Cannes gets a lot of ratings – from both the overly enthused and stubbornly underwhelmed ad-world troop. From the powerful execs to the green-around-the gills-minions, we proffer our opinions as to what defines the festival and the idyllic South of France for us. Varied though these may be because Cannes stories seem to be infinite, the perspectives fall into somewhat clear categories. For some, the rating is R: Routine. They flock to the glistening azure coast yearly and are blasé about the experience that borders on an ordeal when the networking becomes arduous and the parties line up your nerves like dominoes – one more musing on ‘how to win digital’ away from total collapse. The slightly more zealous deign to rate it PG: Passively Gripping. Geography and lore compensate for the less-than-thrilling reality. They’re aware of the possibility of creative-induced epiphanies, the transformative encounters, the heady nights out and the breathtaking beauty of an almost mythical European coastal realm. But when you land, jetlagged and in desperate need of sleep that remains elusive for 7 days, it’s like watching fireworks from underwater. You’re sure this is supposed to be stunning, but you can barely push to the surface to actually verify.
For the likes of me and others of the same persuasion, ‘Cannes virgins’, we rate it X. For X-cruciating. Because a week, perhaps even a month, will leave you feeling shortchanged. There is absolutely no way to drink in all of the festival and the sensual marriage of advertising and European je ne sais quoi in such a short time. Nothing’s enough. The after-hours daylight afforded by the sultry summer, the parties that only begin to wane at 2 am, the incredibly colourful and unapologetically quirky beings that roam the Palais. You meet someone you’re sure is the most ridiculously well-thought out human being, before you meet another who stirs the reluctant rebel in you. You wonder who you are around these souls, if you’ll ever be fast enough to get to all of them and learn your way, or still enough to find your place among them.
Perhaps that is the most unsettling and wonderful thing about Cannes. You’ll end up unsatisfied. And that’s why the Routine ones keep at it, the Passively Gripped try now and again, and the Virgins scramble to find a way to go back. It’s the ultimate tease, the perfectly orchestrated heist– once you’ve had a sliver of the thrill, a mere taste – you are in its clutches entirely. And in a way, it is poetic – the place where thousands of the world’s most creative minds congregate every year to exalt the work they’ve done to evangelize the world – is the very same altar to which they’ve, perhaps inadvertently, pledged their souls and make their pilgrimage. To Cannes, the alluring little god of the creatives. We are, ultimately, all at its behest. And why not? It is the place to be if what you aspire to is immortality.