Schoolboy humor, debauchery of means and cult sequences: the crazy Canal years of the Cannes Film Festival

By Maroussia Dubreuil

Posted today at 01:12

One evening in May 1995, around 8 p.m., in Cannes. A loud explosion resounded on the Croisette. The Europe 1 advertising balloon, installed on the roof of the Martinez hotel, has just burst. We shot in the heart on the slogan “Europe 1, it’s fishing!” », causing a fire to start on the terrace of the palace. On the floor below, Jeanne Moreau, tottering, goes out onto her balcony. Looking up at the sky, one hand on her heart, she thinks her last hour has come.

Below, on the set of “Nowhere Elsewhere” (“NPA”), José Garcia and Antoine de Caunes open their eyes wide, like two children who have just understood that the sketch they have fomented with a pyrotechnician is in the process of to go wrong. “I’m going to jail because of you, yells Patrick Scicard, the director of Martinez. Use of explosives during a public demonstration, I’ll take it for ten years! Gotta stop the bullshit! » Since “NPA” arrived on the Croisette, the firefighters have been watching it daily, ready to respond to any emergency situation.

It has been two years since Canal+ became the official channel of the Cannes Film Festival. A chic showcase to accompany a success story : in 1992, with 3.7 million subscribers in France and more than 1.6 internationally, the encrypted channel made 1.2 billion francs in net profit. In comparison, that of TF1 is capped at 450 million francs. Canal+ has also just moved its 1,247 employees to new 45,000 square meter headquarters on the edge of the new André-Citroën park, in the 15and district of Paris.

Gilles Jacob, the general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, knows that this channel that everyone is talking about – “And you, do you have Canal or don’t you have Canal?” – can help it stand out from its two major competitors, the Venice Film Festival and the Berlinale in Berlin. In 1993, the cinema chain was chosen to produce and exclusively broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies, up to 5 million francs each. “It could have been more, but Pierre Viot, the president of the Festival, a former member of the Court of Auditors, asked me to calm my appetite, for fear that the public authorities would reduce our endowment”, explains Gilles Jacob, who will then increase the bill.

Read also: Article reserved for our subscribers How France Télévisions took over the Cannes Film Festival

The idyll between Canal+ and the Festival will last twenty-eight years, until “TV like no other” fades away in 2022. On November 23, 2021, France Télévisions and the digital media Brut won the new call offers with a financial contribution 250,000 euros higher than that of the channel owned by Vincent Bolloré, as well as the promise to light fireworks on all screens.

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Schoolboy humor, debauchery of means and cult sequences: the crazy Canal years of the Cannes Film Festival