A Guide to Cannes Badge Social Hierarchy

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The Cannes Film Festival crowd runs the gamut of ethnicities and classes. At least until accreditations are handed down, you could say we are all cinephiles basking in cinema’s glory. Once the badges are given, with their undemocratically assigned colors of importance, classes are formed and cliques come into sharper focus. Unspoken imperatives rule the day. You’re not equal to me; you over there, yes, the chap in the seersucker suit — we’re a match, let’s do lunch at La Potiniere.

Here’s an example. The yellow press — the lowest form of living, breathing film journalist roaming the Palais des Festivals — should have deduced its place in the pecking order by Day 3. You must sit in the nosebleed rows inside the Palais Lumiere and should expect long waits to get into the Debussy Theatre. And please, if a pink badged-press (it seems more pinks were given out this year than in previous years, by dint of promotion rather than anything else) is coming, make way. You might be granted pink membership sometime in the next few years too and would therefore appreciate the respect.

The upper class among the badge-wearers at Cannes often wears their emblems turned or hidden altogether. For that reason, the whites — the Astors of the Cannes Festival press — sometimes go undetected. And although I have rarely seen them in the wild (it’s a sight to behold, indeed), I think I understand them … I know their way of thinking. It’s useless to show off your badge; by the time you are granted the keys to the garden of Eden, you’ve already got the approval and recognition of your peers. Modesty, therefore, works best. All you have to do is enjoy life’s simplicity, take in the sights, and amble inside the darkened theatre moments before the movie starts. No long waits in the queue when you’re among the privileged, right?

Blues — the second-lowest-ranking press status — are still fighting for legitimacy, but less so. I can hear the collective sigh of relief uttered by some of them upon realizing that, this year, they have been elevated to blue status. It’s magic-blue, as far as they’re concerned. When only last year they were still stepping over others to catch a sight of the stars, the newly minted blues have mutated into so many prestigidators, appearing and disappearing and casting long queue waits and worries to the wind. But don’t be tricked; blues can sometimes turn into pinks and act like the robber-barons of the press, rushing to get a seat or shoving (albeit less acrimoniously than the pinks) the unsuspecting peons out of the way.

And by “others” I mean the morass of colors given out to the rest of the festival-going public, i.e. market people and cinephiles. Among them I have noticed hues of red, white (but don’t mistake them for members of the press), gray, and even black. The blacks are rare, as extraordinary as spotting an edelweiss. Rumor has it that fewer than ten black badges are given out every year. Who are they? Does Carla Bruni-Sarkozy serenade them to sleep with her guitar every night? Do they get to have breakfast with the jury president Isabelle Huppert and Monsieur Cannes himself, Gilles Jacob, during which they’ll weigh in on important issues? Here’s how a conversation might go:

“G., ol’ boy, I wish you’d come down from the top of the stairs a little bit more to meet and greet our younger stars; by the way, your book is posh. Well done, mate.”

Or to Huppert: “I’d love to come and stay with you, Isabelle, but sailboats make me sad. You are staying on that sailboat, aren’t you? I have no clue why they make me sad. My gosh you are skinny, by the way, you look wonderful.”

Well, I’m late for my lunch at La Potiniere, which happens to be a decent little restaurant with the terrific advantage of being just a stone’s throw from the Palais des Festivals. I may need to have a chat with the owner, however. I noticed a pink and a yellow sitting together.