All smoke and mirrors for the brittle beauties of Cannes Film Festival 2010

The Vanity Fair party at Cannes was crammed with beautiful women, writes Celia Walden. But they were astonishingly insecure.

“Would you look at the size of the circles under my eyes?” It’s the kind of casual self-criticism you overhear in women’s washrooms all over the world. On this occasion, however, the washroom is in the Eden Roc Hotel in Cap d’Antibes, and the anonymous woman is so exquisite that I’m forced to suppress a snort of derision. “I know, these lights are really washing me out,” flings back a heavily accented voice, belonging to Czech supermodel Karolina Kurkova.

Carey Mulligan and Michael Douglas at the Cannes film festival

Carey Mulligan and Michael Douglas at the Cannes film festival

It’s the Vanity Fair party, held every year on the first weekend of the Cannes Film Festival, and the poolside at Eden Roc is crammed with beautiful women. People normally walk slower at glamorous parties, like they’re moving to the rhythm of an imaginary Sade song, but these women have an indolent pace all of their own. They waft, MTV-style, through the clouds of dry ice, with the secretive smiles and distant gaze of those used to being looked at, performing a series of fraudulent but poetic acts – smelling the White Parrot tulips, exhaling the smoke from their l&m Cocktails – that induce ecstasy in every short, balding, predatory movie producer present.

So it’s astonishing – and a little sad – to see how insecure these beauties are, once inside the confessional of the restroom. Watching Eva Herzigova grimace disapprovingly at herself in the mirror a few nights later at the Chopard 150th anniversary party, before striding out, once again in character, reminded me of a famous anecdote about Marilyn Monroe at the peak of her fame. Wandering unrecognised around a bookshop with a friend, Monroe asked: “Do you want me to be her?” She took off her scarf, stood up a little straighter, and was immediately besieged.

It’s 1.30am at the Wall Street 2 after-party, in the grounds of a chateau just outside town, and Michael Douglas is standing a foot away, drinking a Martini flecked with real gold. Absurd doesn’t even start to cover it, but never mind that: Michael – now, how can I put this? – Michael has a big head. I don’t mean that he’s obnoxious or lofty: the 65-year-old has been perfectly charming to the endless procession of guests approaching him. I mean that his head is literally outsized, larger than it should be, disproportionate.

This is, apparently, a well-known phenomenon in Hollywood: the bigger the head, as the producer Joel Silver once said, the bigger the star. In Cannes, large cranial masses are everywhere: being carried proudly down the red carpet by Josh Brolin and his wife Diane Lane, or flaunted by Gael Garcia Bernal and Mick Jagger at parties and premieres.

The same principle has long been used by Disney to draw the public in. Even on unappealing creatures such as ET, large heads prompt the nurturing instincts associated with babies, puppies and kittens. But any pin-headed wannabes needn’t worry: if the market demands it, cosmetic science will no doubt be honing a cranial enlargement procedure at this very moment.

For two weeks in May, every waiter in Cannes turns the rudeness up a notch. The superciliousness you expect (and patiently endure) becomes a blatant disgust, the service is appalling, and they will happily criticise their own clientele.

When a colleague sitting at one of the bars along the Croisette asked if she could get a clean ashtray, the waiter suggested she try “not to smoke so much”, while a movie executive complains that he was thrown out of a place in the Old Town for requesting that his steak arrive well done.

There’s nothing for it though, not with 30,000 people prepared to pay over the odds for food, drink and the best tables on the terraces. No wonder the maitre d’ of the Carlton Hotel drives a Ferrari.


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