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Rain & the Red Carpet

Something as banal as the weather can ruin all things glamorous

Published: Apr 19, 2014 06:39:46 AM IST
Updated: Apr 17, 2014 01:46:35 PM IST
Rain & the Red Carpet
Image: Fiorenzo Maffi / Reuters
Spectators take cover from the rain during the screening of a movie on the Piazza Grande during the Locarno Film Festival

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an international film festival, in possession of good films, must be in want of sexy glamour on its red carpet. There’s no other way to get media attention and screaming fans, regardless of how good your films are. Yet, something as banal as the weather, of all things, decides how sexy a festival can be. In a way, the rain decides the fate of all that global media focus, advertising revenue and brownie points with the sponsors. The Cannes Film Festival is in May, and it’s usually warm and sunny on the French Riviera. The ‘bombshells’ preen on the red carpet, or unfurl on the Croisette, in various stages of décolletage and ‘pout-age’ for the paparazzi. But nothing is as unsexy as a gorgeous Hollywood star, in a spectacularly plunging gown, slithering onto the red carpet at the Palais des Festivals in pouring rain, with an umbrella in one hand, and her dripping fancy-schmancy train in the other, while all the world’s cameras capture her glorious embarrassment forever. Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Amitabh Bachchan and the team of Gatsby Le Magnifique (as the French call The Great Gatsby), as well as jury members Steven Spielberg and Nicole Kidman, got wet carpet welcomes as they ducked under weeping umbrellas at Cannes last year, as did Isabelle Huppert attending the world premiere of Michael Haneke’s Amour in 2012.

Rain can turn sexiness into a terrifying option, threatening to reveal all manner of appurtenances that otherwise ensure airbrushed seduction on the red carpet. Although the pictures make it all seem so glamorous, I’ve seen stars become nervous wrecks just before the ‘montee des marches’—climbing the steps. Their make-up drips away, their hair is a mess, their plunging neckline reveals unseemly glimpses of what it shouldn’t. Apparently, there are a lot of uses for duct tape in the push-up cleavage department that the electrician never thought of (a duct tape cleavage tutorial on YouTube dryly advises you on “how to make it look 3D from all angles,” adding “shade contouring for emphasis”). And there’s a vast range of dresses with sticky bra cups to help you engineer the perfect wardrobe malfunction, ‘rubber jelly boobs’, ‘boobie booster silicone enhancers’, falsies called chicken fillets that you stuff into your bra, self-adhesive “nipple pasties” and other mind-boggling inventions that are beyond those with size zero imaginations.

At the Berlin Film Festival in February, temperatures can vary between 3 and minus 10 degrees centigrade, sometimes with snow and ice. It is way too cold to be too sexy, so it’s a quick red carpet lunge, and if anyone dares offer décolletage for the press, you can plainly see their goosepimples. Alia Bhatt accompanied Imtiaz Ali for the Highway world premiere on the red carpet at the grand Zoo Palast in February, her elegant black gown showing off her bare shoulders, as well as the tiny bumps on her cold skin. Attention-deficit actor Shia LaBeouf, presenting Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, struggled to wean cameras from all the glamorous women on the red carpet at the Berlinale Palast, by wearing a brown paper bag over his head that said, “I am not famous any more.” In one way, the cold is lucky for film fans at Berlin as there’s relatively less flesh on display, so the media focus is much more on the films. 

Rain & the Red Carpet
Image: Getty Images
Isabelle Huppert arrives under heavy rain for the screening of Amour at Cannes in May 2012

Venice, in end August, early September, is sexy too, weatherwise. But no festival is above the rain gods. At Locarno, in Switzerland, in early August, when it rains on the Piazza Grande, they have a standard alternative indoor venue. Despite this, loyalists relish watching movies in the rain under whatever’s handy—the festival brochure or an empty pizza box—as a ritual festival baptism. The Sundance film festival is held at a ski resort in Park City, Utah, in January, when it’s around minus 10, similar to Berlin, but with up to 30 inches of snow. So cleavage, at what The Telegraph called a “dress down film festival”, is minimal and largely covered up with polo necks and stylish coats.

Soon enough, you realise there’s no simple sun-is-great, rain-is-bah logic in this festival chukker. The Munich Film Festival, for instance, takes place in June-July, at the height of the European summer and the football season. Andreas Strohl, former festival director, once told me, “I hate good weather. Everyone’s out by the Isar [river] picnicking, drinking beer or playing football. Bad weather is our best friend, because it brings people into the theatres.”

In India, most film festivals go chak-chak-chak in a breathless winter cycle—Mumbai—Kolkata—IFFI Goa—Kerala—Chennai—Bengaluru—Pune. It’s mostly pleasant, so you can dress in your Kanjeevaram saris, and look out for the “diya girls” to light the lamp—usually an excuse to lure Bollywood types to a film festival they’d never otherwise attend.

Elsewhere in Asia, Typhoon Danas hit the Busan film festival in South Korea last year. It stands to reason, then, that elegant parties are usually held indoors, including in the Busan Aquarium in Haeundae-gu, where, as you raise a toast, an enormous shark regally glides past.

There are two more festivals that are kind of defined by the weather. At the Sonoma International Film Festival, held in wine country in California in April, a sommelier pairs the movies with wines, and gourmet food. And there’s the Antarctic Short, Documentary and Animation Film Festival, held amid icy swathes. There’s even a lark of a festival, see, “for filmmakers left out in the cold”.

To enter this festival, your film must have been turned down by all the major film festivals, insists the festival director, CT Pinguino. I just hope he’s not submerged with submissions.

Meenakshi Shedde is India consultant to the Berlin and Dubai Film Festivals, and curator to festivals worldwide

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(This story appears in the March-April 2014 issue of ForbesLife India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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