It was a disco theme for amfAR’s 23rd annual Cinema Against AIDS event at the Hotel Du Cap at the Cannes Film Festival, and that meant none other than The Village People and Sister Sledge invaded the ritzy party, each doing one of their iconic songs ( “YMCA” and “We Are Family” — you guess who did what). The event which counts Harry Winston, Bold Films and The Weinstein Company among its loyal sponsors (along with Moet Hennessey and Renault) again raised tons of dough through pricey admissions for the European high rollers who turn out every year, as well as unique auction items. This year usual auctioneer Sharon Stone was absent so Kevin Spacey took her place in fronting the show in the guise of a number of celebrities including Johnny Carson throwing out lines like, “Cannes is the where-we-all-go-to-kiss-Harvey-Weinstein’s ass festival,” and taking nicely pointed shots at Donald Trump (“Donald would love it on the Riviera because there are so many casinos to go bankrupt”). He also did dead-on impressions of Bill Clinton (“Vote for Hillary, because even if you don’t like her you’ll get me”), Al Pacino and his mentor, Jack Lemmon. Walking into the elaborate tent for the dinner and auction , Helen Mirren, there presenting with Adrien Brody, told me she had never been to this event before. “Looking around at all these people is a little intimidating,” she laughed. And YOU thought nothing could intimidate the Queen, right? Harvey Weinstein, who has been a loyal supporter of amfAR’s cause since the beginning, was confident when I ran into him at the Cocktail reception. “This is going to be insanely great tonight,” he predicted and in fact announced at the end of the evening that the total haul was going to beat last year. Event Chair Kenneth Cole clarified that for me and said that might be in net receipts, but probably not overall. “Times are tough but we do this for a good cause and people have fun,” he said noting it is hard to keep topping yourself.
In terms of Cannes Jury members, I spotted Mads Mikkelsen who told me he is having a blast on the main competition jury and likes everyone he is stuck in a room with day in and day out. Joel Edgerton, who co-stars in the official entry Loving, was there and mentioned he probably will be in France for another couple of days and then head out. I told Nicholas Winding Refn I was missing the first press screening of his official competition entry, The Neon Demon, because I had to be at amfAR but would be catching it Friday. “That might be better because after it has been all hyped up you can just let it flow,” he said of the film that represents his return to the festival after the rather unenthusiastic reception his last film, Only God Forgives, received. Waiting for our cars after Katy Perry’s 12:30 AM performance wrapped, Refn told me it looks like he is going to be the “controversy” of Cannes again, at least after reading the early reviews it got tonight.” I heard a fight even broke out in front of the Palais over it,” he said. Hmmmm. My 12 noon screening might be interesting. Bold Film’s Gary Michael Walters told me he was proud his company has been the main sponsor of Cinema Against AIDS for many years and had just agreed to sponsor five more additional years. He says Bold is slowly moving into making more expensive films now, somewhere in the $30 million range with a potential awards contender, Stronger, about the Boston Marathon bombing starring Jake Gyllenhaal. He says it could be held for the 2017 awards season or go next summer. The Weinstein Company’s COO, David C. Glasser was there and I asked about a new perk he has that provides for an Executive Producer credit next to Bob and Harvey Weinstein’s standard credit. It will first be seen on Lion, next November’s Oscar hopeful which is in post-production right now.
Of course anyone who has been to these dinners know the main attraction is the fashion show with over thirty creations curated by Carine Roitfeld, and once again it didn’t disappoint, really greasing the well-heeled crowd for bidding in the auction. And bid they did. The collection of dresses wound up selling for 1.4 million euros with express instructions that they couldn’t be altered in any way. Did you ever think five polaroid photos could sell for 140,000? They do if they were taken by Andy Warhol of iconic friends like Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross. A four week trip to Thailand and the Maldive Islands went for 200,000 euros. A customized Ferrari 458 went for one million to Ron Burkle. Neon Demon star Elle Fanning auctioned off a week on board the super yacht Martha Ann for a cool half a million euros. Edgerton and Melissa George managed to get 100,000 for a handmade Moet & Chandon Wine Cellar. A perfume bottle from Harry Winston went for $375,000. Of course it was encrusted with 452 Marquise, Pear-shaped, and round Brilliant Diamonds. A vintage limited edition boxed set of photos from the legendary Studio 54 days sold eight times over for 50,000 euros a pop.
Several big items also sold including a complete autographed library of over 400 Taschen books and the Jean Prouve 1969 filling station in which they are all housed. Good luck on the shipping for that puppy (it went for 2.4 million euros), or similarly two signature Volu Dining pavilions designed by the late Zaha Hadid, who made the request they be auctioned for amfAR just hours before her death. In total they got 2.7 million from two separate bidders. A Damien Hirst Bronze sculpture grabbed a bargain 3.1 million euros. Five disco balls designed to be art by John Armleder got only 150,000 euros, but playing tennis, having lunch and getting a walkon in House Of Cards with host Spacey fetched half a million, as almost did a painting of a fish by actor Adrien Brody or just plain Brody as he likes to label his art. That got 450,000 euros. But perhaps the most unusual prize auctioned off this year came from newly-minted Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio, who offered up his lavish Palm Springs estate as a vacation spot specifically from 3pm January 16 2017 through 10AM on January 23rd. Up to 12 people can participate as long as everyone follows “house rules”. Leo threw it in a second time after the first got 300,000. The second time around the winning bid was shaved in half from that.
Di Caprio was actually introduced by Weinstein, who noted the Revenant Oscar winner had first attended one of these amfAR events 20 years ago when it was still at the small restaurant, Moulins de Mougins. Before he brought him out though he got political, although not as much of a gut punch as Spacey delivered directly to Trump, Weinstein’s remarks called the upcoming November election, “the most important in U. S. History. It’s gonna be a fight. And are we going to let them turn back time? To the forces of darkness I say we are going to kick their ass”. That also sounds like his mission statement against AIDS.