Guest Post: A Dream Of Cannes

In the second of our Cannes reports, Leading Man Clive Ashenden gives us an impressionistic take on the whole Cannes experience. Expect hallucinatory strangeness. 


For best effect, I recommend playing the following while reading. Call it a soundtrack to Clive’s short film.

A Dream of Cannes


By Clive Ashenden aka. Leading Man Clive


[The following is a true story… Or a least a true dream.]







POV: A hand pulls back the curtain to reveal: RAIN and neon reflected in the rain-slicked streets.


LMC (V.O.)

I came dressed for Casablanca but ended up in Se7en. I’ve been to the festival at Cannes five (or was it six?) times before but it’s always been blazing sunshine. The rain doesn’t suit the city. It looks bedraggled, hair-do ruined, mascara streaming…



It’s not a particularly new observation to note the similarity of film, of cinema, to dreams. Recently, Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” played with such ideas – cutting to Cobb and Ariadne sitting outside a café, and then having her become aware of the ‘jump’ in time and space. However, it’s only when you go somewhere like Cannes that you realise how apt the dream analogy is.

 Much ink has been spilled on the PR postcard view of Cannes the festival. Red carpet premieres; Hollywood stars; World cinema’s venerable auteurs and young tyros; A-list parties and Awards. More still on reviews of the ‘real’ festival, with views from the Marché (the film market that forms the hidden backbone of the festival) and first-hand accounts from Cannes virgins.

Returning to Cannes once again, it is clear (even in the dour light painting everything in greys) that there is no fake Cannes or real Cannes – only different dreams of Cannes. Dreams… and nightmares.




POV: A drinker’s eye view of the bottom of plastic pint glass. Beer disappearing, then the glass moves away to reveal: the dank and sodden remnants of Cannes’ party circuit. In the foreground are friend (S. his moustache and quiff waxed and unmoved in the constant drizzle) and foe (A. all burning red-eyes and spittle-flecked lips).


LMC (V.O.)

The Petit Majestic is the most democratic spot in Cannes. If you get there at what I like to think of as ‘Magic Hour’ (not the roseate light of a clear dusk or dawn, but rather the hour after all the main parties and screening have just finished) – this is the time where you might get a chance to meet real players. And in that one hour window you’ll find them well-oiled enough to be approachable, but not so drunk that they’re unable to speak, walk or see. After ‘Magic Hour’ passes…



You’ll never get anywhere until you’re been royally raped. Both of you.


LMC (V.O.)

We’re getting blasted with A’s philosophy and wisdom. He believes that S and I need to be broken on the wheel (unspoken: like he was) before we can graduate to the big leagues. A producer with actual completed theatrically released features under his belt, he plays the bountiful lord throwing scraps to the peasants (despite being a self-professed Marxist). He’s being an arsehole, and even though he’s drunk and (I learn later) has been up for two days straight, he knows he’s being an arsehole.


A. holds up his hand unsteadily at shoulder level.



I’m at a higher level than you. I’m sorry but it’s true. This…


He moves his hand down four inches.



This is where you are. You need to get a lot better if you want to make real movies. You need to be here.


He moves his hand back up.



Now I could help you but…


The hand disappears.



You need to do it yourself.


Well? Are you going to punch me in the face now?


LMC (V.O.)

He seems disappointed when I tell him NO.



Everybody in Cannes is here for THE DREAM. The paparazzi perched on their chrome step ladders waiting for the next celebrity wardrobe malfunction. The cinephiles with their faces pressed up against the barrier to get that millimetre closer to their idols. The sales agent spreading his horror movie wares before the gimlet eye of the film buyer. The producer having breakfast with hard-faced ‘Soft Money’ (ie. Government subsidies and Tax breaks) people in a national pavilion. The drunken students searching for the semi-mythical porn yacht. The high-class prostitute brushing past an actress promoting her latest film in which she plays – a prostitute. The cloud of filmmakers buzzing around the Short Film Corner handing out flyers for their shorts…


We’re all here to SELL dreams or BUY dreams. Cannes is just a place we dreamt up to do it in. So we dress up like James Bond or Marilyn Monroe and play the game. Why? Well if you watch movies… I think you know why. Dreams and dreamers, masked, we dance around each other to the tune of Saint-Saens’ “The Aquarium” from ‘The Carnival of The Animals’.


Because sometimes, if you put the hard work in and you’re lucky – dreams can come true.





POV: S. converses with J, a professional film man who wears his scars lightly.


LMC (V.O.)

Sometimes… it all just works. We pitch our script as a team. Naturally, fluidly, S. starts with the logline, I pick up the story, throw it back and so it goes. It’s relaxed. We know our story back-to-front and we glory in its twists and turns. Its ‘movieness’ (if that’s even a word). We’ve hooked J – he wants to know more and believes it maybe just the project he’s been looking for to collaborate with his friend, the red-hot young producer X. No promises, but we all share similar taste in movies and well… you’ve got to DREAM… haven’t you?


Outside, for the first time since arrival, the rain stops.




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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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