attempt, which I wrote and directed – had been savagely re-cut and re-titled by the thuggish Italian producer Achille Manzotti: a henchman of Silvio Berlusconi. Not known to me until I stepped onto the Croisette, which was lined with posters for my film, it was renamed Love Dream. The picture screened somewhere off the main drag in a small tired theatre with an odious Italian soundtrack to an appalled audience that included Jeremy Thomas and Hercules Bellville, the Weinsteins, Michael White, and the film critic Barry Norman, who was kind to me in the sort of way one is kind to a drunk on an aeroplane. It took me several years to get over it. Strangely, after the disastrous screening I went swimming with Jerry Weintraub, who had a wonderful old-school attitude to adversity. “Fuck it, kid,” he said “we can’t all be geniuses all the time…”
Where our beloved feature films stand in these times, who can really tell? But the glamour of cinema can’t be easily replaced.
The festival under Thierry Frémaux’s impeccable guidance remains, in these complicated times, both international and surprising. The big names still show up – as do the best films. Thierry continues to discover surprise after surprise. Films and filmmakers have a chance to get their work seen and talked about. This year I am excited to see Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi’s film Les Amandiers, David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future, and James Gray’s Armageddon Time. As well as discovering new films and filmmakers I look forward to seeing old friends swimming in the Med, having a martini (or twfo), and closing, closing, closing…