Cannes fest bares its Victoria principles

Lingerie fashion show causes a stir

PARIS — A storm in a C cup is brewing over plans by the U.S. underwear chain Victoria’s Secret to stage a lingerie fashion show on Cannes’ hallowed Croisette during the International Film Festival.

The parade forms part of a glitzy benefit, Cinema Against Aids, organized by AmFAR, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, sponsored by Miramax, and hosted by Elizabeth Taylor and Elton John at the Palm Beach on May 18. Despite the event’s worthy cause, fest organizers, who are sick of hangers on, wish Victoria would just slink off and share her secrets with someone else — as far away from Cannes as possible.

For previous benefits during the fest, Cinema Against AIDS has always used the Moulin de Mougins, a restaurant discreetly tucked away in a village outside Cannes. The Palm Beach, they feel, is just a bit too close to the main event.

A Cannes spokesman said Tuesday, “You can’t even buy this company’s products in France (in stores) — not that we wouldn’t be equally upset if a French company tried to pull a stunt like this.”

For years, organizers and participants at Cannes have bemoaned a growing army of commercial freeloaders latching onto the festival in the hope that some of its magic will rub off on whatever they are trying to sell. On one occasion, an automobile manufacturer sent a fleet of cars down the Croisette in a crafty publicity coup that didn’t cost a cent.

Off the Croisette

But the May 18 show, which has been promoted on U.S. TV and on the Internet, has galvanized festival officials into action. On Monday, president Pierre Viot and artistic director Gilles Jacob met the mayor of Cannes to see if local bylaws could help keep companies that have nothing to do with the cinema off the Croisette.

Meanwhile, the fest’s legal department is pondering a more specific response to the fashion show.

“We aren’t the police, we aren’t trying to ban anything, but people are using the festival for their own commercial ends, which have nothing to do with the world of cinema,” the festival spokesman said. “We just want to give the Croisette back to cinema, to re-create its Garden of Eden.”

A spokesman for Cinema Against AIDS expressed surprise at the fest organizers’ attitude, saying, “I had conversations with them and there was benign indifference to the event, no criticism per se. I guess they are getting funny about a bunch of things.”

“Victoria’s Secret has made an extremely generous charitable contribution and we have every intention of working with the festival and the mayor of Cannes, as we always have, to ensure that everything runs smoothly,” an AmFAR spokesman said.

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