CANNES — Isabella Rossellini, head of the jury for this year’s Un Certain Regard section at the Festival de Cannes, stood chatting on the terrace of the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc at this year’s amfAR gala, like a luminous incarnation of her mother, Ingrid Bergman, whose face has watched over the proceedings at this year’s Festival from the official poster hanging throughout Cannes.
Call it old-school glamour, but Rossellini’s grace stood out from the bright colors and bling of the younger actors and models that swarmed to the festival’s most coveted event, the annual amfAR Cinema Against AIDS gala on Thursday night.
The gala takes place at the Riviera’s most glamorous venue, the old-world Hotel du Cap, which is reached via an hour-long drive along the winding coast road.
“My cousin, a producer, died of AIDS and I have been to amfAR many times, and as I was here as a jury head this year, I wanted to support the event,” said Rossellini, before turning to talk to actor and auctioneer John C. Reilly, who looked like he had just climbed out of bed.
“Oh my God, that is the woman that has most inspired me my whole life,” said a guest milling around on the terrace, spotting Rossellini, with a glass of champagne in hand.
In another corner, as the pre-cocktail unfolded, this year’s auctioneer, Simon de Pury, a Swiss auctioneer and collector, stood unassumingly, quietly posing with a little wooden hammer.
Late arrivals like Marion Cotillard preened for photographers, on this private terrace beyond the red carpet, like a siren of old, albeit in a lurid Jean-Paul Gaultier dress that set off her bright red lipstick.
Like swallows descending from the skies, a host of lesser-known stars, attempted to make a grand entrance and walk elegantly down the stone steps, leading into the opening garden cocktail, without toppling in high heels.
They walked into a sea of celebrities and models gathered in the garden from Paris Hilton to Frances McDormand, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Eva Herzigova.
Some even dressed the part, wearing Marie Antoinette-style dresses to this throw-back location to the old world. Michele Rodriquez wore a full-length red satin gown (Rodriquez last year ran around the Hotel du Cap entrance hall with buddies Paris Hilton and actress Milla Jovovich like schoolgirls at a sleepover), to another Cannes regular Karolina Kurkova, who is always down to earth and friendly, and came dressed in a pale full-length gown and chatted politely to arrivals.
As the fashion extravaganza went on (don’t worry, traffic was a bitch so you are best off watching from home), guests gathered to coo over the 18½-foot tall sculpture by Jeff Koons, titled “Coloring Book,” which was displayed to the backdrop of the Med. Part of Koons’s Celebration Series, the piece sold for over $13 million, a significant part of the $30 million raised for research to find a cure for AIDS on Thursday.
But perhaps the real artwork of the night was the curious weather, with what looked like pink streaks of rain descending from purple clouds hovering over the water. This is, after all, the Riviera and even the rain here looks prettier.
At the end of the garden where guests gathered, there is a view of yachts bobbing on the Mediterranean, set to a backdrop of misty mountains.
But the rain saw white umbrellas added to the attire.
As it got later, the night continued to rain stars, from Indian goddess and amfAR regular Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, whose lilac Elie Saab dress was splashed across the Indian media, come Friday morning. She has been in town promoting her next epic film dubbed as her comeback.
Not only Bollywood but also Hollywood was on hand, from Jake Gyllenhaal to Antonio Banderas, Matt Bellamy, Adrien Brody, Xavier Dolan, Lily Donaldson, Jourdan Dunn, Melissa George, Chanel Iman, and model Kendall Jenner. Then came the even later arrivals, like Harvey Keitel who fans screamed at from the entrance to the storied hotel.
But with long-term host Sharon Stone absent, the event seemed to be missing a certain something. Stone drives the main part of the event, an auction that takes place in a vast tent filled with sponsored dining tables that is surrounded by catering tents and the ubiquitous security that makes one feel as if one has gone to the White House, not a fund-raiser.
Waiters serve a sporadically and always late-served meal between the auction and mega performances which drew the crowd to their feet to dance—between wandering in a drunken haze through the tent, and on to the after party with DJ Mark Ronson. At such events one can find Paris Hilton bopping away.
Auction prizes this year ranged from a Fernando Botero artwork, which was auctioned off by Reilly and Eva Herzigova, and went for $2.2 million, while Rai Bachchan auctioned off an Epic Cluster, diamond necklace that went for $500,000.
A piece by Banksy, donated by Leonardo DiCaprio, sold for over $1 million, while DiCaprio brought in another $280,000 for a package which included a private dinner with him and a seat at an upcoming gala for his foundation in St. Tropez.
And where would Cannes be without fashion? Participating designers for the show included the crème de la crème of designers including Chanel, which dressed German actress Diane Kruger to look like an fluffy bird, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Gucci, Prada, Céline, Balmain, Giorgio Armani, and Tom Ford. He and Eva Longoria auctioned off the fashion collection dresses for $1 million.
But it wasn’t all about the bidding, which can seem to go on forever. There were fabulous live performances: Andrea Bocelli did an impromptu performance of “Por Ti Volare,” British pop star Charli XCX opened the evening with a performance of hits “Break the Rules” and “Boom Clap,” and Mary J. Blige got the crowd on their feet with a performance of her classic hit “Family Affair.”
Also auctioned off was an Andy Warhol portrait of Elizabeth Taylor, amfAR’s Founding International Chairman, which sold to Longoria for $600,000. The last bid of the evening was a private portrait sitting with photographer Mario Testino, which raised $1 million.
“With your help,” said chair Kenneth Cole on stage, “we have recently mounted an all-out effort to find a cure for AIDS, and are poised to write the final chapter on this deadly epidemic.”