Cannes 2020: Requiem to Red Carpet Sexy

Cannes 2020: Requiem to Red Carpet Sexy

Films waiting for big screen openings can be virtually released, but the red carpet’s sexy, grenade moment is a casualty 

Besides real glamour—of those who make their own by mixing moods, makeup, clothes and other trappings—and that created by photographic magnetism for cinema or fashion magazines, is a third genre of glamour.

That can suddenly spring to life and leave us gobsmacked with its adrenaline-fueled sexiness. A grenade of a moment when a person (often a svelte, gorgeous movie star unfairly blessed by the God of Beautiful Bodies), lands on the red carpet. Smiles, smirks or does neither. Waves at the paparazzi with the hand doing a modern dance of its own. Head thrown back, torso pulled in, core taut, legs and back stretched long, a dangerously toned thigh peeping out, manicured, bejewelled hands on the hip. Diamonds glistening on the neck. Collarbones on look-at-me duty. Stilettos, dizzy and dainty. Hair, flawless even when untamed. Skin shining with ardour, and jars of makeup used with artistry on the face. Eyes, smoky or blue-green. Lips, red or nude. Clothed in bespoke couture, the finest of silk and lace, the sexiest of Lycra and satin, underwear conspicuously absent beneath long, sometimes diaphanous, shimmery, embroidered, beaded or ruffled gowns and frocks. Valentino or Elie Saab. Vera Wang or Zuhair Murad. Giorgio Armani, Alexander McQueen, Dior couture, Chanel. And the men! In smiles and superlatives. In silken bow ties, Atelier Versace tuxedos, buttoning their blazers, patting immaculately ironed shirts, holding their partners or girlfriends seductively by the waist.


Photo: Loic Venance / AFP

Rihanna, wearing Dior, on the Cannes Film Festival red carpet in 2017.

Before #MeToo. After Harvey Weinsten.

Before high heels. After flats.

While every star who lands on the red carpet, with or without a film showing at the festival, can command gowns, heels, jewels, stylists, makeup wizards or promotional punditry, not everyone can serve a sexy moment.

On the other hand, while most watched red carpets—Met Gala, Oscars, Emmys—can potentially replicate similar moments, it is only on the Cannes Croisette that such sightings make glamour so bewitching. Met Gala is often over-themed to be unabashedly sexy. Oscars are too Hollywood-y and now Causeratti dominated.


Photo: Twitter/JPGaultier

Madonna at the Cannes Festival Palace in 1991, wearing an ensemble designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier.

Cannes, despite some well-deserved red carpet rebellion, remains the “Amour” of fashion. The coquettish yet bold Sophia Loren in black gown, shimmering jewels and flowers in hair in 1961. The bold and brazen Madonna in the now iconic conical bra (and other underwear by Jean Paul Gaultier) in 1991. A ravishing Elizabeth Hurley, with cheerfully braless boobs in a silver, high-slit, shimmery dress wearing then husband, businessman Arun Nayar on her arm in 2003. George Clooney in Atelier Versace, with glamorous human rights lawyer wife Amal by his side. The gorgeous audacity of Bella Hadid’s Alexandre Vauthier gown and her “I don’t smile so easily” expression. Both 2016. Rihanna in a white Dior with a pair of whimsical shades in 2017. The irresistibly suave Nick Jonas holding wife Priyanka Chopra Jonas in 2019. Sonam Kapoor Ahuja in a white Ralph & Russo tuxedo gown with an emerald necklace in 2019…

These are hard to describe instances when a gorgeous gown, a piece of jewellery, an actor or model mirroring self-awareness with vanity is captured by a skilled photographer’s lens.

It is a moment, which cannot be digitised or beamed on a streaming platform. It transmits from person to photograph but only on a real red carpet, which throbs with human emotion and energy.


Photo: Loic Venance / AFP

George Clooney (R) and his wife, human rights lawyer Amal Clooney during the 2016 edition of Cannes Film Festival.

That which COVID-19 has completely muffled and masked this year.

A bit ironical, some might say. Especially as Cannes, the world’s most important film festival has been hijacked by fashion, jewellery and makeup brands to the extent that the staggering amount of publicity some stars generate speaks more to their couture than their cinematic craft. Fashion houses swag stars and stylists to transform the red carpet into a Chopard-Cartier-Armani-Gucci-Versace-Elie Saab-Oscar de la Renta-Dior show. On the other hand, brands like L’Oréal, Covergirl, Levi’s, Diesel and Tommy Hilfiger, among others, which penetrated the Cannes publicity juggernaut—from its black tie gatherings to elite fundraisers—with innovative branding, following cultural shifts beyond haute couture, too vie for notice.


Photo: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP

Sonam Kapoor wearing a Ralph & Russo tuxedo gown at the Cannes Film Festival, 2019.

Films and fashion have been arguing with each other for the right kind of attention at Cannes. Yet while films ideally waiting for big screen openings can be virtually (if reluctantly) released, the Cannes red carpet’s “grenade moments” cannot be recreated in WFH digital production.

“(For) Cannes, its soul, its history, its efficiency, it’s a model that wouldn’t work. What is a digital festival? A digital competition?” said Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux to Variety magazine in April. Yet, later this month, despite Fremaux’s former reservations Cannes will participate in We Are One, a new, streaming film festival with programming from other popular festivals like Berlin, Venice, Sundance and Toronto.

The red carpet moment though, is a coronavirus casualty. As is its sexiness, uniquely provoked by clothes (and not nakedness).


Banner: Model Bella Hadid poses as she arrives for the screening of the film “Dolor Y Gloria (Pain and Glory)” at the 72nd edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 17, 2019. Valery HACHE / AFP