It’s raining, the stars are hiding, the hacks and paparazzi are waterlogged and frustrated, and the shimmering images of the beautiful people walking up the red carpet are just that, images of glories long gone. The film festival used to be a glamorous affair when I was a young man. I remember the brouhaha when a French wannabe starlet ripped off her bra and showed them to Robert Mitchum, reputed to be by far the most intelligent actor of his time. He raised his eyebrows and congratulated her. He was walking alone on the Croisette without heavies or PR pests clearing his way. No one bothered him. That was then, and this is now, and now stinks. It stinks almost as much as the Gatsby movie, although some think the latter is the worst thing to come out of Hollywood since Paris Hilton. Who is also here trading on her great talent for, I suppose, having such an ugly horse face.
So why am I here, you may ask. As I wrote last week, my film, Seduced and Abandoned, is being shown a day after I write this, which means a star may have been born by the time you read it. I can see the headline in Nice-Matin, ‘Une Etoile Est Née’. Not bad for a 76-year-old, plus I have just finished a documentary for Graydon Carter along the lines of My Dinner with André. In my case it’s called My Lunch with Reinaldo. And, eat your heart out, fellow Pug member Sir Christopher Lee, I am filming Sex School this summer, playing a janitor. Who knew that Taki would become a major star in his mid-seventies? But back to Seduced and Abandoned.
It is a non-fiction film, a hybrid of an adventure narrative and a documentary. Alec Baldwin is the main star along with Ryan Gosling, Jessica Chastain, Marty Scorsese, Coppola, Polanski and Bertolucci. I play myself, mostly on my boat, and I was described as having an exotic, mysterious eroticism that sizzles. (And if you believe that, you’ll believe that political parties other than Ukip will offer the British people the choice of a referendum.) What has been written about Seduced and Abandoned has been up till now pretty great. The dreadful New York Times called the movie ‘A Blast’. The New York Observer said it was ‘Just wonderful, a great performance by Ryan Gosling and James Toback reading Updike’s poem’. Showbiz 41 writes that ‘Toback has made an honest imposing film which is going to be hot stuff’. No one deserves it more than Jimmy Toback, who, along with the producer Michael Mailer, has turned the greatest Greek writer since Homer into a major Hollywood star. If only my fame had come earlier it might have stopped the deputy editor of The Spectator leaving me standing at the church and running off with another. But vengeance is mine.
Cannes, of course, has changed dramatically since I first stepped ashore with my parents back in 1952. Tennis courts have disappeared and are now ugly apartment houses for retired folk, playing fields ditto, and glitzy and expensive restaurants that serve so-so food line the shore. Sex has no meaning in Cannes, especially during the festival, unless the fat producer gets it up without pharmaceutical help. What Dante called ‘the intelligence of love’ works inversely to what he meant. In Cannes, one loves whom you screw, mainly financially but seldom sexually. Love for family, teachers or friends is meant for suckers or the ‘little people’. Charity also works the opposite way. You have charity for those you owe money to. The uncontrollable urge that must be satisfied at all costs is the one that makes you pull a fast one over others. As Gore Vidal famously remarked about a starlet who never made it, ‘She screwed the writer.’ That’s what the Cannes festival is all about: screwing someone important. Purity in Cannes undermines and sullies the industry.
But I’m being too tough on the fat little men who run the show. There are some talented people around, but the big men who get things done are mostly in the shadows, or in deep hiding in the Hotel du Cap, the resort that has replaced the Crimea and is full of Russians the rest of the year.
We all know that society has splintered and old standards no longer apply. But that’s not my problem. What I have to deal with is the Pug regatta that starts on 2 June and runs until 4 June. Can a major movie star get given the right handicap by Commodore Tim Hoare, or will he try to bring me down a peg or two? Only he knows, but as I am in between boats, I will be showing up with a chartered speedster skippered by my son J.T., which will make my fellow pugs turn as green with envy as those broken-down movie stars who asked for my autograph as I arrived in Cannes airport.