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Cannes Journal: Yachts, Jewels, Kering – and Elon Musk

Festival is always about wretched excess as much as it is about filmed art

It was somewhere in the glittering distance of the Cannes harbor at midnight, among the $1000 bottles of Chateau Latour, the $200,000 Boucheron bracelets worn by starlets and accompanied by bodyguards, amid the private yachts and the Uber helicopters – that the festival this year finally revealed itself.

Cannes is always about wretched excess as much as it is about filmed art, threading together movie stars and billionaires, offering tanker-sized yachts parked off the beach as the backdrop for newfound friendship and budding business deals.

The groups all find their comfort zones and that comfort, it must be said, is extreme. The tech moguls — the young princes at the Cannes party — are hanging together. Tesla’s Elon Musk and Google’s Robert Kyncl are near but not at the festival, together on a yacht just across from the Carlton.

ted sarandos

Probably better, since Netflix’s Ted Sarandos was hit with a dose of Cannes candor in his attempt to win goodwill at a festival forum (a questioner scored Sarandos for “ruining” Europe’s film business as he spoke about how much he loved the form).

Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s black, 414-foot yacht called Octopus is the talk of the festival (though he comes every year), because he is hosting a hot party on Monday night. Allen is keeping it small this year — only about 200 people — which unless you group them carefully, will make the party look thin. Now that’s a yacht.

The Azerbaijani government was behind an opulent, seated dinner for 100 at the Palme d’Or restaurant at the Martinez Hotel, one of the most expensive in town. They were celebrating ‘Ali and Nino,’ a Romeo and Juliet style love story set in the turbulent turn of the 20th century that has just gone into production, inviting foreign distributors, journalists and assorted dignitaries.

Ali Nino invite

IM Global is producing and selling the movie and hoping for an “English Patient” style epic of forbidden love between a Muslim and a Christian. But the champagne? That’s paid for by the oil wealth of Azerbaijan and, oddly, the Conde Nast-published Baku magazine. Here’s hoping the movie is as good as the dinner.


Meanwhile on Sunday afternoon about 100 privileged guests were ferried in groups by an Uber helicopter to a Provencale villa perched on a hill near the village Villeneuve Loubat, well inland from the sea. The afternoon idyll hosted by David Unger, who recently launched a management and movie production company, was another no-expense-spared invite. Jay-Z’s champagne, Ace of Spades, was poured from magnums (he is one of Unger’s investors), and the chefs were flown in from Germany to get the roasted lobster and sea bream just right. And the views from every perch in the garden were spectacular – though possibly not as spectacular as the view from the Uber bird.

Still even these could not compete with the over-the-top efforts by this year’s huge Kering initiative – the company behind Gucci, Balenciaga, Boucheron and other luxury brands – to promote women in cinema. CEO Francois-Henri Pinault is hoping to establish a definitive beachhead among the upscale luxury crowd at the festival, and has committed in sponsorship for the next five years to do so.

kering cannes fonda ellison

Apart from taking over the top floor of the Majestic Hotel across from the Palais de Festival, Kering hosted a spectacular dinner on Sunday night after the official screenings were over. The dinner was held in a fortress overlooking the harbor, with the lights of Cannes twinkling in the distance, a transparent tent housed the guests outdoors, constructed carefully around the towering eucalyptus trees stretching toward the ancient castle stones. Cabbage roses on the tables, and Chateau Latour wine (why do I know it cost $1000 a bottle? I just do) and a Michelin chef cooking for all.

The room was the crème de la crème of cinema, fashion and business. Salma Hayek, married to Pinault, glowed at the head table beside Jake Gyllenhaal and Jane Fonda, one of the women honorees, and producer Megan Ellison (“Zero Dark Thirty”), another honoree. The first course showed up at about 11:30 pm. I sat next to a young woman wearing $400,000 worth of jewelry. She was 26 and in luxury “branded content.”

Out on the stony terrace, Hayek yammered excitedly with jury-member Guillermo del Toro along with Spanish friends, actress Rossy de Palma and others. Joel and Ethan Coen, who head the 2015 jury, slipped in, while Isabelle Huppert, appearing in three movies here, slipped out.

Only in Cannes.

There comes just ahead of a super over-the-top Chopard party at the Hotel du Cap, the AmFar benefit.

If the stars were lounging at the Hotel du Cap – which they usually are – this correspondent cannot tell you, because after all of these other obligations, she had to go.

cannes general