Cannes: Crowds and clowns and chests and . . . Crowds

As a first-timer to Cannes, you may feel like you’ve walked into some Fellini dream. You will feel bewildered by the crowds, the noise, the cigarette smoke, the strange goings-on. And did we mention the crowds?

But to returnees, it’s a different story. Things that are astonishing one year seem absolutely humdrum the next. The Cannes Film Festival often is like “Groundhog Day”: Year after year, you keep running into the same people, talking about the same things, wolfing down the same sandwiches from the same kiosks.

And then there are the people who evoke both reactions: The street people, who manage to seem recognizable and disorienting at the same time.

For example, take the street performers — please. They dance, they sing, they juggle, they play drums. And, as if that’s not exciting enough, Cannes is a mecca for “living statues” — performers in elaborate get-ups who stand immobile for minutes at a time. However, when someone drops money in their hat, they begin some sort of gyration.

But are they new or not? Is the gold man with the gold movie camera the same golden statue from last year? There was a clown last year playing a toy saxophone and there’s a clown this year playing a toy violin. Same clown? It’s hard to tell. In the glare of the Riviera sun, all clowns tend to look alike …

Of course there are perennials. Sgt. Kabukiman, the Killer Condom and a bevy of busty babes are always trolling about, touting Troma. The Hawaiian Tropic Girls are a staple of the fest: The faces are new, but the chests always seem familiar.

And then there are the people who have come to Cannes, just to be seen. They dress up and promenade elegantly around town, happily posing for photographers. Why? They want their quinze minutes of fame.

If you’re a strolling tourist, these people are fascinating. If you’re rushing somewhere, they are more annoying than a yapping poodle, since they draw crowds who invariably like to stand in the exact path that you’re moving on.

Perhaps taken one at a time, each of these folk may be entertaining. Taken together, they are terrifying. They clog foot traffic, they rattle your senses, they alter your sense of what’s normal.

And did we mention the crowds?

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