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Gallic holiday? Try media melee

CANNES — As reporting assignments go, the Cannes Film Festival isn’t exactly bamboo shoots under the fingernails. With plenty of sun, sea, stars and sex, the festival fortnight would seem to be the envy of every ink-stained wretch who isn’t here.

But with nearly 4,000 journos descending on this tiny seaside community, the going can get choppy — especially when the president of France is in town and security is beefed up accordingly.Though the festival pretends to be equipped in aiding the media, their efforts invariably fail. There is a hierarchy for the press, with various colors of press passes (white, pink, pink with a yellow dot, blue, yellow) determining your level of access to events.

Despite claims to the contrary, the French gendarme don’t give a French franc what color your pass is. Film critic Roger Ebert, who has become as much a fest institution as the Tropicana Girls and the Leopard Ladies, has a vaunted white badge — the one which supposedly can get you into anything. Nevertheless, the critic was turned away from at least one screening. Apparently, the guard is more partial to the skinny one.

When L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan was invited to the preem of “Welcome to Woop Woop,” he received a flyer from the film’s publicists saying he should dress wildly, in keeping with the mood of the surfer pic.

So he wore jeans and a Hawaiian shirt. The French doorman at the Palais gave Turan the once over and showed him la porte.

Oscar-winning docu-maker Barbara Kopple and her crew were given carte blanche to cross police lines because she’s making a documentary on the fest that was authorized by Cannes Film Festival director Gilles Jacob.

That was only in theory. Following actress Traci Lind for the docu, d.p. Don Lenzer stepped out of a car that was carrying his crew past the maze-like iron gates at the Palais. He was immediately restrained by police; even though Lenzer showed them the Jacob-signed pass, they carried him away and kept his pass.

“They didn’t lift me off the ground, but I didn’t walk out on my own either,” Lenzer remembers.

Through it all, most journalists couldn’t really complain too vociferously: After all, they were in the south of France. Adds Vogue’s John Powers: “It’s bad here, but it’s nothing next to Sundance. Now that’s really obnoxious.”

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