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Glamour unmasked at Cannes

by Jake Coyle, AP Film Writer

For nearly everybody who has come to the Cannes Film Festival after months in various stages of lockdown and caution, the transition is head-spinning.

Even in normal years, Cannes is an onslaught. But this time, plunging into full-capacity theatres and teeming red carpets is like stepping into another world.

The morning after the Val Kilmer documentary Val premiered at Cannes, its co-director Ting Poo was still reeling.

“Yesterday was so surreal. Just seeing the film with a full theatre, and here at the most prestigious film festival,” said Poo. “To go from not being around people to that experience in a day was incredible.”

The pandemic is far from invisible at Cannes. A negative Covid-19 test is required every 48 hours for even those vaccinated — unless they got their shots in the European Union.

Moviegoers wear masks indoors. Everything is a little muted. Usually well-booked hotels have vacancies. Screenings that would typically leave hundreds queueing outside don’t fill up. The usual tuxedoed ticket-seekers praying for a handout have been pushed away from the Palais, the festival hub, to clear space.

But in places like the Cannes red carpet, life is almost normal — if “normal” can ever apply to a stretch of carpet where coteries of stars drift in every few hours like parade floats.

Glamour has been unmasked, maybe more than any other time in the last year and a half of pandemic.

Over the first few days of the 74th Cannes Film Festival — held two months later than usual, and after last year’s edition was scrubbed entirely — the red carpet has looked much as it has always before.

Marion Cotillard, Bella Hadid, Matt Damon, Helen Mirren and Adam Driver have all strolled along, although they may have all been outclassed, fashion-wise, by Spike Lee and his flamingo-pink Louis Vuitton suit.

Most walk unmasked, as the carpet is outdoors and most attending are vaccinated — although proof isn’t required. And there are no fewer photographers than usual jockeying for stars’ attention.

The spectacle has picked up right where it left off. Nature, even the Cannes sequined variety, is healing.

“It’s a little bit like a strange dream, like waking up from this nap of two years doing nothing and suddenly: Boom,” said Avshalom Pollak, star of Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee, an impassioned Israeli drama competing for the Palme d’Or.

Cannes is taking place on the heels of France easing

Covid-19 restrictions and reopening international travel. About half the French have received at least one vaccination shot, while 38 percent are fully vaccinated. But the Delta variant has pushed infections back up slightly recently, stoking fears of a resurgence.

Since there’s such variation country to country in vaccination proof — the US, for example, has no official vaccine passport — the festival is requiring most to test every other day. The joke is that this year a negative test is the hottest ticket in Cannes.

While at first some complained about the less-than-elegant process of retreating to a cubicle to fill a tube with saliva, the tented lab just down the street from the Palais had become a regular stop for festivalgoers — just like the Palais Nespresso bar, only less refreshing.

The specially-erected testing site is staffed by 60 medical school students. The lab’s director, Guillaume Armana, said on Friday that they were conducting up to 4000 tests daily.

“We are working with the festival and the regional agency,” said Armana, who said any positive tests would be confidential.

“For now we have maybe 10,000 people to test and everything is under control. It’s the best way to make a festival again here in Cannes and to let the people have a new life.”

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION: Members of the Cannes Film Festival jury are, from left: Song Kang-ho, Tahar Rahim, Mylene Farmer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Spike Lee, Melanie Laurent, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonca Filho and Mati Diop. AP picture