Once Upon a time in Cannes Festival

Once Upon a time in Cannes Festival

The well-known photographer Vangelis Rassias is the only Greek photographer who covered the Cannes Film Festival for 16 years. Ηe started as a journalist and ended up making photo portraits with the most famous participants of the Festival. 

His portfolio includes different themes, which we shall see, reminding us of the value of each moment captured by a click; a click, which verifies that a picture is worth a thousand words! 

In the first part, Vangelis Rassias will remember through his photos, several Cannes Film Festival moments, captured within his memories!

The legend of Alain Delon

My most memorable moment ever, as a journalist, during the Cannes Festival was the arrival of Alain Delon; a moment that has been etched in my mind forever. It is in 1990, during the 43rd Festival and Alain Delon is working with Jean-Luc Godard in NOUVELLE VAGUE.

Τhe day of the film’s premiere, everyone is expecting Delon to walk the red carpet but instead he arrives by boat from the Eden-Roc Hotel, at the Majestic private beach and subsequently refuses to get in a car. He opts for the so-called “bain de foule”, that is he walks on the sand and passes through the impressed crowd which cheers him enthusiastically. I sincerely cannot tell if I ever experienced another moment like that in my life. I follow him all the way through until he reaches the steps leading to the Festival venue. He is wearing a ΜΑΟ suit and a lapel pin with crystals reading “Star”; I do not know of any greater star than him. Godard awaits him wearing a tie with Swarovski crystals. I am convinced that such legendary personalities will hardly ever walk among us in the future.

Costa-Gavras and the Palme d’Or 

Despite everything, the first time I arrived at the Cannes Festival in Nice, was the year 1982. Back then, there were only 50 photojournalists from all around the world. Surprisingly enough, my first portrait was that of the great Greek director Costa-Gavras who that year won the Palme d’Or for “Missing”. It was the time when I worked for an independent radio station. As soon as I saw Costa-Gavras, I got closer to him and spoke in Greek saying: “Could we arrange an interview with you?”. There were world-renowned magazines there, so to be honest I was not expecting that he would accept immediately, so we panicked a little when he replied: “I am staying at suite No …” Shortly after, we found every little detail about his entire career in order to attend the interview fully prepared. Once the photo shoot wrapped, I asked him why he had accepted our request, to which he replied: “Oh well, me, I’m interested in the young generation. I want to give them a chance.”

Do you own a tuxedo, sir?

Unfortunately, when you are young, learning about the Cannes dress code, might become a somehow weird experience! It is the year 1983 and I arrive in Cannes from Nice, wearing a cream suit. The person in charge looks at me, then comments with a touch of irony: “Sir, you arrived either too early or too late. You need to wear a tuxedo! You cannotproceed!”

I went back to Nice and straight to Galleries Lafayette and purchased a plastic, one-day suit! What else could I do? Despite the hassle, that year I managed to take stealthily a photo of Roger Moore, who was staying at the Carlton. I had intel that he would go to the Festival using the kitchen exit; and indeed, the Carlton kitchen offered me an exclusive photo!

Ιt was of course a time of magical parties which made you realize that up until then you had not live much! One of the best I ever attended was for “Fort Saganne” starring Gérard Depardieu, Catherine Deneuve and Sophie Marceau. It took place in a mansion lit with torches...

It was that same year, I took the photo of Jacqueline Bisset during a party at the Carlton, where she was together with Christopher Reeve and his wife for the event related to the film “Under the volcano”. Truly one of my favorites!

Through the French eyes 

It was difficult to capture this photo. She was standing at the door of the Palais de Festival, but for me this photo means so much. She was the guest of honor, at a star-studded gala celebrating the Festival’s 40th anniversary (1987).

It was the moment when President François Mitterrand awarded American actress Elizabeth Taylor the “Legion of Honor”, France’s most prestigious order of merit for military and civil merits. During the presentation, Mitterrand praised the actress’ work supporting AIDS victims, ever since the death of Rock Hudson, her friend and co-star in the film “Giant”. Taylor has been involved in raising funds for research aimed at finding a cure for AIDS since Hudson died from the disease. The award ceremony, held in the gilded ballroom of the Elysée Palace, also honored British director Peter Brook.

There are two… Belmondo!

In the year 1988, my favorite photo is one where the German director Wim Wenders and the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo are sitting back to back, during the reception celebrating the last night of the Festival. The previous days, they had walked the red carpet together with French actress Solveig Dommartin for the film Chocolat by co-writer/director Claire Denis who was working with Wenders, which was produced by Alain Belmondo, brother of the famous actor. 

Burn them all!

Marisa Berenson and I shared a somewhat unfortunate moment, while she attended a gala dinner at the Palais des Festivals, in the prestigious room Salon des Ambassadeurs; it did result, however, to an amazing photo. I had just put a new film in my camera and my first photo was that of her while grimacing. She proceeded into scolding me for taking such photo so I replied, “I offer you my apologies, Ma’am. If this is to upset you so much then I shall burn the film right away”, so I opened the camera and threw the film away. However, she was thoroughly impressed and instead she “gifted” me that kiss pose!

The first appearance

When a new Hollywood couple makes a joint appearance in a festival like the Cannes Film Festival, it is as if they take a lap of honor. Sometimes, such incident becomes perhaps even more important than the film itself – as in this particular case! 

It was the case where Tom Cruise accompanied by his new wife, Nicole Kidman, made their first public appearance in Europe during the 45thCannes Film Festival on May 18, 1992 introducing the film “Far and Away”, an Americanepic-romanti c adventure drama film directed by Ron Howard.

To this day, what people kept in their mind from that first appearance was only Nicole; she initially became famous thanks to Tom, through a truly mediocre film. Nonetheless, in the end, she managed to build a strong career and this year in Cannes, she even received the Lifetime Achievement Award. Sometimes women can become famous overnight through marriage, a common practice in Hollywood to mask other issues in the protagonists’ life; those same women must sometimes divorce and possibly marry another person in order to pursue an even more successful career! What most people have retained from those two is Kubrick’s “Eyes wide shut” where they starred for the last time together!

Once upon a time in America (1984)

“Once upon a time in America” was indeed an unforgettable film, projected out of competition in Cannes, in 1984. It has been widely acclaimed as one of the best in the cop and gangster genre; the film plot involves a special story of survival, friendship, the loss of innocence and the struggle for power! Sergio Leone directs unparalleled scenes, true masterpieces, which are coupled with Ennio Morricone’s film score.

However, undoubtedly, what remains an unforgettable experience regarding the film’s world premiere in Cannes, is the dinner party at the prestigious Salon des Ambassadeurs, following the awards ceremony.

Everyone remembers the film scene where the bottles of whiskey are hidden inside a coffin, in order to bury the Prohibition. However, the Festival chefs’ creative inspiration left everyone speechless when they suddenly came face to face with huge chocolate coffin! 
In the first photo, James Woods is feeding director Sergio Leone, whereas just next to them Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci are joking around.

They were joined by Elizabeth McGovern who was only a child back then!

The second photo captures Robert De Niro together with director Sergio Leone, just after the press conference where he did not state present, causing quite a stir.

What stole the show was indeed the chocolate coffin. And as many people used to say for fun, using a film quote: “You’ll put up, and you’ll shut up! You hear nothing, and you see nothing! Just like you did for Bugsy!”

However, what happened in Cannes, never stayed between us!