Cannes 2011: On festival's streets, a form of high-low cinematic tourism
Among the many bits of color one gets walking the streets of the Cannes Film Festival are the giant temporary movie billboards that line the four- and five-star hotels on the Boulevard de la Croisette, the gathering's main drag. Think of the gaudiness of Hollywood & Highland with the elegance of Bel-Air, and you get an idea of the collision of high and low that accosts as you walk down the street trying to avoid the camera-happy tourists, trophy wives and street jugglers like any right-minded festivalgoer.
Making things even more of a jumble: Some of the movies are big Hollywood productions that are coming post haste to your local multiplex, but others are highly specialized products, aimed at a niche whose makeup one can only begin to contemplate.
But the signs do serve a purpose. Since the advertisements are meant to appeal to international distributors and media, they're a pretty good snapshot of what's working internationally, or at least what studios think will work internationally. In the past, it's proved a charmingly schizophrenic but telling mix. You'll have a "Transformers" right next to a "Babies," and then a Steven Seagal special dwarfing them both. Who said Cannes was just for cineastes?
This year, the signs seem a little more scaled back, but there's still plenty of that range.
The Antonio Banderas animated adventure "Puss in Boots" gets a giant display at the edge of a pier just off the Croisette. "Cowboys & Aliens" has a prominent billboard, though it will, of course, be interesting to see how the western elements play abroad. Interestingly, "Super 8" gets some heavy treatment too, which suggests that, for all the homemade intimacy hovering over the movie at home, when you get down to it, it's a big worldwide marketing rollout like all the others.
And then there's the above billboard, for a heretofore unknown animated gladiator movie that looks as though "Clash of the Titans" tried to mate with "Shrek." What's most interesting is that the billboard is nearly as big as "Cowboys & Aliens," suggesting either that marketers at Cannes throw proportion out the window, or that we live in a very different world than previously thought.
-- Steven Zeitchik reporting from Cannes, France
Photo: A billboard on the Boulevard de la Croisette. Credit: Steven Zeitchik