A Sunny Place for Shady People …

The Cannes Film Festival ends tonight. The French media, as it does each May, covered it thoroughly: we know who turned up with who; who wouldn’t talk to who etc etc. The current issue of the French weekly VSD (it stands for Vendredi Samedi Dimanche – Friday Saturday Sunday) has a cover story on what […]

The Cannes Film Festival ends tonight. The French media, as it does each May, covered it thoroughly: we know who turned up with who; who wouldn’t talk to who etc etc.

The current issue of the French weekly VSD (it stands for Vendredi Samedi Dimanche – Friday Saturday Sunday) has a cover story on what French actors earn annually. The extraordinary success of the film ‘Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis’, which I blogged about a while back, makes Dany Boon (the film’s producer, director and star) France’s highest earning actor with €6,750,000 ($10,650,000; ₤5,373,000). Gérard Depardieu is third with €4,400,000 ($6,941,000; ₤3,502,000) – Brigitte Bardot, once asked whether she does not regret having given up acting, replied: ‘No. Can you imagine having to kiss Depardieu?’) Marion Cotillard who plays Edith Piaf in ‘La Môme’ is the highest-earning female actor with €1,150,000 ($1,814,000; ₤916,000); this makes one wonder about equality of the sexes.

VSD though has a much more interesting article. It’s about what no one ever will tell you about the Cannes Film Festival. The Cannes municipal authorities certainly won’t because the festival earns the town €170 million ($269,000,000; ₤136,000,000) each year, so would want to jeopardize such a neat sum?

The weekly’s article is on the drug dealing and taking in Cannes during the Festival.

The heading is: Spécial Cannes. The Festival draws drug sellers. DRUGS ON THE CROISETTE: A TABOO SUBJECT.

The reporter, Emmanuel Fansten, quote several people; these include a police commissioner, someone with the pseudonym ‘Aline’ who has for the past 20 years been on the Festival’s administrative side, and a French film producer who wanted to remain anonymous.


There are allegedly drugs to be found everywhere in Cannes during the Festival: the bars, the clubs, the hotels. But as the film producer told the magazine: “Those who do not take it, do not see it.” Said ‘Aline’ who has seen every kind of drug being traded and consumed the past 20 years: “Cocaine was much around in the 1990s. Today it is almost a has been.” She also told the magazine that not so much trading is being done. Those stars who are consumers, she says, arrive with the stuff and therefore do not have to buy it locally.

If anyone does however run out of his/her supply, finding more won’t be a problem. The stuff’s brought in by car, plane, train and yacht. Customs do patrol the coast, but the yachts moor in international waters and therefore do not fall under French jurisdiction. Yet no drug scandal has ever hit the Festival. ‘Aline’, for example tells of how, a few years back, she had to go and rescue a ‘famous American producer’ who’d been taken in for possession of drugs. He was immediately released without charge; she had produced a letter from ‘a government minister’ (she does not say which one) claiming that what the producer had on him was ‘medicine’. The incident was not reported.

Police Commissioner Yannick Salabert of OCRTIS (Office central de repression du traffic illicite de stupéfiants), the central office of repression of illicit drug trafficking, admitted to the magazine that drugs, slot machines and real estate are the principal money earners in the region. Drug trafficking are, he said, centered between Nice and Cannes (a distance of 21 miles; 33kms). The price of cocaine (coco in the language of the underworld) has slumped in the region though; at the beginning of the 1990s one could buy a gram for FF1,500 or €250 ($395; ₤199) whereas today the same quantity costs only between €50-80 ($78-127; ₤40-64). It does not however stop dealers flocking to Cannes for the Festival.

Cannes’ population of 69,000, by the way, triples during the festival. As VSD reports, the local police are reinforced with five squadrons of CRS (specially-equiped riot police). The CRS mainly concentrate on the security of the visiting celebrities. Some of them are even in plainclothes and guarding the luxury hotels and villas where these people stay.

Reading VSD’s article reminded me of what Somerset Maugham had said about Monaco: it’s a sunny place for shady people.

Might he have had the entire French coastline in mind?

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

3 Responses to “A Sunny Place for Shady People …”

  1. 3
    A Taste of Garlic Says:

    […] me? Well, I’m going to A Sunny Place for Shady People where I’m going to study up on French Women and Cows and The Kiss in […]

  2. 2
    Jo Says:

    Its amazing what the rich and famous can get away with. If it was just you and me, we would be in jail so fast, you wouldn’t see the going of us.

  3. 1
    Anonymous Says:

    Yes, there are things one’s never told …
    Catherine Modin

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