The fans on the front line of the world's largest cinema
showcase, perched on stepladders across from the famous red
carpet steps, are ecstatic about all the celebrities and the
"I'm living my dream ... There's no one happier than I am. It's
been building up since when I was six or seven," said Martine
Santoro, 61, who watched the images from Cannes when she was a
child in Paris and vowed to get there one day in person.
A toy piano rigged up on the front of Santoro's stepladder is
her homage to this year's festival jury president, "The Piano"
director Jane Campion.
The instrument caught Campion's eye on opening night and she
came over to sign an autograph, as did Nicole Kidman, there to
promote her starring role in "Grace of Monaco".
As the movie legends pass by, the hunters scream and implore,
waving notepads and pens.
"Those who want autographs put themselves in front, and those
who want photos go behind, it works out nicely. It's the
hierarchy of the stepladders," said Marseille resident Jean-Marc
Stahl, 64, attending his 19th Cannes.
"Once it starts, and everyone is in place, you can't move around
anymore. You're stuck."
Competition for a good position is fierce. Stahl lined up five
days before the festival opened to nab a front-row spot and now
takes turns with others to guard against interlopers.
"There are people who show up on Wednesday morning for the
opening night and they say, 'Okay, I'm going to put my stuff
here' and we say, 'Whoa, wait a minute, no way!'"
In the lulls between celebrity sightings, the autograph hunters
relax into their own Cannes party.
"Of course, we have champagne," said Santoro. "And we drink rose
at night ... it's very convivial." Before or after the red
carpet arrivals? "Both."
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Not all of the stars are as accommodating as Kidman.
Actress Kristen Stewart provoked boos, hisses and tears when she
turned her back on fans who had come from all over France to see the
"Twilight" star three years ago, Santoro said.
Action star Bruce Willis pulled the same stunt, said Stahl.
"One year, he got out of the car and he was scared of the crowd, he
took off," Stahl said. "It's crazy because when you see him, he's
such a tough guy in films, but no. He got booed."
Not far from the autograph seekers, standing outside the main
festival building is Philippe Durand, holding a small sign in
French: "An invite, please."
The 36-year-old is a member of another Cannes coterie - the small
army of movie buffs hoping to persuade passing festival-goers to
hand over spare tickets to screenings not open to the public.
He and his fellow ticket hunters are "rendering a service" to
festival organizers, making sure they had full houses for
"It's a different concept," said Durand, who traveled from Paris and
had managed to see four or five films out of the 18 competing for
the main Palme d'Or prize.
"We're really not into seeing the stars, we just want to see the
(Writing by Alexandria Sage; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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